I have much enjoyed Gyllenhaal's film performances and he's certainly someone I keep an eye on for movies I would enjoy. That being said I think he was sadly miscast as the Nick Caraway narrator. Gyllenhaal just isn't a period piece sort of guy. He's modern in every way, voice, inflection, tone, accent, and just not believable as a young man of the post-WWI era. Caraway is educated, sophisticated, knowledgeable. He may not have the ready wealth of the crowd he runs with, but he's certainly not out of place or uncomfortable in such "elevated" surroundings. He recognizes the trappings of large amounts of money as exactly that--trappings. It's the people and their characters which preoccupy him, not their stuff. The rube in the palace, in spite of his wealth and experience, is Gatsby himself. His money and its purchasing power is far too new for him to be taking it for granted. And this childlike enjoyment and appreciation is part of Gatsby's charm for Nick. Gyllenhaal's most successful characterization is Tom Buchanon, the boorish, foolish, philandering husband of Nick's cousin Daisy. Fitzgerald paints him in broad strokes, not quite a parody of the ex-jock, he's too destructive, too powerful to laugh at, but Tom is the modern one that Gyllenhaal "gets."
Fitzgerald's "voice" is easily recognizable and distinct from other early 20th century writers. Great Gatsby fans would love his other novels and short stories. He's poetic, but never obscure and sometimes humorous. An easy read with intense themes.
Gyllenhaal is not a natural narrator, but he has a pleasant baritone and would probably improve if he continues in this work. The first chapter contained two stand-out mistakes in pronounciation: the word claret mispronounced as "klar-ay," rather than "klar-it," and the word settee mispronounced as "set-tay," rather than "sett-ee." Neither word is of French derivation, which I am assuming was Gyllenhaal's assumption. (Both words come from English and have a standard English pronounciation.) It's not so surprising that a young American actor doesn't have these words in his lexicon. What is surprising is that no one on the production/direction side of this recording caught the mistakes. Doesn't anyone "literary" audit these recordings before they're released? Now there's a plan.
In spite of my issues with this recording, I did not feel my money wasted. I got it at a very good price. Fans of Jake Gyllenhaal of the he-can't-put-a-foot-wrong stripe will love this.
The audio quality of this recording is very, very good.
I read Stieg Larsson's "Dragon Tattoo" triology as if possessed. Lisbeth Salander has to be one of the most fascinating protagonists in recent memory, so vibrantly characterized that she leaps from the pages fully fleshed and utterly alive. Larsson's style is descriptive, yet immediate, colorful and cinematic. He peoples Salander's world with major and minor characters as finely drawn as his heroine and places them all within the framework of a decades old murder mystery in this opener. This is not a tea and crumpets mystery. The situations are realistic and treat mature themes. Think Val McDermid, not Agatha Christie. Prime Suspect, not Murder, She Wrote. I'll say no more lest I create "spoilers."
Once the major characters are introduced and grounded--remember this is the first of three books with many of the same characters--the story becomes a runaway train. I literally stayed up all night to finish this book before work the following morning.
Even though I have all three books and have read them more than once, I purchased this series in the Audible format. Nothing enhances great writing like a great narrator. And Simon Vance is GREAT! I was excited to see how many recordings he's done: lots of Dickens, a great many of the Patrick O'Brien Aubrey-Maturin seafaring series, over 500 recordings in total. Vance is able to give just enough variation in tone, cadence, etc., to distinguish each character, never overdoes, and always lets the story be the star. He's one of the best readers I've ever heard.
It would be tempting to listen to this book straight through, but I'm taking my time and enjoying being "read to." If I hadn't already read the book, I doubt I could be so relaxed.
All three of the Larsson books in this series are worthy, compulsively readable, and feature a truly original protagonist. I recommend them highly with this caveat: there are some ugly and brutal scenes and story lines, and they are not glossed over or sugar-coated, but dealt with realistically and matter-of-factly.
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