I was warned by the previous reviews of this audiobook, but this was the only version available at audible.com. Especially if you are planning to listen to this in your car, expect to miss great portions of this book due to the often unintelligible reading of Flo Gibson, probably made even worse by the sound engineering. You will have to fill in the blanks to guess what might have been said. I don't know how much the sound quality affected my enjoyment of the novel, but I was not impressed. It's a claustrophobic little story with few characters. Many of the characters make trenchant psychological observations that seem to be instances of straight authorial intrusion. On the feeblest of evidence, the father and daughter in particular deliver long disquisitions on each other's state of mind, motives, etc., that seem worthy of a Proust. But I find the idea of a novel inhabited by Proustian psychologists ridiculous. I would entertain the idea if this project was made explicit by the author, but otherwise it takes the game of 'let's pretend' too far.
This is very nicely narrated and the sound quality is good enough for your car, competing with road noise, etc.. Tolstoy's vision of human existence can't compete with Dostoevsky. In addition, the former cheats: first describing Vronsky as diabolical, then inventing monetary excuses for his not running off with Anna (excuses that mean he is actually very nice - but when he does run off with Anna anyway these monetary problems disappear) and finally he becomes long sufferinig. Descriptions of Mr. Karenina often seem designed to heighten sympathy for Anna and not to really be sympathetic portrayals of a real human being. He too gets redeemed and then unredeemed. The leaden weight of the authorial hand moves his chess pieces towards predetermined ends, it seems, and the manipulation of the reader becomes apparent. If you don't share this opinion, then I'm glad you had a better time reading this novel than me.
An excellent narrator and an excellent novel. Contrary to the statement concerning the received opinion about philosophical and literary merits in Wikipedia, the first part is better than the second, unless you really really like the idea of jokes being played on Don Quixote at his expense. I find audio books an excellent way of finishing really long books that I have never managed to read to completion on the printed page. Cervantes makes Don Quixote pay for his misguided love of chivalric tales with more beatings than the human body could realistically stand. This sadism is presumably the result of Cervantes' feelings regarding this literary genre. But ironically, in the novel nearly everyone else gets caught up in Don Quixotes' madness, and the common Romantic reading of the book is to find Don Quixotes' behavior admirable. The book is heralded as a eulogy to chivalry and Quixotic enterprises when the intent was to ridicule and quash. One can admire doomed enterprises for a worthy cause - but Quixotes' undertakings are all misguided and/or cause more harm than good. It's a pity another emblem for such things cannot be found.
I highly recommend this edition of Sentimental Education. The narrator is excellent. As others have commented, his pronunciation of the french names and places sounds excellent and his dramatization of each character is really superb. When Frederic is eulogizing Madame Arnoux near the beginning, the tone can get cloying, but then what is being said is itself cloying. In Madame Bovary, Emma is depicted as the victim of having read too many romance novels. Flaubert later said about Emma, 'C'est moi.' Sentimental Education is further evidence of this infatuation with despiritualized chivalric romance as described by Denis de Rougemont in 'Love in the Western World.' One definitely can't say that Frederic is made a better person, or performs more honorable actions as a result of this love. I'm not prepared to admire a 'love' that makes someone worse than they might have otherwise been. If you can stomach the flowery rhapsodies early on, the novel is rewarding. I ended up hoping that no woman would get stuck with the wimpy, vain and self-involved Frederic. You can't help sympathizing with him because the novel is written from his perspective, but objectively, he's a miserable fellow in both senses of the adjective.
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