"Should I have taken the false teeth?" This is what Dr. Jonathan Hullah, a former police surgeon, thinks after he watches Father Hobbes die in front of the High Altar at Toronto's St. Aidan's on the morning of Good Friday. How did the good father die? We do not learn the answer until the very end of this "Case Book" of a man's rich and highly observant life.
But we learn much more about many things, and especially about Dr. Hullah, as the Cunning Man takes us through his own long and ardent life of theatre, art, and music; varied adventures in the Canadian Army during World War II; and the secrets of a doctor's consulting room, his preoccupation is not with sorrow but with the comedic canvas of life.
©1996 Robertson Davies (P)2012 Blackstone Audiobooks
This is a delicious novel by a superb author, and read by one of the all-time masters of narration. But the quality of the recording is so degraded it's virtually incomprehensible. The sound reminds me of recordings of radio broadcasts in the 1930's. Or like it's coming from deep under the water. Another reviewer mentioned this; I wish I'd sampled before I bought.
I really think Audible should lean on the books' publishers (Blackstone Audio in this instance) to come up with an earlier generation recording. It was published fairly recently (1999); there's no reason it has to be this bad.
Unless the audio format can be improved this is not a very good listen which is too bad because it seems to be a good book
trying to see the world with my ears
Like an earlier reviewer, I stopped listening to this early into my initial attempt after a Dec. 2010 download (Format 4)---however, after a recent hard drive death, I re-downloaded several novels to find this one, now available in Enhanced format, much improved. Though the sound still has that "dated" feel, it's passable - and even if Frederic Davidson sounds in spots like he's popped a valium, overall, he seems to be having fun narrating this novel, so it's enjoyable.
Robertson Davies' strong narrative, excellent writing, and dry wit -- even in second rate sound quality -- surpass 90% of other listening available (and it's a bonus if you either love or hate Toronto!) I hope Audible resurrects or records "Murther & Walking Spirits" to complement "Cunning Man."
Loved the story and the erudite style of Robertson Davies. It is his. Typical engaging, witty style that mocks all his characters while romping through the story. Lots of classic references to the arts, music and literature in a way as to open them to the unaware, such as myself.
Sadly the recording is flawed. Not so much one cannot enjoy the story, but it is rather annoying. Chapters get two minutes in and them begin again with no warning. This is a bit disconcerting, leaving the listener wondering if he missed something. Also, it appears to be a hashing together of various efforts as the narrators voice and tone seem to change from section to section. Still, the story is good and the narrator effective. But the production is poor.
Id love to give this 5 stars but cannot due to the production.
I have listened to six other titles by Robertson Davies (and read another three in print), so I must be a fan of his work. They're good, though-provoking stories with an occasional touch of the fantastic and lots of tie-ins to topics relating to the arts.
If you enjoy The Cunning Man, you would probably enjoy the books of Davies's Deptford Trilogy, and vice versa.
Other reviewers have pointed out the muffled and variable sound quality of the recording. What is really not acceptable in a commercial product are the bad splices: a passage is read once and then repeated in a different acoustic, apparently from a recording take. I've never come across this in any other Audible book, and this book deserves a better recording.
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