Opening with a father and daughter scavenging for corpses on the Thames, the chilling tale unfolds around drownings, disguises and doubles, violence, murder, and triumphant love. Young John Harmon, presumed killed on his return home to England, is very much alive. The heir to a dust merchant's fortune, he goes to work under an assumed name for his father's current heirs, the amiable, elderly Boffins, who are about to be blackmailed by the unscrupulous one-legged Wegg.
So begins the intrigue in a novel that is quintessentially Dickensian in flavor, in its grotesque caricatures, its rich symbolism, and the astonishing realism of its heroine, Bella Wilfer, among Dickens' most splendid female characters.
(P)1999 Blackstone Audio Inc.
What I enjoy most about Dickens is the quality of his writing. And this book, to me, is his best. It seems like Dickens managed to squeeze every character he ever came up with into this book, and I loved each and every one of them. And the narrator -- well, if you haven't heard anything performed by Robert Whitfield (whose real name is Simon Vance), just get this book. By far my favorite narrator, reading Dickens at his best. Who could ask for more?
For my money, Our Mutual Friend is the best novel Dickens ever wrote--a bit darker than the others, but all the more powerful. Although it presents the usual cast of caricatures, there are no throwaways, the themes they represent are not trivial. Dickens (sorry, no apostrophe function) attacks on snobbery and greed are unusually vicious as well as funny, and there is a new depth to the main characters--especially in the darker romance (there are two). Lizzie Hexam is a breathtaking character--serious, beautiful, redemptive. Dickens sentimentalism (to my mind the serious flaw in his works) is kept to a minimum in this one.
And--The reading is perfect. Robert Whitfield is a talented and sensitive reader. I will be looking for more of his work.
In this audiobook, Charles Dickens and Robert Whitfield (the narrator) mutually conspire to deliver audio pleasure to the listener. Superbly written and read, the Thames winds through this tale of class difference, greed, social frippery, mystery, murder, financial skullduggery and love. Do yourself a great favour and listen to it. You'll love it.
This is a great story whether read, listened to, or watched on BBC version. I have done all three and never tire of the story. The characters are at times caricatures (as always in Dickens), but always bring to mind people we have known. Reading Dickens is like reading a manual on human nature and foibles. This is one of the author's best works, in my opinion. You will love and hate these characters.
The narration is superb and well-fitted for this book.
This is my favorite Dickens novel, and the narrator does it full justice - especially Fledgeby, Wegg and the Boffins. Highly enjoyable.
I can't even tell you how many times I've listened to this book. It gets better every time. The first time I actually enjoyed it much less than the subsequent listens. The characters are all flawed and yet there is something likeable about them. I really think it does boil down to characters with Dickens.
Our Mutual Friend is vintage Dickens with subplots, intense character development, and wordy. While the main plot lines converge at the end of the book, there are some plot lines that ramble on without a real tie in to the main lines. Having read or listened to all of the novels, I certainly was not surprised by the pace. I would strongly recommend this Audible version because the reader is supurb.
I was unfamiliar with this Dickens book, but thoroughly enjoyed it. The narrator is great. Editor could have been better (several repeated lines or phrases that should have been eliminated). But the story is classic Dickens (I sure enjoy his phrasing) and the narrator's rendering has such a flow that far surpassed some other Dickens audiobooks I've heard in the past. Wegg sounded just as smarmy as he should have (rather Uriah Heep-ish) and Mr. Boffin seemed a genuine, right jolly old fellow. An enjoyable listen, and of course long enough to make friends of the characters and not feel the visit was cut unnecessarily short.
My review goes against the ecstatic judgment of the crowd. The vastly popular and nearly ubiquitous Simon Vance/Robert Whitfield (the same man) strikes me as among the most tiresome readers out there. I find this so in large part because of the generic 'extra' emotion he inserts and sometimes slathers all over the place in whatever he reads -- without sufficient sensitivity to the genuine subtleties of any text. To me it sounds like sight-reading much of the time, highly practiced, very smooth, applause-gaining quite professional sight-reading, but I want way better than that. Or at least I do not want to be distracted. If Vance/Whitfield were to read aloud that "two bridges cross the river, one to the north and one to south," his voice would rise and fall and rise, for his habit is to offer a three-act play when none is wanted. His voice is a pleased, singing voice and not a speaking one, and dulcet tones which aim to impress finally get on your, or my, nerves. A matter of taste, yes. Some people hate Fred Williams' profoundly respectful and ultimately magnificent reading of THE FORSYTE SAGA. He is a reader with no singing tones in him (few Forsytes would ever sing, anyway) and he has no tricks at all, except for deep respect and perhaps love for his text, which, I bet, he knows by heart in places. Or try Eileen Atkins's MILL ON THE FLOSS for a supremely intelligent reading that inflicts no dazzle. As far as OUR MUTUAL FRIEND, I spent $38.47 (I am not yet a subscriber) on a reading I could not endure -- and then I went to the David Timson narration (also on Audible), which is good, so good that much of the time you forget the reader completely, which is how some people like it.
