(P)2001 Blackstone Audiobooks
Invited into the opulent New York society of 1905, beautiful Lily Bart seems irresponsibly to engage in the life of pleasure, parties, summering in country homes, and beautiful clothes. It's not clear at first (either to the reader or to Lily) whether she is looking for love, independence, or a rich husband. However, every time an opportunity presents itself, she squanders it or blunders, or simply oversleeps. It is one of the wonders of this novel that the reader cares so very much for Lily Bart. When the rich New York society unfairly betrays her and abandons her, her life begins to disintegrate. Her acceptance of each loss is dignified, and her realization of all of her missed opportunities, especially to unite with the one man in her life she loved, are deeply felt. The narration by Anna Fields is admirable.
This book is an incisive portrayal of high society life, written from the vantage point of a woman without the means to sustain such a life. It is gripping, elegant, and tightly written. I did not give this book 5 stars because its narrator, Anna Fields, is the wrong choice for this (and most) audiobooks. I've listened to several of her readings, and I am always astounded by how poorly she produces male voices. All men sound the same when she reads them, and they sound comical. The voice of one of the protagonists in this text can hardly be distinguished from the Native American voices she produced for a Louise Erdrich text I listened to. This book should have been read by someone who is very good at imitating Anglicized high-society voices, since such voices would have been consistent with the time period and used by these characters. If you can, I'd purchase the audiobook on Audible of this text that is read by a different reader.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
You can learn more about the era in which Wharton lived from reading a single one of her books than you can from a whole semester in a history class. I'm talking here about understanding the social forces that dictated how people had to live their lives and conform their behavior; forces that ultimately determined the kinds of political decisions which are the main residue we are left to study from history. Wharton's focus on the problems of her time can make her work seem superficially dated, but it really just illuminates how human nature reacts to a specific set of environmental circumstances. From that perspective, Lily Bart's story is still meaningful to us today, and is still a meaningful reflection on life and how we are able to cope with our own set of circumstances.
The not unpleasant gravelly character of Narrator Anna Fields's voice evokes the same hypnotic effect as does the pleasant purring of one's beloved cat. Its lure subtly weaves the listener deeper and deeper into the fabric of the dilemma, begging the answer to the question of where the responsibiity for personal tragedy lies: within oneself or the conspiracy of higher powers.
The reader on this selection must needs go back to vocal production classes. One note - out of breath by ends of sentences. Such a brilliant book. Such an inexperienced reader - or a really scared director - or someone posing as a sound engineer. Don't buy. Awful narration. Read the book.
I loved the book and intend to download more Edith Wharton. What a strong and timeless emotional resonance. But I write this review to steer people away from my mistake - do NOT listen to the introduction. There's a huge spoiler that diminished the book for me - and not alot of insight overall - much more boring than the book itself, which is kind of a page turner.
The Narrator. The reading was so ghastly, with the most unauthentic "voices" for the characters, that I couldn't listen to it. I may download the other recording you have of this book to see if I can finally get through some Edith Wharton. After listening to a gripping narration of Gone with the Wind, I was very disappointed.
The narrator of Gone with the Wind.
I regularly listen to audiobooks, and I loved every second of this one. I highly recommend it and can't wait to listen to Age of Innocence next.
I enjoyed this even more than I expected to. The detailed descriptions of New York society of that time where interesting, and Wharton's writing is really lovely. The narrator also has a beautiful voice and I hope to hear more of her work.
This is an excellent book, well read, but beware. The reading includes the full text of the introduction to the novel. It gives away the ending, so if you don't want to know what happens, fast forward through to the start of the novel.
"Credit crunch 1900s.......thoroughly modern Lily"
The purposeful Lily Bart navigates her way through the wallets and wills of turn of the century New York in a timeless picaresque that would see her appearing on next week's Location, Location, Location....brandishing the proceeds of an elderly relative's post-mortem property boom bequest, in search of a sea view and a pair of floral designer flip-flops.
That Edith Wharton, the equal of Henry James, was in but not of Lily's type and society is the ray of hope in this novel. The boorish Gus Trenor and the dilettante Lawrence Selden are delivered unexpurgated - two sides of the same dollar. It's an enjoyable compleat that takes the listener fully into the House of Mirth - where the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Really enjoyable for a first time Wharton-ite!
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