©2008 BBC Audiobooks Ltd; (P)2008 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
The characters who populate Thackery???s Vanity Fair (1848), set in England and Europe during and after the Napoleonic Wars, are a cast of decadent lords, pious snobs, pedantic teachers, sycophantic schemers, hedonistic spinsters, tyrannical fathers, imperious brats, philandering generals, gambling rakes, gossiping servants, false friends, faithful toadies, and many more. Unlike in Dickens, there is no perfect person. Thackery plays his ???puppets??? through scenes that are comical, appalling, suspenseful, moving, or revelatory. He keeps us alert, peering through layers of irony. And he has such empathy for humanity that he makes most of his characters, even the feckless or false or cruel ones, at least sometimes sympathetic.
Becky Sharp, the ???poor little friendless orphan??? who becomes a bohemian adventuress, who remains throughout her life selfish, scheming, heartless, and ???artful,??? who abominably neglects her son, alarmingly attracts the husbands, brothers, and sons of her friends, and comically mimics everyone behind their backs, and yet who is capable of genuine feeling, is one of the most fascinating anti-heroines in literature. Is she a plucky survivor or a wicked siren? Her foil, the seemingly pure, simple, loving, and good Amelia Sedley, is also compelling, for with selfish selflessness she indulges in her Angel in the House, submissive and dependent feminine saintliness to such a degree that she harms herself and her true lover.
The reader John Castle is great! With perfect pauses, emphases, wit, and emotion, he engagingly reads all the characters??? voices with their different accents, personalities, genders, and moods, whether a stingy hyena-faced old country baron, a drunken cockney footman, a boastful Irish officer???s wife, a mercenary French maid, or a foppish German diplomat--everyone.
Thackery???s ???historian??? narrator, who???s telling a ???true??? story based on the accounts of the principle characters he has met, satirizes early 19th century British and European culture (class, religion, education, business, war, tourism, etc.) so as to expose human vanity in general. We are all driven by vain desires and feel unfulfilled after getting what we want. We are all selfish, artful, and self- and other-deluding. The novel may seem misanthropic. But Thackery is so good at making us laugh, groan, cry, or think, that if the novel (???without a hero???) is not uplifting, it is entertaining, stimulating, and often moving.
The narrator for this book was born to give us the beauty of the spoken words of Thackeray. There is no better way to follow the escapades of the characters of Vanity Fair!
I have read Vanity Fair before, so there were no surprises here.
It is a well written and interesting novel.
My 5 star rating is as much for John Castle's narration, as it is for the novel. Superb!
In spite of the slow second half, Vanity Fair's Becky Sharpe still stands as a model for the anti-heroine.
Thackeray is a bit heavy handed in the latter part of the novel where he must have felt compelled to moralize and show a more degenerate side of Becky, done at the expense of sublimating the highly entertaining malice of her behavior. The "nice" folks grow rather boring in contrast to Becky.
But Vanity Fair was a shot heard round the world. Trollope and Mrs. Gaskell were friends and admirers of Thackeray and must have been influenced in some of their character depictions by his portrayal of the charming and ruthless Becky.
I have edited 38 national best sellers and had a writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
This classic is wonderfully written--insightful and extremely funny and entertaining. If all narrators could be as fabulous as John Castle, how happy I would be. He's a true actor who gives the characters their own voices, and his accents are spot on. I highly recommend this book.
I agree with the reviewer who said that John Castle was born to narrate this book. I don't think his performance can be bettered. I had no idea that Vanity Fair was so good, or that Thackeray was such an interesting writer. It's hard to be in Dicken's shadow, I suppose. This was a great buy.
Great story; much better than the movie.
Had Becky Sharp been born in 1975, she would have been congratulated and esteemed!
Humorous, elegant and sly.
Castle's performance really enhances Thackeray's humor and insights re. British society at that time. He also has a wonderful voice and does a great job portraying the many different characters with appropriate accents, etc.
Hugely entertaining. I loved it.
Yes! Engrossing story, richly drawn characters and wonderful language.
The Colonel, for his growth of character through the narrative.
No, but I immediately searched him--he is absolutely the best narrator ever--his diction was lovely, his accent superb, and his enunciation and pronunciation perfect and that is including his excellent French and Latin phrase turns as well. Perfection! I wish he had a hundred books to his name in voice! First rate! Top notch! Sublime!
I laughed and cried, though more laughs out loud and just a little tearing up, nothing extreme for this was Vanity Fair...
This is a pleasingly long book--at first daunting, then eagerly appreciated for its length and depth of story. Fabulous.
"A glorious romp of a novel!"
This may be an alarmingly big book, but this audio version is read with consummate skill, lashings of irony and knowing narratorial commentary delivered beautifully by the reader, and it flies by like a novel a fifth of its size.
Peopled with historical characters and situations, such as the battle of Waterloo, Thackeray almost fools his reader into believing this novel to be biography. But then his narrator is unable to resist clever asides and witty commentary, reminding us of the author's skill as a novelist and his presence. The narrator is unwilling to forgive any vanity or flaw however slight, and although Thackeray's subtitle announces that there is no hero, the colour and life breathed into his characters and the balance with which he portrays them makes it hard not to relate to them, and to love or loathe them with as great enthusiasm as if they were known to us in our own lives. Tubby Joss with his ridiculous waistcoats, the vile Osborne Snr, kind and loyal Dobbin and indomitable Becky and all of the other characters become part of your life for the few glorious hours in which you inhabit their crazy world.
Tremendously entertaining and easy to listen to, I heartily recommend this audio book to anyone who enjoys a good story well told.
This is a first class narration of a wonderful and absorbing book. I had to make a lengthy car journey recently in dreadful weather conditions and hearing the adventures of the characters of Vanity Fair lessened my frustration and made this difficult journey much easier. Although it is a very long book I would not wish a single word to be omitted so splendid is the characterisation and so skilful the reading. I know that this is one book I will return to again. Thoroughly recommended.
This book was well narrated, and very entertaining overall. Once I started listening to it, I couldn't stop. I definitely recommend it!
"Bubble and squeak"
You can sometimes think of reading the classics as like eating your greens, definately good for you but not that much fun.
Vanity Fair is rewarding and fun.
The novel without a hero thing is just one example of the the fun the author has with his readers. The hero is of course the author himself gossiping and commenting on the action and on women and their weaknesses, whilst creating a towering strong female lead in Becky Sharpe who does whatever it takes to make the best of her lot and never whines. You can't help but love her, though you know you shouldn't.
Don't be put off by the length you will be sorry when it it is all over. As others have said it is a brilliant and funny performance.
This is bubble and squeak, the fun way to eat your greens, don't miss it!
"excellent reading of an engaging book"
I completely agree with other reviewers : you will be surprised how quickly so many hours of this book fly past. They were all tremendously enjoyable! Thank you, John Castle, for so expert a reading which never missed the sense (this in my experience is unusual), and on the contrary brought out all the humour, the drama, and in particular the wit of the book. When I read Vanity Fair many years ago, I was a little daunted by its length and density; listening to such a masterly rendition of it, I relished every chapter and will certainly listen again.
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