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Our Mutual Friend | [Charles Dickens]

Our Mutual Friend

A mysterious boatman on the Thames, a drowned heir, a dustman and his wife, and a host of other Dickens characters populate this novel of relationships between the classes, money, greed, and love. The 58 characters are presented with remarkable clarity by David Timson.
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Publisher's Summary

A mysterious boatman on the Thames, a drowned heir, a dustman and his wife, and a host of other Dickens characters populate this novel of relationships between the classes, money, greed, and love. The 58 characters are presented with remarkable clarity by David Timson.

© and (P) Naxos Rights International

What the Critics Say

"With a cast of characters that covers the whole spectrum of London life, Dickens weaves a tapestry of tales that are by turn funny, moving and tragic." (School Library Journal)
"David Timson makes the cavalcade of contemporary types compellingly real." (The Times, London)
"The fact that Dickens is always thought of as a caricaturist, although he was constantly trying to be something else, is perhaps the surest mark of his genius." (George Orwell)

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  •  
    A. Millard Columbus, NC USA 11-13-07
    A. Millard Columbus, NC USA 11-13-07 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Masterpiece"

    I have "read" many excellent Audible books, and this is hands down the best one so far. Dickens' beautiful language, intricately woven story lines, insightful observations and vivdly unique characters are tremendously enhanced by David Timson's masterful narration. His pacing is impeccable; never once did I feel he was going too fast or slow. His nuanced interpretation brought the printed words to life. In addition, the sound quality was excellent and consistent throughout the entire 36 hours.

    Be aware that some of Dickens' Victorian-era idioms and expressions can be obscure. I found it impossible to fully comprehend them all. In some instances, his descriptions of scenes and/or thoughts are not completely understandable -- but if you just keep listening and let the narrative wash over you, a fascinating picture of the scene develops in your mind.

    If you hang in there to the end, you will be rewarded with deep, touching scenes, subtle but enjoyably comedic vignettes, unforgettable characters, a multi-level struggle of good vs evil, and an eminently satisfying ending. A masterpiece on several levels.

    Minor quibble: Near the end of Part 5, there is a place in the recording where the equivalent of about two pages of text is abruptly and obviously cut off. I re-downloaded the file and still encountered the issue. After looking up and reading the missing text on Amazon's "Search the Book" feature, I picked up the story again with no harm done.

    36 of 36 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Edith Oakland, CA, United States 10-18-07
    Edith Oakland, CA, United States 10-18-07 Member Since 2005
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    "Terrific"

    They're all here: schemers and scoundrels, benefactors and ne'er-do-wells, innocents and criminals, in a rich pageant of colorful Victorian characters and complicated, intertwined plots. Our Mutual Friend is wonderfully well written -- much better than Oliver Twist or A Tale of Two Cities. Here, Dickens' social satire is at it's very best. His criticism of the abysmal conditions of the poor in 19th century England, contrasted with the ease and luxury of the rich, is delivered in a touching and entertaining way, and never feels heavy-handed or didactic.

    I usually detest dramatic readings of novels. They mostly fail. This is the exception, a real gem. A superb actor, David Timson creates a different voice for each character and makes the book shimmer. Dickens himself gave readings of his work and Our Mutual Friend seems made for performance.

    Drift off occasionally and lose track of the plot? No matter. Dickens' marvelous language and Timson's amazing performance make it a pleasure to repeat a passage. And it doesn't really matter. This is a Victorian novel. You know what's going to happen: there will be a happy ending, one or two sad deaths, and you are not listening so much to learn who out-foxed whom, but to spend time in Dickens world, his amazing re-creation of Victorian London.

    Also, Dickens rights his wrong of having created Fagin, the offensively drawn Jew of Oliver Twist. Apparently, he knew no Jews at all until he happened to sell his house to a Jewish banker, whose wife complained to him about Fagin. Taking her criticism to heart, he created Mr. Riah for Our Mutual Friend, a wise and kindly Jewish humanitarian.

    This audiobook of Our Mutual Friend is terrific.