It's a pity that the editing of this audiobook is so poor, the narrator frequently re-reads phrases and both versions are kept in - so you keep hearing double! It's sometimes entertaining to get a glimpse of the craft involved in audio narration, but mostly it distracts you from the narrative. I can't think of any other medium where this would be acceptable, imagine watching a movie where the outtakes are left in! Otherwise this is a great story, but I love Dickens in any form. I enjoyed Simon Vance's narration but found it a bit one-dimensional, he has a supercilious tone to his voice all the time which, with Dickens' long sentences, can be a bit irritating. (Anton Lesser's narration cannot be matched - please do more Mr Lesser!)
"Great book, well read, but sadly spoilt"
Dickens is in his usual form with great characters who are recognisable in every age. Here he deals with wealth and poverty and introduces us to people of every layer of society who are greedy for money and others who are generous and kind.
He shows us that for some wealth can ruin their character whilst others thrive in relative poverty.
His text could well the "The love of money is the root of all evil."
The characters are brought to live by Simon Vance's wonderful reading of the story. Each character is distinct and clear.
Sadly the recording is ruined by dreadful editing. In pretty well every chapter, and often several times in a chapter, lines are repeated as the reader gives a second rendition of the same phrase. In one case a whole chapter is repeated.
This failing is a surprise at first, becomes a frustration and by the end of the book is a genuine annoyance.
Cutting social commentary.
Most novels by Dickens - Dickens's books are incredibly good at examining society of the time and pointing out the flaws, inconsistencies and two-facedness of it. This does of course mean that the villains are more villainous and the heroes more heroic than one would expect in reality, but part of the novelist's role is to shine a spotlight on these things, necessarily making them stand out more brightly.I have a particular joy at Dickens's onomatopoeic character names, they're marvellous throughout his books!
Vance is a truly admirable reader. His characterisations are brilliant, and maintained throughout (I loved his voice for Silas Wegg, so fitting!). I actually logged in to Audible just now in order to identify more books he has read!
No - I need sleep; it's a little long for that! However, I did manage a few long sessions with it. I believe the original was published monthly in nineteen parts. It would be interesting to know where the original breaks were, in order to attempt listening to the novel again in those same parts.
More care could have been taken with the editing. There are several places where Vance has re-read a line but the editing (or lack thereof) has left both reads in the final audio.
Is it only me who has been living in ignorance or is this book vastly underrated? I thought I knew of all Dickens' great young characters, but I had never come across Jenny Wren, the doll's dressmaker, and she's far more interesting and well-developed than many of the better-known ones. A great book, enhanced by an excellent reader.
"A hidden classic"
An often overlooked classic from the pen of Charles Dickens is beautifully brought to life by a superb narration by Simon Vance. A wonderful combination that elevates this audiobook above the crowd of brilliant classic audiobooks that are available from Audible.
The underpinning story of finding love when least expecting it is elevated by a superb array of memorable characters and subplots. The interconnection of characters and interweaving of plots keep this lengthy story moving effortlessly to a superb and satisfying climax.
The opening scene, set on the Thames, brings forward a incredibly evocative picture of Victorian London riverside life. The attention detail and the combination of images and character set the novel moving forward in a chilling and compelling way.
There are so many moving moments in this, the greatest of Dickens' novels, that to pick just one seems unfair. As always though the tenderness of scenes involving infant mortality, which nobody but Dickens can describe in so moving prose, leave a lasting impression on the listener.
A wonderful story which is brilliantly narrated by Simon Vance is a must for any fan of Dickens, but more than this it serves as a great introduction to this great author to those who have yet to experience his brilliance and majesty.
"Excellent production but poor editing."
Several sentences in each volume are repeated, breaking the rhythm of the prose. Closer attention to detail in the editing would repay. Also the recording is broken into several downloads of equal length. It would improve the production if the breaks in downloads followed the division of the original work into volumes.
In a book this rich it is hard to choose, but I have always had a soft spot for 'Mr Venus, the articulator of skeletons'.
No, but I will now look for others.
Absolutely none. I bought this because it is unabridged. I would have liked the date of publication mentioned so that listeners can place it in the canon of Dickens' work.
I find the American voices introducing and ending this very British production intrusive. Surely a British actor could be found for this task.
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