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The Way of All Flesh | [Samuel Butler]

The Way of All Flesh

This brilliant satirical novel, tracing the life and loves of Ernest Pontifex, has continued in popularity since its original publication in 1903. Every generation finds in The Way of All Flesh a reaffirmation of youth's rightful struggle against the tyranny of harsh parents and its admirable will for freedom of personal expression.
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Publisher's Summary

This brilliant satirical novel, tracing the life and loves of Ernest Pontifex, has continued in popularity since its original publication in 1903. Every generation finds in The Way of All Flesh a reaffirmation of youth's rightful struggle against the tyranny of harsh parents and its admirable will for freedom of personal expression.

This is one of the most fascinating character studies you will ever read, the story of a young man who survives the baleful influence of a hateful, hypocritical father, a doting mother, and a debauched wife, to emerge as a decent, happy human being. It is also a stinging satire of Victorian gentry, their pomposity, sentimentality, pseudo-respectability, and refined cruelty, a satire still capable of delivering death-blows to the same traits that exist in our present world.

(P)2000 Blackstone Audiobooks

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3.8 (86 )
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  •  
    Jake CEDAR CITY , UT, USA 01-19-06
    Jake CEDAR CITY , UT, USA 01-19-06 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    50
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    10
    3
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    "Really spectacular"

    This book is really quite amazing. I constantly found my own assumptions about modern society turned on their head. I was amazed at how readily issues like coporal punishment by parents, or atheism were discussed. I've always taken for granted that liberal views on issues like these were recent developments but I'm obviously mistaken.

    Aside from all its social commentary, though, this book is fabulously entertaining from beginning to end. It doesn't feel the least bit dated at any time.

    The one thing that holds this back from a 5-star rating is the narrator. This is a love-or-hate guy. He is unquestionably talented -- able to maintain a seeming endless array of character voices in his head, which he switches between effortlessly, even in conversations involving four or five people. The problem is, his voices, including his normal one which he uses for the non-conversational narration is foppish, pretentious and obnoxious. He also has a tendancy to make his protagonists sound like wimpy little pansies.

    The book is so good, though, that you will find yourself not even noticing the narrator (or maybe you'll love him -- lots of people do). I take some comfort in the fact that I listened to his reading of David Copperfield and by comparison this narration is spectacular. I nearly gave up on David Copperfield halfway through deciding that I'd better just read the book myself rather than having a classic ruined for me by this guy.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric San Diego, CA, USA 08-15-05
    Eric San Diego, CA, USA 08-15-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    199
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    "A masterpiece&the narrator isn't so bad after all"

    When I originally attempted to listen to this book, I was completely offended by the narrator. After bearing through it for some time (and adjusting the equalizer to drown out his slurping and breathing) I was treated to a wonderful story about morals, morality, and moralism. The difference is subtle, but striking, and Butler conveys it masterfully with fine character development, plot, and not too little psychological and philosophical anlysis. It is even better than I expected too because the narrator turns out to be an amazing actor and he is really able to draw the audience in with his diverse voice. The book is truly a masterpiece and it is a wonder how it was written before the 20th century (so many of its themes became mainstays in the literature of the last century). Listen and enjoy.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 06-04-08
    Connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 06-04-08 Member Since 2007

    trying to see the world through my ears

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "classic satire- would make Jon Stewart laugh"

    I found this laugh-out-loud funny in places. I read the novel in the 80s and it was even better as an audiobook. My prof for a course in 19th century novel said about it, "No one born in this century can enjoy this humour." I disagreed with her then, and still do --as would the other reviewers! Like good wine, it got better with age.

    This novel would appeal to fans of Anthony Trollope, with satire a bit more savage and prose less meandering than the Postmaster's.

    The prose is at times dense, so it's perhaps not a novel for listeners new to audiobooks if they want to grasp all the satire which is often conveyed quickly and/or through understatement.

    Davidson is one of my favourite narrators, but this is not a sample of his best work --with, for example, the audible breathing as mentioned by another reviewer.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Valley Village, CA, United States 09-29-09
    Lisa Valley Village, CA, United States 09-29-09 Member Since 2005
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    "sardonic wit"

    Frederick Davidson does a great job as the droll, sarcastic narrator of this story. It is still funny, even a century later. The plot does get bogged down in philosophical thoughts and bits of Christian theology, and the first part of the book is better than the second, but I enjoyed the reading and marveled at how much the truth of how we are treated as youth matters as to what kind of adults we become.
    After reading this book, it is fascinating to look up history on the life of Samuel Butler and see how thinly this novel is a disguised autobiography. He is really a tremendously talented writer.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Virginia 09-21-08
    Virginia 09-21-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Masterpiece"

    The narration is intelligent and relective and makes the most of the nuances of the text. This book is simply wonderful. I enjoyed every minute of it and will listen to it again in the future. Beautifully written and read. Very insightful and moving novel. A sharp satire on human foibles. I enjoyed the sense of place and time which placed me right there. Engrossing listening experience that remains in the mind after the end. A well- deserved place in the classics.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Camille Katy,, TX, United States 06-24-08
    Camille Katy,, TX, United States 06-24-08 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Victorian humor"

    Frederick Davidson brought Butler's humor and irony to life with his pitch perfect reading of this story. I was running out of time to finish the book for a my reading group when I found this version.
    This is not a book I would have chosen for "light" reading but Davidson's delivery really brought the story of the hapless Theobald Pontifex and his hypocritical Victorian parents to life.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amyable 03-11-07
    Amyable 03-11-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Terrific Book, Narrator had much to be desired"

    This was a wonderful book, full of gems! The narrator was so difficult to listen to. Unlike other readers, I never got used to his "tone." The story was wonderful though and was worth suffering through the narrator.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Plano, TX, USA 06-18-04
    Elizabeth Plano, TX, USA 06-18-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What a read!!"

    There are a few really interesting ways of assessing life in this book. Those gems were worth every minute of wandering.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill Warrenton, GA, USA 04-28-04
    Bill Warrenton, GA, USA 04-28-04
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    "Simply Phenomenal"

    One of the best novels I've read or heard.

    7 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emrys Alfred, NY, United States 07-07-10
    Emrys Alfred, NY, United States 07-07-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Entertaining like Trollope"

    This is a novel you see in all the shops but no-one ever seems to have read. It's written in the classic, tongue-in-cheek pompous ironic Victorian style, rather similar to Trollope. The plot is nothing much: I think the novel is autobiographical. Beneath the humour there's a lot of bitterness. There are also lots of witty philosophical asides and digressions, a la Tom Jones.
    I thoroughly enjoyed both the book and he reader. The reader's default voice is a little on the posh side, but that's appropriate; and he differentiates between the characters well. If you like Fielding, Thackeray, and Trollope, you'll probably enjoy this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Edmund
    Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, United Kingdom
    3/8/10
    Overall
    "undiscovered masterpiece"

    I can see why this was such an influential book on Huxley, Graves Waugh etc. It even anticipates Larkin's 'they f**k you up your mum and dad.' Hugely satisfying

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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