    20 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Luke 08-31-07
    Luke 08-31-07 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "David Timson makes this Charles Dickens Novel Live"

    Narrator: David Timson makes this Charles Dickens Novel Live

    This is the most enjoyable novel I've listened to yet on Audible.com. David makes all 58 characters come to life with such clarity that you are transported to the 1800's. I'm sure if Charles Dickens were to listen to David's narration he would laugh and cry just like I have. A big thank you to David and Charles.

    19 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sparkly SF, CA, United States 06-16-09
    Sparkly SF, CA, United States 06-16-09 Member Since 2008

    interested in history, science, and pulp fiction

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "My Favorite unknown Dickens"

    Frankly, I had not heard of Our Mutual Friend before whimsically browsing Audible for the longest Dickens audiobook. (I believe this is it.)

    What a wonderful surprise! OMF has elements of both the classic noir DOA and The Prince and the Pauper - which create some amusement and suspense. The main character is a charming, self effacing fellow, typical of Dickens but less heavy handedly created. Interesting characters in sometimes hilarious situations (Wegg and Venus negotiating over Wegg's "property," or conspiring at Boffin's together...unforgettable!), as well as two romantic trajectories - one of which I found unlikely and kind of hot, for Dickens.

    The best element for me, though, was the historic detail. No surprise that there is historic detail, but in this case, it's about the riverfront, the locks, and the "dust pile". It was fascinating, and new information to me. The opening chapter is startling in its "mise en scene," so to speak.

    The reader, David Timson, is fantastic. Just fantastic. Great range, excellent timing, a real performer.

    None of my (admittedly casual) fellow readers had heard of this Dickens book, and I don't know exactly why. I suppose it is not the best crafted, technically, but it is a very satisfying "read."

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 02-15-11
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 02-15-11 Member Since 2009

    Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The synergy of Dickens and Timson"

    The last novel completed by Charles Dickens, it is one of his most sophisticated works, combining psychological insight with social analysis. It is about human values, money and the effect the latter on the former. Some of the characters, the book in general and the plot specifically are complex. Most of the characters are deep and richly portrayed others are well portrayed but more, quite simple in their basic nature of goodness or evil. For its time and male author, the book is notable for its strong female characters The plot focuses class, education and, was it mentioned, money.

    The book is incredibly clever, tragic and funny. Like all of the rest of Dickens, it is a pure masterpiece and work of genius. It is a period piece that might not appeal to all but, if one has ever read the author, it is in the same tradition as earlier works.

    Speaking of genius, David Timson miraculously keeps track of all the 50+ characters and renders them individually as though a cast of separate star actors were delivering the work. I do not believe this book on its own is always easily approachable. However, Mr. Timson makes it much more easy going and enjoyable to the max. The reading by this great actor alone is worth the price of admission.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emrys Alfred, NY, United States 06-12-11
    Emrys Alfred, NY, United States 06-12-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Very good novel; superb narration"

    Our Mutual Friend is quintessential Dickens: memorable, sometimes over the top characters; decent plot; some fine descriptive writing; quite a bit of tedious sentimentality; biting satire directed against the ignorant, pompous rich on behalf of he honest poor. I found it a much more satisfying novel than Dombey and Son, and except for a few of the stretched out mawkish passages, pretty engaging.
    David Timson's narration is simply brilliant. I cannot imagine it being bettered. He gives each character a distinctive voice that is wonderfully well matched to the personality, sex, age, and social station of each individual. To do this so well obviously takes a great deal of preparation. insight, and theatrical ability. He should receive an award for this reading. It's that good.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah 08-20-09
    Deborah 08-20-09
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    "Fabulous story, gifted narrator"

    Dickens at his best - rich characters who are funny, heart-wrenchingly sad, evil, delightful, intersecting plots with twists and turns, social commentary on wealth and class and false piety and pride. David Timson is a brilliant narrator. He is equally convincing as the sweet young heroine and the gruff old man and the dozens of characters in between. Some very funny voices that bring Dickens' story to life. Stick with the beginning, as Dickens introduces the large cast of characters. Once you get to know them all, you won't want the story to end, even though it's a very long audio book.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen Monrovia, CA, United States 11-29-07
    Kathleen Monrovia, CA, United States 11-29-07
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    "An action packed delight"

