I had seen the Disney cartoon version of The Wind in the Willows years ago, but had never read the book. The idyllic settings and rather lyrical prose, coupled with a charming cast of characters, make this a very enjoyable story.
Listening to Mr. Cosham is like hearing a favorite uncle tell a story (a Welsh uncle, actually; I can't help but remember his wonderful performance of How Green was My Valley). The voices he gives to each character are unique enough to be recognizable without being over the top, and his narration is very easy to listen to.
Many of the parts of the story dealing with Mr. Toad are very funny.
This rendition of The Wind in the Willows makes it obvious why this novel is a classic.
King Solomon's Mines was a surprise to me -- I really enjoyed it, much more than I expected.
It helps to remember that this novel was the first of its kind; Henry Rider Haggard actually invented the “Lost World” genre. So while King Solomon's Mines is dated in its glorification of big game hunting (ewww) and general attitudes towards native cultures (although not, I would point out, towards individual natives), it’s still a rollicking good story. What I did not expect from a novel written in 1885 was how funny it is in places. As such, the protagonist/narrator, Alan Quartermaine, is the direct literary forebear of Indiana Jones. For the most part, it's great fun.
Simon Prebble was not a surprise, however; his narration was excellent, as always.
Based on the title, I thought this sounded like a linguistic overview of the history of English – for the non-linguist, I hoped. However, it was definitely not that.
Instead, it was really a rather protracted presentation of one side of what is apparently an ongoing argument among linguists, about the grammatical influence of Celtic languages, the Vikings’ influence, etc. As such, much of it was rather repetitive, and frankly, it was mildly interesting at best.
I was sorely tempted to give up at several points, even though it was only five hours and change in length. I did stick with it, only because John McWhorter is an excellent narrator for this long-winded argument.
It’s not really fair to compare "Little Men" unfavorably to "Little Women," just because they're both by the same author, but I can’t help it. "Little Men" is hardly a novel – it’s really just a series of vignettes from the lives of Jo, the professor, and the boys (and a couple of girls) at Plumfield, their school; it really has no plot to speak of. "Little Women" didn’t have much of a plot, but it certainly had more than this sequel.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy "Little Men." I really did. It’s quaint, and the stories are very nice, if a little twee. I had never read it before, and I'm glad I listened to it. Mostly, though, I found it disappointing that the rowdy tomboy, the adventuresome Jo whom I liked so much in "Little Women" would grow up to be as she is depicted in "Little Men," having sublimated her own ambitions and become so completely domesticated. Essentially, Jo turned into her sister Meg, and I wasn’t very happy about that.
The narration is good overall, although the youngest children’s voices seemed too babyish. I enjoyed the other characterizations.
I really enjoyed this edition, which features WhisperSync; I read part of it, and listened to most of it during my commute. It's a classic story, of course, which has spawned several movie versions, but I had never read it before. It’s a very old fashioned novel, with a wonderful cast of characters. Some readers will find it overly moralistic, but Miss Alcott is an excellent storyteller, and she very clearly presents the lack of opportunities women faced at that time, during and after the Civil War. Ms. Hebert's narration is excellent.
Pollyanna is a very, very old-fashioned novel, but it's very well done. It’s very similar to the Disney movie, although not identical. This version was extremely well narrated, too. I loved it!
The plot of The Cricket on the Hearth lacks the amazing creativity of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and is a little contrived, but it’s still Charles Dickens, master of characterizations, and grand master of the English language. Overall, the story is very, very good, and Jim Dale, an astonishingly good narrator, helps it along a lot. I’m very sure I enjoyed this more because I listened to Mr. Dale's performance instead of reading it.
Besides The Ransom of Red Chief -- one of the best-known stories by O. Henry (The Gift of the Magi is another) -- this title also includes Tobin's Palm. Both are amusing, well-written, and extremely well narrated by Mr. Harrison. I enjoyed them both, probably more than if I had simply read the stories.
This title includes three stories by O.Henry: The Gift of the Magi, The Cop and the Anthem, and The Last Leaf. The Gift of the Magi is familiar, of course. The other two stories are less well known, but are still well written – one is amusing, the other heartwarming – and I very much enjoyed them. The narration by all three readers was excellent.
This is a very old piece of writing, so the style is old fashioned, and I'm very sure it helped me to listen to this story as opposed to reading it. There were a few places where it would momentarily seem to drag on a bit, but then a new situation with new characters would come along and rescue it.
Lewis Carroll was amazingly clever when it came to the use of words, and both Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass contain numerous instances of truly classic quotable dialogue, particularly with Humpty Dumpty.
Mr. Page appears to be endlessly inventive when it comes to voice characterizations; it was possible to distinguish between the White Queen and the Red Queen, for instance. He was an excellent choice to narrate.
I’m very glad I finally “read” these classics. I loved them!
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