We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
 >   > 
The American | [Martin Booth]

The American

The locals in the southern Italian town where he lives call him Signor Farfalla - Mr. Butterfly - for he is a discreet gentleman who paints rare butterflies. His life is inconspicuous: mornings are spent brushing at a canvas, afternoons idling in the cafés, and evenings talking with his friend, the town priest, over a glass of brandy. Yet there are other sides to this gentleman’s life.... Part thriller, part character study, part drama of deceit and self-betrayal, The American shows Martin Booth at the very height of his powers.
Regular Price:$20.97
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Your Likes make Audible better!

'Likes' are shared on Facebook and Audible.com. We use your 'likes' to improve Audible.com for all our listeners.

You can turn off Audible.com sharing from your Account Details page.

OK

Audible Editor Reviews

Martin Booth is posthumously back in the spotlight again, thanks to George Clooney and a film adaptation of his novel, originally titled A Very Private Gentleman. Imagine his handsome graying head bent over a half-finished butterfly painting at a cafe table in southern Italy, then aiding in the murder of prominent public figures in Washington, D.C. Indeed, this yarn is actually the very interesting inner monologue of a man who makes guns for covert political assassination plots. It is not a thriller per se, which is perhaps why the film has not been particularly well received. But Booth launched his career first as a successful poet, and the novel is a wonderfully evocative character portrait in a way that simply cannot be captured by film.

It can, however, be captured by voice. Ralph Cosham, who has narrated other such deep portrayals in the likes of Heart of Darkness and Frankenstein, brings the same super classy and sleuth-worthy British accent that he brought to The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. He can spend several minutes discoursing on the proper way to pack a false-bottomed briefcase, then jump to his philosophy on the important differences between the two hookers he's been seeing together twice a week.

Suffice it to say that the plot is intensely understated, and that the real treat is in this man's ability to understand himself and his surroundings. He is a speculative and moral creature who does not shy away from examining his own fleeting pleasures and broad failures. During these 10 hours of Cosham's strangely absorbing monologue, there is still enough time to thread in a sparse and therefore reasonably plausible conflict of a spy on the run from another spy. The things that might make it a failure as a film are precisely those things that make The American worth a listen. —Megan Volpert

Publisher's Summary

The locals in the southern Italian town where he lives call him Signor Farfalla - Mr. Butterfly - for he is a discreet gentleman who paints rare butterflies. His life is inconspicuous: mornings are spent brushing at a canvas, afternoons idling in the cafés, and evenings talking with his friend, the town priest, over a glass of brandy.

Yet there are other sides to this gentleman’s life: Clara, the young student who moonlights in the town bordello, and another woman, who arrives with $100, 000 and a commission - but not for a painting of butterflies.

With this assignment returns the dark fear that has dogged Signor Farfalla’s mysterious life. Almost instantly, he senses a deadly circle closing in on him, one which he may or may not elude.

Part thriller, part character study, part drama of deceit and self-betrayal, The American shows Martin Booth at the very height of his powers.

(Previously published as A Very Private Gentleman.)

©2004 Martin Booth (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“Booth constructs his most focused, tightly written novel to date, reminiscent of William Trevor’s classic Felicia’s Journey and the late Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Booth has created a rich, conflicted antihero whose clever rationalizations mask a soul weary with self-doubt…making us question our own moral values." (Boston Globe)

“Haunting, shocking, and tense…Crisp yet lyrical, simple yet intelligent.” (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (238 )
5 star
 (57)
4 star
 (84)
3 star
 (55)
2 star
 (18)
1 star
 (24)
Overall
3.6 (141 )
5 star
 (36)
4 star
 (50)
3 star
 (28)
2 star
 (12)
1 star
 (15)
Story
3.8 (138 )
5 star
 (43)
4 star
 (58)
3 star
 (17)
2 star
 (11)
1 star
 (9)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Ramon Oakland, CA, United States 10-26-10
    Ramon Oakland, CA, United States 10-26-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    360
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    80
    17
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    9
    0
    Overall
    "Slow start but after a few pages your hooked.
"

    Loved the slow buildup of the story.
    Very graphical in detail and very well read.

    If your looking for high pace action, this isn't it.
    But if your looking for an intelligent and story told from the 1st person, this is a good one.

    Slow start but after a few pages your hooked.


    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brendan lilburn, GA, United States 09-07-10
    Brendan lilburn, GA, United States 09-07-10 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    199
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    54
    20
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    4
    0
    Overall
    "Slow burning, but leaves a warm glow"

    This is an intriguing read, and definitely an internal study of the thought process of a person involved in killing. You are much more likely to get the real skinny on "hitters" from this novel than from most of the other tosh written about them. Fascinating discussion on weapons, preparation and personal awareness, all real tools of those who operate in this world.

    The listener needs to pay attention, because the information is delivered with a sly self knowing anarchy. The reading is, like the book, understated and quite brilliant.

