When 11-year-old Henrietta arrives at the Fishers’ well-appointed house in Paris, she is prepared to spend her day between trains looked after by an old friend of her grandmother’s. Henrietta longs to see a few sights in the foreign city; little does she know what fascinating secrets the Fisher house itself contains. For Henrietta finds that her visit coincides with that of Leopold, an intense child who has come to Paris to be introduced to the mother he has never known. In the course of a single day, the relations between Leopold, Henrietta’s agitated hostess Naomi Fisher, Leopold’s mysterious mother, his dead father, and the dying matriarch in bed upstairs come to light slowly and tantalizingly. And when Henrietta leaves the house that evening, it is in possession of the kind of grave knowledge usually reserved only for adults.
One of Elizabeth Bowen’s most artful and psychologically acute novels, The House in Paris is a timeless masterpiece of nuance and atmosphere, and represents the very best of Bowen’s celebrated oeuvre.
©2002 Elizabeth Bowen (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
Please don't be deterred from listening to this wonderful book by the criticism that it is dull. It is anything but! Bowen writes a powerful psychological thriller that begins in the present, takes you back to the past, then finishes out the picture. She seems to have known everything about sexual attraction and the havoc it can cause. Most of the book is read by a young woman (I don't understand why she is not given credit on the Audible listing). She is a wonder, with her nuanced reading in both British and French accents. This is one of the best books I have ever heard in my years as a devoted Audible fan.
Julie L'Enfant, Minneapolis MN
The reader -- a young woman, not the person named in the audible.com description -- speaks in a pretend French/English-French accent -- affected, irritating, unresponsive to the ups and downs of the narrative itself, as if reading from teleprompter without any engagement with the story. I've listened to this twice -- couldn't finish the second time, although I like Elizabeth Bowen's writing very much.
First of all, Elizabeth Jasicki narrates the book, NOT Michael Friedman! She's okay for scenes featuring observation and description, but dialogue ... not so much.
The book itself (like Gaul) is in three parts, a first one in the "present" that largely features the children Henrietta and Leopold, which by the time it concluded I had gotten into. The children re-appear (in the "present") for the third part, which goes well enough. I liked the way the book ended quite a bit, hoping that the kids would meet again someday.
The middle was a mess. I kept looking at my player's time counter to see if we were any closer to Part Three ("Are we there YET?"). Basically, it's a flashback to Leopold's parents' story. I couldn't stand them. Ugh! Some reviewers have said that it was shocking by 1930's standards (sorry for a spoiler, but the conception was from a one night stand), but doesn't stand the test of time. I maintain that a neurotic, self-centered pair is never interesting.
Would I recommend the book? Perhaps, though print might work better for skimming the second part. If you've never read Bowen - definitely start elsewhere!
One of the best
It's a modernist book that adeptly provides several different viewpoints on the events that take place. At the same time, the narrative unfolds in a coherent and compelling fashion. The author is especially skillful at showing us the adult world as it appears through the eyes of children, and the complicated motives with which adults view children and attempt to control the information they receive. The language is elegant throughout and captures subtle nuances of psychology and scenery.
Until I later learned that she was an adult voice actress, I was convinced the narrator was actually eleven years old. So you really feel that you're listening to a story told by an unusually intelligent and sensitive girl. At the same time, she very convincingly portrays the voices of the other characters in the story. The innocence and sensitivity of her voice is deeply moving, and it's music to the ears.
The young boy and girl who meet are suspicious of each other and compete with each other to show off their abilities and knowledge. But eventually they share a deep moment of compassion. Their story also serves as a foil to the adult love story that occupies the middle section of the book. What's especially moving is the counterpoint that is developed between the innocence of the children and the distressingly complex burdens of guilt that the adults bear.
This book is for you if you cherish subtle psychological insights. It also tells a heartbreaking story of how painfully wrong an adult love affair can go. And yet life goes on in the lives of the children who are conceived in the midst of the turmoil.
I was interested in Elizabeth Bowen from reading her short stories. Then I found this audiobook and got really excited. I was very dissapointed to find that it does not live up to expectation. The story was too long, linear, boring and a lot of unsignificant details that could be omitted (perhaps Bowen is better as a short story writer). The woman who read this story has a nice voice but not a good narrator. She reads in a very slow pace. I also think the french accents is bad, inaccurate and most of all, annoying (and it continues throughout the book!). What a torture! Also, the novel is probably not suitable as an audiobook. I would download Virginia Woolf ten times over this one.
One of the two narrators' voices was a constant, irritating distraction. Either the plot was thin, or I simply did not like the book. After listening to it, I went back and listened to the review in Chapter 1. It gave me a somewhat better appreciation for what Bowen accomplished, but still just didn't care for it.
I'm not a prolific reader but I do love audiobooks, as I can do something else while listening. I really love them as "bedtime stories"!
I started listening to this twice...I can't stop falling asleep, which is why I can't get into this book. I just don't think I can start a 3rd time...it's just ...YUK!
"A challenging listen."
I I feel that I should have really enjoyed this book but can only say that the most memorable thing about it was the irritating narration! The accents affected for the various characters are awful and it sounds often as though the narrator really does not understand what he is reading. Overall the most disappointing Audible experience so far - I wish I had bought the paper copy and read it myself.
"Spoiled by poor narration. The reading is careless to an astonishing degree - there is no attempt at pronouncing simple French"
Even simple French words are casually mispronounced - no effort made at all. Accents are attempted with unerring inaccuracy. The narrator is devoid of any skill in rendering speech and the bad French accents quickly become tedious. Irish accents are even worse - a retired officer and Cork country gentleman sounds like a bad attempt at an IRA gunman. Did the narrator understand what she was delivering - seems doubtful.
A pity really - this is a serious book and deserves a professional treatment.
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