Considered his masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter is Hawthorne's story of Hester Prynne and her daughter, Pearl, conceived through an adulterous affair with a Puritan pastor in 17th century Boston. From start to finish, the book explores the themes of law, guilt, and sin. Since its appearance in 1850, this magnificent book has been a perennial favorite among young and old, though it was extremely controversial when it was first published.
Henry James described the novel thusly: "It is beautiful, admirable, extraordinary; it has in the highest degree that merit which I have spoken of as the mark of Hawthorne's best things - an indefinable purity and lightness of conception. One can often return to it; it supports familiarity and has the inexhaustible charm and mystery of great works of art."
Public Domain (P)2012 Audio Connoisseur
Sometimes Audible really drops the ball. My guess is that someone who doesn't know anything about the Scarlet Letter presumes that the introduction is nonfiction and therefore extraneous. It is not. It is part of the novel. As I started listening to this, I was wondering if I had the wrong book until I realized that the introduction has been cut in its entirety. It's also quite a substantial introduction. It ends on page 65 of the book that I have in the house. It places everything in context and it's a big reason why this book was so successful. What are we expected to do? Scavenge through all of the copies to figure out which ones have the introduction? If they always read the entire texts, there would be no issues. Cutting corners is happening too frequently. Please, don't.
I was blown away by the lofty language and the sheer brilliance of the author. I was also truly grateful and impressed by the talent of the narrator, that made the lofty language both authentic and easy to understand.
I wish I'd heard this story with a different author. While he lends sufficient gravitas to the narration, the high-level vocabulary, and the historical nature of the story, to say nothing of the male characters, his treatment and voicing of the female characters - strong, vibrant women with complex personalities, make them sound like Tinkerbell. The falsetto he uses makes me think not of a woman, but of some animated caricature, and I feel that it does the entire storyline a grave disservice.
Dimsdale's struggle and inner Igbo are pithy, and the chilling Dr. Chilling worth brings a spectrish malevolence very fitting for an antagonist. The whole dreary New England setting is somewhat depressing, and Hawthorne's subtle mocking of colonial English superstition and belief in the supernatural make this not without merit, but not for the reader looking for a lift in the spirits.
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