    Heh, I haven't seen the film yet, but I'll bet it ain't nowt like the book:)


    brendan

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darryl Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 05-19-13
    Darryl Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 05-19-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    458
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    941
    238
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    22
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "a more contemplative "thriller""

    though this is the novel from which the American with Clooney came from, it is rather different. in the film they tried to slow things down from the conventional bullet ridden films and to show a more quiet, meticulous, thoughtful man without a lot of dialogue and it almost works ( i like the film ) but there is more inner monologue in the novel that of course couldn't come out in the film without the often hamfisted "voice over" which is hard to do well, especially for this much soul searching. I like the novel very much though be warned it is not a run around shooting things up type of novel. it reminds me of Graham Greene, especially if you combine his Catholic novels (there is some religious discussion with a priest) with his serious thrillers, like Human Factor.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hunter Huntsville, AL, United States 10-10-12
    Hunter Huntsville, AL, United States 10-10-12 Member Since 2012

    I just achieved App Scholar!! 1000 hours in 1 yr 7 mo and 10 days!!! I never thought I would make it this far!! Thanks Audible

    HELPFUL VOTES
    141
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    150
    147
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    14
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "THE BOOK THAT IS BETTER THAN THE MOVIE!!!!"

    THE BOOK IS ALWAYS BETTER MOST OF THE TIME,IN THIS CASE IT WAS.A SHORT STORY AND A GREAT LISTEN.IF YOU LIKED THE MOVIE YOU NEED TO TAKE THE TIME TO READ A VERY PRIVATE GENTLEMAN..THAT IS THE REAL NAME BEFORE GEORGE CLONEY.. YOU WILL KNOW MOST OF THE PLOT,SO I WONT GIVE IT AWAY.BUT THIS IS A BETTER ENDING THAN THE MOVIE IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN...

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John 11-24-10
    John 11-24-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    26
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    ""the American"Martin Booth: A very Satisfying Read"

    One of my favorite books this year. Booth develops this character slowly, like a good friendship should be developed. From the beginning we meet a lonely man, matter of fact, and circumspect about the details of his life.

    First person narratives are my favorites, and this is one of those. Our mystery "American," reveals himself in small slices, just as one might choose to invite someone into one's own life. He's deeply immersed in his secretive craft, and under a watchful eye, his descriptions of his surroundings come alive in the mind of the reader.

    He is a man of secrets, a certain fatalism, limited emotional intimacies, and rather than being amoral about his profession (manufacture of assassin's arms), he articulates a code of ethics above his surroundings. He stands outside the world of normalcy, and describes a consistent world view by which he lives. It's lonely, but has it's own serenity, and above all he is safe from all the things, and people who hurt us in so many ways.

    We meet his customers, and through his eyes we even respect the idealism of their craft. But this solitary man is not without his enemies, and when at last he is run to ground by one of them.... well you'll just have to read the story to see how it ends.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 07-30-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Gifted Narration"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The American to be better than the print version?

    The exceptional writing is enhanced by the delivery provided by Ralph Cosham, who provides nuances of inflection for the various characters by Cosham's impeccable dictation. The movie version of this book avoids the complexities of the storyline and relies on the action/sensationalism--Totally missing the complexities of the novel.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adam bunbury, Australia 03-12-14
    Adam bunbury, Australia 03-12-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    9
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "feel like you're in Italy but slow at times"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Great if you wanna feel like you're in a small Italian town. Good info about Italian living and how to guide for assassins


    Would you recommend The American to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes but I see why people think its boring by I like it. Very relaxing to listen to


    What aspect of Ralph Cosham’s performance would you have changed?

    His voice is kinda monotone but adds to the tone of the book. Is not action packed but more of a how to guide for assassins


    Could you see The American being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    Already is a movie dopey


    Any additional comments?

    Good but slow. Relaxing life as an Italian. Pleny of drinking coffee, whoring and occasional gun making

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vira Pretoria, South Africa 06-05-13
    Vira Pretoria, South Africa 06-05-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    127
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    78
    77
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    9
    10
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting Life of an Assassin"

    This Booth/Cosham combo produces a book in easy conversational style, about what its like to be an assassin or assassin’s assistant.

    The scene is set in a quiet Italian village. You feel as if Mr. Butterfly, this pleasant and likeable gentleman, is sitting in front of you, in an easy chair, with a glass of wine, describing his life as assassin. His way is casual, gentle and quiet. Introspective. You cant quite imagine him doing what he does, but the way he tells it makes it seem quite natural and acceptable. Almost.

    The irony is, that because he is an agent for killing people, he doesn’t have a life himself.

    A good, well-written and interesting book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ethosian Earthquake Zone, California 05-18-13
    Ethosian Earthquake Zone, California 05-18-13 Member Since 2013

    You never have to wait for anything if you bring a good book.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    53
    39
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Elegant, finely-crafted story of hitman's gunsmith"


    In a reversal of the norm, I enjoyed the movie so I thought I would give the book a shot. I'm delighted that I did, but you must know that the plot line of this book is not at all like the plot in the movie. In fact I find it hard to see where they got the movie plot from this book since they share only some names and minor sub-plots.

