"The diary which Samuel Pepys kept from January 1660 to May 1669...is one of our greatest historical records and...a major work of English literature," writes the renowned historian Paul Johnson.
A witness to the coronation of Charles II, the Great Plague of 1665, and the Great Fire of 1666, Pepys chronicled the events of his day. His diary provides an astonishingly frank and diverting account of political intrigues, naval, church, and cultural affairs, as well as a quotidian journal of daily life in London during the Restoration. Pepys's vivid, unconscious style, originally written in a cryptic shorthand, reveals an ideal witness: honest, unpretentious, and true.
Public Domain (P)1996 Blackstone Audio Inc.
"Alexander conquered the world; but Pepys, with a keener, more selfish understanding of life, conquered a world for every sense." (Charles Whibley)
"The bald truth about oneself, what we are all too timid to admit when we are not too dull to see it, that was what Pepys saw clearly and set down unsparingly." (Robert Louis Stevenson)
"We can scarcely say that we wish it a page shorter.... It is very entertaining thus to be transported into the very heart of a time so long gone by, and to be admitted into the domestic intimacy, as well as the public councils of a man of great activity and circulation in the reign of Charles II." (The Edinburgh Review)
Fred Williams' diction is very odd, and after 15 minutes I thought I was going to have to abandon ship, so to speak. It took me about an hour to get used to his narration, and after that I became fascinated by the Diary. A downside of listening to it as an audiobook is that there's no annotation, so I had to do some online background reading to get caught up (somewhat) on the Restoration, kidney stone surgery in the 17th century, and so forth. On the other hand, the lack of annotation as you listen means that you get the flow of the text, pure Pepys, which has its own pleasures. This is a bowdlerized version (reading the original text online will give you a better picture of why Pepys' wife got so upset when she found him "embracing" her maid), and I understand that Kenneth Branagh is the narrator of choice for the Diary, but I think this is the best Audible option due to its length (12+ hours versus about 4 hours for the Maloney and Spencer narrations). Part of the charm of the work is its juxtaposition of 17th-century "tweets" with more detailed descriptions, as well as the enormous scope of Pepys' interests--he describes himself as "in all things curious"--and I'm not sure a shorter version would convey the texture and sweep of his observations.
This is probably a book better suited to casual perusal on your own time with a paper copy. It gets tedious to listen to, with a stuffy old-style narrator that does less acting than more modern productions utilize now. The entries often sound alike but for history fans there is something here to glean. I took from it that people need some excitement. His passages would fall into a depressed monotony and then perk up when there was a fire or a Dutch attack. Then he would really know how to live too. He comes off as something of a greedy brute too, always cheating on the wife, and there is some unintentional humor, as he complains about for instance being hardly able to write after beating his page to the point of breaking the lash, and hurting his wrist- and saying it did the lad no harm either, for the thickness of his skin. But on the whole, this took me a while to get through. It felt very dry and often dull. I am glad to be familiar with it though and did feel enriched on the whole for having studied it.
When Samuel decided to bury his wine and parmesan cheese in his backyard to save them from the Great London Fire of 1666.
This is not a usual reading, but the passages of a diary. Mr. Wlliams's voice is very suited to it, to my ear. I can't think of anyone else who who be the voice of Samuel Pepys after listening to this book.
I was moved when, after he made his young wife take back some earrings she had bought, he sent for them saying, "It was enough that she had yielded."
Just like any other period piece, it is always well worth brushing up on your history before, during and after the book. This book is especially worth the effort.
Nice to have a chance to listen to the full version of the Pepys diaries, though the narration here is very flat. Dividng it into more chapters was needed. At one point it is 2 hours between chapters, so if you hit the wrong button when driving...
"Interesting dialogue spoiled by the narration"
I am really struggling to continue with this book, I do find Pepys' diaries absolutely fascinating and informative, but honestly, I am less than a sixth of the way through, and I have to keep abandoning it for a while as it is so tortuous to listen to this very flat narrator. He sounds as if he has just learned English and is proud of his enunciation, diction and ability. It is absolutely awful, and detracts from the fascination of The Diaries. I wonder ...can I manage the other 11 + hours??
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