Juliet Stevenson has done a masterful job not only reading Sense and Sensibility, but also giving the characters vivacity and personalities. Marianne's raptures made me smile and the vulgarity of Mrs. Jennings made me giggle uncomfortably in a way that simply reading the book never has before.
I highly recommend this version as a wonderful and colorful reading of a book that is, at its core, about the blend of Enlightenment and Romanticism of the early 19th century.
Rebecca is one of my very favorite books; every time I read or listen to it, I discover new layers to Du Maurier's complex and emotional novel: the naiveté of the unnamed narrator, Max's assumptions about her understanding, Mrs. Danvers's dedication to Rebecca; all unfold in their own way and only become more interesting as I get older and identify more strongly with one character or another, depending on my own space.
Everyone should read (or listen to) this book, is what I'm trying to say. Bonus points for being guided by one of Du Maurier's favorite books: Jane Eyre.
However, I cannot recommend this audio version. The narrator is all right - I'd give her 3.5 stars on her own - but the sound editing is poorly done. From one character to another, the volume of the narrator's voice changes to the point where I was constantly having to fiddle with the volume - sometimes quite vehemently - and the plosive consonants, especially the "esses," caused me to quickly relegate this book to listening only when I could do so on speakers in a quiet room (as opposed to earbuds or in the car).
Mansfield Park is not my favorite of Austen's works. The heroine herself is nervous and mousy, and the secondary characters are rarely redeemable in any sense. However, Frances Barber's reading of this novel lends it some entertainment that I had not got from reading it to myself. Her precise English diction threw me off for the first chapter or so, but then it grew on me and by the end, I added her name to my (very short) list of favorite narrators. I am pleased with this recording and when the time comes to listen through all of Austen's novels again, I will look forward to Mansfield Park almost as much as I do to the rest of Austen's books.
Emma should make anyone's list of Great English Literature. The whole book is filled with Austen's witticisms about human nature that can only come from keen observation. Ms. Morgan does a good job reading Emma (both the book and the character); however, she has a tendency to pause mid-sentence - possibly while turning a page? - and pick up again a moment later as if beginning a new sentence all together. It is rather disconcerting, as it takes the listener out of the story. I find the whole thing unfortunate, as I really enjoy Ms. Morgan's vocal talents and wish that her editors had done a better job taking out the pauses, breaths and fits-and-starts that are so jarring to the listener.
I do not usually like short stories, but in Mr. Gaiman's case they keep me entertained in between full-length novels. A Study in Emerald is no different - Gaiman uses clever clues and interesting plot twists to keep the reader (listener) engaged, and there is a lovely surprise at the end worthy of the author to whom this story is in reference. Hearing Gaiman narrate his own characters is always a pleasure, and while this piece is not as amusing as some of his others, it is still quite brilliant.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell reads like a novel written in the time period it describes. Susanna Clarke captured the spirit and wit of the early 19th century completely brilliantly. The story itself is fun, with a bit of magic and a lot of nods to actual events and persons of the age. Mr. Green's reading is absolute perfection - he grasps the sarcastic tones and emotions of the characters quite well, and had me laughing out loud while walking down the street, earning me a few stares. The novel itself merits a 4-star rating, but Mr. Green gave it that extra little *something* that can't be obtained by reading alone.
Pride and Prejudice is one of my absolute favorite books, and this performance by Kate Reading is the best audiobook of P&P I've ever heard. Ms. Reading is clear, entertaining, and grasps the sly wit of Jane Austen admirably. Austen's work was designed in part to be read aloud, and though I've read the book countless times, listening was a whole new experience; I found myself laughing at passages I had merely skimmed over in the past. I highly recommend this book (and all Austen's work), both in paper and audio format.
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