When Chadwick Newsome lingers too long in Paris, his mother, a wealthy New England widow, sends her fiancé, Lambert Strether, to fetch him home. Newsome refuses, extending his stay while Strether finds himself lured by the intrigue of Parisian life.
Published in 1903, The Ambassadors is regarded as a masterpiece of American fiction for its exceptional structure, its moral significance, and its depiction of the contrasting New and Old World cultures. Henry James considered this his finest novel.
(P) JimCin Recordings
The book itself certainly isn't H.J.'s finest work, but I knew that going in. My rating of one star refers only to the reader. His reading is so halting and without inflection, I actually found myself scrolling back and repeating sections to attempt to grasp what was meant. It sounds as if every word came as a (disconnected) surprise to him. Honestly, it's atrocious. I am an avid (and usually patient) reader and listener, and for me to quit a book as I did this one is unheard of. Save yourself the irritation.
This book is almost impossible to bear because it is James at his most ridiculously contradictory and virtually everything is learned through accounts of what the hero observes rather than through direct conversation or action. The narrator mostly sounds like a robot, but if you stick with it, the whole mess grows on you. James really can write.
Beautifully read, with a satisfying emotional depth and the trademark Henry James indirectness. It took me a long time to get through this book because other things distracted me, but I always returned to it for something that one just can't get out of most fiction. Probably it's worth five stars, but I think that it is beyond many readers.
I've read The Ambassadors several times in print. It's not an enjoyable novel. Sentences wind on forever. Character dialogue is difficult to follow and poorly attributed. The plot is slow, even glacial. I'm writing one of my dissertation chapters on this novel, and even I dread reading through it. So, if you're just looking for something fun to read, steer clear of this work. Instead, try one of James's earlier novels. Or, Eliot. Or Trollope. You get the idea.
BUT if for some horrible reason you have no choice and you MUST read this book, then stick with the audio. The narrator adds breaks and emphasis where there are none in the book, and this makes the reading experience almost tolerable. So, in summary: listening is better than reading, but simply avoiding the novel is your best bet by far.
If you're prepared for a book written in James's late style, with its labyrinthine sentence structures etc., and plan to read it as well as listen to it, this could be a useful recording to you. The reader is pretty good, but the audio quality is often poor, as it is apparently transferred from old tapes. At times it even speeds up and slows down! Still, it was helpful to me in a first reading of the book, which I enjoyed immensely. Now I understand why many including James himself consider it his best novel.
The reader emphasizes the wrong words, making it almost impossible to follow the meaning of what he is reading. I always thought that if the book were good enough, the quality of the reading would not matter. I was wrong. I have listened to perhaps 100 books on tape or audio, and this is the first one I could not make it through due to the reader.
I agree with the two above reviews- the reading style makes this one intolerable. One of the few books I regret renting. I hope this novel will come out on audio with another reader.
The narrator reads like a pompous ass and pretty much ruins Henry James. On top of that, it sounds like it was recorded over a 1950's rural telephone connection.
Bottom line: Un-listenable
Unfortunately I have to say that as much as I like Henry James I could not get through the book because the narrator has such a dull and stilted style of reading.
"Speak and Spell"
After 45 minutes, I could take it no longer. The narration of this book is AWFUL! It soulds like a speak and spell toy. There is no infection in this mans voice whatsoever. Don't waste your money on this version.
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