    The best dickens story I have listened to by far.
    This should be a movie. A hint of Mystery and a great twist and set upon a wholesome and beneficial moral compass.
    Superlative narration acting monotony and imbibed with Beautiful presence and consciousness of great acting.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    April Phoenixvile, PA, United States 11-03-07
    April Phoenixvile, PA, United States 11-03-07
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    "Excellent narrator"

    I didn't realize until this book was finished that I had heard this narrator before in the Meaning of Night. Amazing voices and attitudes for ALL the characters, I can't imagine how he keeps them all straight while making these. I hope David Timson will be making more audiobooks like this one. As for the actual book, also fabulous. I love how social standing, wealth and friendships are all the same then as now. I found myself laughing outloud at points during the story. Enjoy!

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jefferson 07-06-13
    Jefferson 07-06-13 Member Since 2010

    I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.

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    "Wonderfully Funny, Moving, and Disappointing"

    Our Mutual Friend (1864-65), the last book Charles Dickens completed, was the most hilarious, moving, grotesque, socially satirical, and finally disappointing novel of his books that I've read. It opens with an eerie scene on the Thames, wherein river-scavenger Jesse "Gaffer" Hexam and his daughter Lizzie are rowing back at dusk while towing a drowned man's corpse from Jesse's boat. The corpse belongs to one John Harmon, a young man who had returned to England from abroad in order to gain an inheritance of 100,000 pounds left him by his miserly dust (garbage) king father on the condition that he marry Bella Wilfer, a young lady he'd never met. Because John Harmon is dead, the money reverts to Mr Nicodemus Boffin and his wife Henrietta, a good-natured, unpretentious, uneducated couple who worked for and lived with the deceased miser. Mr. Boffin thus becomes known as "the Golden Dustman" to people who want to taste his riches and as "the minion of fortune, the worm of the hour" to people who envy him.

    Rather than end with a glorious and well-deserved inheritance, then, the novel begins with a cursed inheritance and depicts how the Boffins' new fortune warps and influences various people in their orbit, many of whom do not even directly know the couple. Among the many are Silas Wegg, a clever rascal with keen powers of observation, a wooden leg, and an imaginary relationship with the upper class denizens of the mansion outside which he sells bad ballads, fruit, nuts, and gingerbread; Mr. Venus, a melancholy man unlucky in love who articulates skeletons and stuffs animals and keeps an assorted crowd of bottled babies, a French gentleman skeleton, a dusty alligator, and the like in his shop; Mr. Bradley Headstone, a "decent" schoolmaster who lives under too much self-restraint; Charley and Lizzie Hexam, the respectively selfish and selfless children of the Thames boatman Gaffer Hexam; Hexam's former "pardner," Roger "Rogue" Riderhood, a vile and insinuating scoundrel whose catchphrase is, "I'm only an honest man trying to earn his living by the sweat of his brow"; Jenny Wren, a crippled dwarf girl with a magnificent head of blond hair, a sharp eye and tongue, and a propensity for smelling flowers when she's making fashionable dresses for fancy dolls; Mortimer Lightwood and Eugene Wrayburn, a pair of urbane and unambitious best-friend gentlemen in the law (picture a young Oscar Wilde posing as a barrister with no clients); Mr. Twemlow, a dry, gray bachelor burdened by debt, mediocrity, and lost love, a hanger on at the high society gatherings of the nouveaux-riches Mr. and Mrs. Veneering; Alfred and Sophronia Lammle, a pair of scheming gold-diggers who marry each other for their illusory money; Mrs. Betty Higden, a poor, noble child-minder with a phobia for workhouses, poorhouses, and parish authorities; Sloppy, a simple, illegitimate foundling deft at working Mrs. Higden's mangle and prone to throwing back his head and bellowing with laughter or tears; Mr. Riah, an old Jew who wears an exotically orthodox set of clothes, possesses an authentically kind heart (the antithesis of Fagin), and works as the front for a tight-fisted and repugnant Gentile money-lender called "Fascinating" Fledgeby; the Wilfer family, including the long-suffering "cherubic" father, his long-complaining sour wife, and their two daughters, Lavinia of the insolent tongue and Bella of the mercenary heart; and there is the mysterious young man of multiple identities as Julius Handford, John Rokesmith, and--?