    Martin Booth is an elegant writer who paints a chillingly intimate portrait of the alien world inside the head of an aging master craftsman of assassin's weapons. We see an older man searching for peace and love after an especially violent and solitary life. Booth's finely wrought depiction of small town life in Italy makes me feel as though I've lived there too.

    The narration is solid, without resorting to hokey artifice. Overall, a great read (listen).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Allen Hilburn USA 10-08-12
    Allen Hilburn USA 10-08-12 Member Since 2009

    Allen

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    36
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very Different from the Movie"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The American to be better than the print version?

    Are audio books better than print books? That's such a personal call, my opinion is really insignificant to the reader of these reviews. I am a big fan of both, but audio books give me the ability to enjoy a book in situations where reading is not possible, like on long road trips. Sitting on a beach it might be a toss up, so make your own decision.


    What other book might you compare The American to and why?

    The book is quite unique, and therefore quite difficult to compare to other books I've read. It is almost journal-like in its approach.


    What about Ralph Cosham???s performance did you like?

    Ralph Cosham really captures the complexities of the main character,Signor Farfalla, which really brings the story alive and makes the personal nature of the narrative believable.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    When the Signor Farfalla finally admits to himself he cares for Clara


    Any additional comments?

    The original title of this book, "A Very Private Gentleman", is really a much better title for this work than "The American" and once you've listened or read it you will understand this. While I greatly enjoyed the movie, especially the scenery, the plot of the book is much more enticing. It is probably good I saw the movie, "The American" first. Had I listened to the book first, the movie would have been disappointing.

    I'd recommend you give Martin Booth's "A Very Private Gentleman", AKA "The American" a try, I think you'll enjoy it, I know I did.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 18 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
Sort by:
  • Keith
    Aldershot, Hants, United Kingdom
    4/5/11
    Overall
    "Beautiful, compelling...loved every moment ..."

    This was a complete revelation...to me it was poetry written as prose...I was totally drawn into the Italian culture the author was describing...it was like staying on after a wonderful holiday and becoming part of the fabric of the culture that had impressed you...and juxtapositioned against the antihero's flawed philosophy it was a totally compelling read..I couldn't put it down..I later found out that Martin Booth was in fact a respected poet and this doesn't surprise me...it is simply beautiful to read... I wish he'd written a sequel...don't judge it by the film - I found the the book a totally different experience...and the narration is outstanding...that's my opinion on a great read.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Geoff
    Christchurch, United Kingdom
    1/24/12
    Overall
    "A wonderful narrative !"

    Having seen the film, I thought it would be great to read/hear the story. Being a fan of all things Italian , I was hopeful the story wouldn't disappoint.
    Well the narrator reads perfectly and the story although slow moving is poetic in it's beauty . It is so engrossing time floats by and you feel saturated in Italian village life and the underlying 'thriller'.
    Having read many many books and having converted to ' audible' this is by far the best story and narrative I have listened to, feeling I now know both the main characters and the wonderful locations. Molto Fantastico !

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • s
    Hinckley, United Kingdom
    9/11/12
    Overall
    "Americans!"

    What a remarkable book!! I hate that they changed the title, but I love that they did because I may not have read it if they had not! A story much deeper than the movie, with a lot more insight into a man who made such deadly weapons, his life and little quirks that made him the human being as well as a ‘shadow dweller.’ Ralph Cosham’s voice and accents had me enthralled I could not stop listening and at once puts a different face on the main character other than Mr Clooney’s. (No offence Mr Clooney.)

    Martin Booth created an amazing little piece here, with insight and depth that I feel sure must be someplace near the truth during the times it was written and even today; if you swap some of the lesser technologies to more modern ones. The description of Italy was beautiful I was walking down those little streets, sitting in the Piazzas, sipping Espresso and smelling the lemons on the trees in a sleepy Italian town that seemed to carry on as though the rest of the world did not exist. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys books such as ‘The Day of the Jackal’ and wondered of the life of the Gunsmith these assassins buy their tools from. Descriptive, exciting, well written and well told. This is a great audio book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. M. Curtis
    Bristol UK
    10/28/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Moody American loose in Europe."

    Loved it but I wasn't totally gripped. It's not all action but more all build. The action is teased out and when it comes a bit quick.

    I liked it but not totally satisfied.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Catherine
    St Albans, United Kingdom
    9/13/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting ...a bit different"
    Where does The American rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I found it a real change from others ive read. Much more reflective than my usual choice. It took patience to stay with it as there was much less action than usual, but there was something compellng about finding out what the main character was all about and who the title referred to


    If you’ve listened to books by Martin Booth before, how does this one compare?

    This was my first book by this author.


    Have you listened to any of Ralph Cosham’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    Not listened to others with him yet


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • R. Dang
    England
    3/2/12
    Overall
    "Not the action adventure that I was expecting."

    Lovely descriptions of Italy, intertwinned with some Italian phrases, but not the adventure story I expected. It was long winded and boring at times which was not helped by the narrators voice.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-6 of 6 results

    There are no listener reviews for this title yet.

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank You

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.