    Dickens has great fun with his cast of grotesque and or angelic characters, putting them into countless comical and or moving scenes. Throughout the first four-fifths of the novel I was constantly chuckling or tearing up or both. And he enthusiastically exploits his riffing conceits, as when Eugene explains to Mr. Boffin why he dislikes being compared to a bee (or any other creature of more than two legs), or as when the narrator describes things like the Veneering’s "bran-new" house, or Twemlow’s "fancy," or the supremacy of "shares," and so on. Even his throw-away lines are delicious, as when he describes "the bride's aunt and next relation; a widowed female of a
Medusa sort, in a stoney cap, glaring petrifaction at her fellow-creatures." And Our Mutual Friend is often devastatingly funny and incisive about human nature and industrial society.

    David Timson reads the book with passionate skill, giving the many different characters their own instantly recognizable voices perfectly suited to their personalities and backgrounds and agendas. His only misstep (which is Dickens' fault more than Timson's and is luckily only active for less than 1% of the novel) is a cloyingly precocious "baby." Listening to Timson read any of the many set-piece scenes like Fledgeby rolling about on his carpet in his Turkish slippers and pantaloons, or Riderhood wheedling Mortimer and Eugene to take down his false "Alfred David" (affidavit), or Wegg reading about lurid misers to Boffin and Venus or running down Boffin to Venus, or Jenny cutting through people's pretenses, or the Wilfer women snottily sniping at each other, was a great pleasure.

    All that said, there are some disappointing things in the novel that prevent my ranking it with Great Expectations or David Copperfield. Most seriously, much of the climax and resolution of the novel left me disappointed and resentful rather than triumphant and fulfilled. Without spoiling it, I'll just say that I felt badly used and manipulated by Dickens, who unfairly and unconvincingly withholds key information from us as in a cheap mystery novel. He earlier narrates whole chapters from the points of view of characters who know the key information that he's withholding from us, without explaining why they would not think about such things. And it turns out that some characters have been acting in ways that don't gibe with their personalities. And he even arranges things in such a way that he undercuts his novel's powerful theme about the corruptive nature of money.

    Nonetheless, I am very glad to have listened to Our Mutual Friend; I truly enjoyed most of it; but finally my expectations from the first four fifths were disappointed by the last part, and I think it is more flawed than Dickens' more famous novels.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 63 results PREVIOUS127NEXT
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  • Lisa
    LondonUnited Kingdom
    6/13/08
    Overall
    "excellent reading"

    David Timson is a gifted narrator with a seemingly endless repertoire of characterful voices which do the novel full justice. Our Mutual Friend was not favourably reviewed when it was first published but this reading is hugely enjoyable and places many of the characters among Dickens's most memorable.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Louise
    London, United Kingdom
    11/21/08
    Overall
    "Brilliant reading of OMF"

    Our Mutual Friend is darkly satiric, has superb descriptions of London and reeks of the river. Plus, Bella Wilfer must be just about unique in the Charles Dickens' female stable in having some complexity to her character.

    This is the first audiobook that I have heard narrated by the talented David Timson. He appears to have an endless fund of character-laden voices to draw upon which is perfect for Dickens' novels. I am enjoying this immensely and would recommend this particular reading to anyone who is a Charles Dickens fan.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Sam
    Kington, United Kingdom
    8/23/08
    Overall
    "A cracker"

    OMF is no masterpiece of plotting, but it is a treasure chest of characters. Timpson does them all proud, makes the dark sections truly chilling, and gives even the dodgier passages real drive and shine.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    9/14/08
    Overall
    "This book made me a convert to Dickens"

    I never liked Dickens after being forced to read Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol at school but this book ...........is fabulous!
    The story is huge, with so many characters - all of whom are beautifully depicted. Some you love, like Miss Jenny Wren, and some you hate, like Fascination Fledgeby, but all essential to the story. The interweaving of their lives and fortunes and the satirical treatment of 'Society' and those involved in it make it a thoroughly modern book. David Timson's reading is superb. His voices make it so easy to see each of the characters in one's mind's eye. He is obviously completely a part of the process (I can almost see him with side whiskers, seated in a wing chair by the fireside, reading to us). I think this is probably the best book I've listened to so far and I am now Dickens' newest fan - I've just downloaded 'A Tale of Two Cities' on the strength of it!

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  • Erika
    Redhill, United Kingdom
    10/16/12
    Overall
    "Dickens at his very best"

    This book was such a pleasure to hear read. The story is captivating and you just can't stop listening. David Timson reads this so well that the characters come alive. He gives just exactly the right intonation to each so that you melt into the book and feel you are there experiencing it first hand. Dickens fans will already be familiar with his masterful use of language and depiction of characters. Those not familiar with Dickens will find this an exciting, romantic and thoroughly entertaining listen. This is a very long book but is well worth having in this unabridged version because in my view, with Dickens, as with some other authors, every word and paragraph adds to the asmospher and feel of the story. I wouldn't want to lose a single word by having an abridged version. The length of the listen is absolutly no problem and David Timson, has a very pleasant voice and an English accent that is easy on the ear and works well with this book.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Richard
    LEICESTER, United Kingdom
    9/1/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Lot's of character's and a hell of a twist!"
    What did you like most about Our Mutual Friend?

    I really liked the observation with regard to a tendency for some people to punish their benefactors. I mean, of course, the ungrateful Silas Wegg's blackmailing of Noddy Boffin.


    What other book might you compare Our Mutual Friend to, and why?

    The marriage of Eugene Wrayburn to Lizzy Hexham is reminiscent of Harry Maylie and Rose in Oliver and Arther Clennam to Little Dorrit


    Which character – as performed by David Timson – was your favourite?

    Mr Riah was probably my favourite. He acted with such dignity and kindness despite the dreadful way he was treated.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I was outraged by the heinous way Silas Wegg schemed against Mr Boffin, but also found the scene where Rogue Riderhood was brought back from the dead very moving. He was such an awful character in life, but that didn't prevent people from doing their up most to save his life when he lay weak and helpless. Probably that was the most care he had ever been shown and I hoped it might change him for the better, but like Bill Sykes with regard to Nancy, or Ralph Nickleby with regard to the Cheeryble Brothers. You realise that these characters are so far gone they are incorrigible.


    Any additional comments?

    Wonderful story telling from David Timson!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Mary
    LONDON, United Kingdom
    3/28/13
    Overall
    "Our Mutual Friend"

    I can only reiterate what other readers have said. I don't think I've ever reviewed ANYTHING before but I am just bowled over by David Timson's excellent reading. As another reviewer said, he seems to have an endless range of voices and they are all so appropriate for the characters. I do hope you will be able to offer some more books with David Timson as narrator.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Paul
    United Kingdom
    12/8/12
    Overall
    "A great work, beautifully read."

    I read OMF a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. However this audio book was even better. David Timson (who I knew from his narration of the Sherlock Holmes stories) reads OMF with great skill, and vividly renders every one of the many interesting characters. Highly recommended.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Miss
    BATHGATE, United Kingdom
    5/25/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Humour, mystery and human-nature....Dickens!"

    I loved this..I have struggled to get into the book but David Simpson does such a great job with the narrative, the voices, and making Dicken' s continuously interwoven humour stand out, that I was hooked very quickly. I laughed often and even welled up at one point. Definitely a great purchase.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Philip
    Warrington, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Classic Dickens"

    Very well read by David Timson, this is one of the best Dickens novels, full of memorable characters from the saintly Lizzie Hexham to the evil Rogue Ryderhood.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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