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  • The End of the Affair

  • By: Graham Greene
  • Narrated by: Colin Firth
  • Length: 6 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 7,234
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,693
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 6,655

Graham Greene’s evocative analysis of the love of self, the love of another, and the love of God is an English classic that has been translated for the stage, the screen, and even the opera house. Academy Award-winning actor Colin Firth ( The King’s Speech, A Single Man) turns in an authentic and stirring performance for this distinguished audio release.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Late to the Party...

  • By Doug - Audible on 07-05-17

How Sinners Become Saints

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-12-18

The quotation from Leon Bloy that serves as the epigraph tells you everything you need to know about what follows: “Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering in order that they may have existence.”

Colin Firth is magnificent, doing full justice to one of those rare books that never make you ask if a word could have been better chosen or an idea better expressed.

  • Alone

  • Britain, Churchill, and Dunkirk: Defeat into Victory
  • By: Michael Korda
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 12 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 637
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 592
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 589

An epic of remarkable originality, Alone captures the heroism of World War II as movingly as any book in recent memory. Bringing to vivid life the world leaders, generals, and ordinary citizens who fought on both sides of the war, Michael Korda, the best-selling author of Clouds of Glory, chronicles the outbreak of hostilities, recalling as a prescient young boy the enveloping tension that defined pre-Blitz London, and then as a military historian the great events that would alter the course of the 20th century.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Exceptional

  • By Jean on 11-11-17

An Oft-Told Tale, Superbly Told

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-01-18

It’s a story made familiar through the works of Alistair Horne, John Lukacs, Ernest May, John Keegan, Paul Reid, et al. And, of course, Churchill himself. But Michael Korda makes it fresh. No doubt, that’s partly due to his unique perspective. We get, for example, a six-year-old boy’s view of the radio on which he heard Neville Chamberlain telling Britons they were once again at war with Germany.

And yet, as fascinating as it is, the Korda family story is a small part of this history. Moving easily between a boy’s micro perspective to the broader sweep of politics and strategy, the style is crisp, the insights eye-opening. I’d never realized (or forgotten I’d read) that the Polish campaign was more conventional than the “Blitzkrieg” label suggests. The evacuation of children from London and other bombing targets (“Operation Pied Piper”), comes in for some unexpected—and justified—criticism. We learn that Churchill, whose titanic output includes history, biography, memoir, journalism and speeches, also penned dialogue for Hollywood movies. The seminal question, “Why did the panzers halt?” receives no pat answer, but a balanced evaluation of the many familiar, pat answers. That same balance is on display in a discussion of the myth and romance of Dunkirk. The book’s most powerful aspect may be the record of human suffering, both military and civilian. As Korda points out, for the refugees—especially the Jewish refugees—there was no Dunkirk.

John Lee is, as usual,excellent; his pacing and tone match the story he’s telling. Not that there aren’t occasional glitches. For example, it took me a while to realize Lee was saying “eminence grise”; and I’m still not sure if it was the fault of my ears, the recording or Lee’s French accent.

  • War and Peace

  • By: Leo Tolstoy
  • Narrated by: Frederick Davidson
  • Length: 61 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,493
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1,829
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,793

Often called the greatest novel ever written, War and Peace is at once an epic of the Napoleonic wars, a philosophical study, and a celebration of the Russian spirit. Tolstoy's genius is clearly seen in the multitude of characters in this massive chronicle, all of them fully realized and equally memorable.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Work of genius

  • By James on 02-13-06

War, Peace and God's Elder Brother

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-22-18

I enjoy the cheerful, witty essays that kick off each new book of Tom Jones. When Byron spends the greater part of a canto of Don Juan opining on politics and art, I loll back in my chair soaking it up. Authorial intrusion can be delightful, a real ornament to a great story. And, the nibs agree, this side of the Bible there’s no better story than War and Peace. For what it’s worth, I sort-of agree. And I side with those who thoroughly enjoy the way Frederick Davidson does his stuff. But the authorial intrusion—Tolstoy’s too-oft-repeated (and too-oft-illustrated) dicta on the Great Men of History—is another matter.

Undoubtedly, he’s right. Great figures don’t wield the supreme control over events with which the popular imagination endows them. But even before 1869, when War and Peace was first published, some great men were aware of it; Lincoln, for one, had admitted, “I did not control events; events controlled me”. Yet can we really say of Lincoln, as Tolstoy says of Napoleon, “…his personal activity, having no more force than the personal activity of every soldier, was merely coincidental with the laws by which the event was determined”?

Of course, Tolstoy is critiquing the historians of his day who, in what he calls “mountains” of books, clothed every act of The Great, both French and Russian, in clouds of imperishable glory. Even Napoleon’s abandonment of his disintegrating army was, according to Tolstoy, docketed as yet another facet of his “genius”. Obviously, the fevered dreams of Nietzsche and Raskolnikov, that somehow great men are entitled to commit great crimes, is intellectual cyanide. But it does not follow that every great historical personality is really just a hollow man. While true as far as it goes, Tolstoy’s thesis goes a bit too far. Hence, his excruciating dissection of The Great tends to drag. Worse, where Fielding and Byron entertain, Tolstoy lectures.

But fear not. He has a replacement for the Great Men of History. For all of Tolstoy's vaunted Realism, he remains, in the words of historian Dominic Lieven, "by far the most important nineteenth century mythmaker as regards his impact on Russian (and foreign) understanding of Russia's role in the Napoleonic era". And the centerpiece of that myth is, "the moral strength, courage and patriotism of ordinary Russians". Again, I’m not saying he doesn’t have a point; I’m saying he takes his point too far.

I’ve belabored Tolstoy’s belaboring because it really is the only unattractive aspect of his great work; the final epilogue, some two hours of sustained semi-pseudo-philosophizing, actually robs the book of some of its pleasure. The development of Pierre's character, the hard lessons Natasha Rostov learns, the inner turmoil of Prince Andre, have earned Tolstoy his place as one of the great novelistic psychologists. But the agenda behind the story--Tolstoy's ideas about the proper ways history should be understood and recorded, his take on historical figures and historians--can overwhelm the story. And the snide, condescending tone in which that agenda is expressed--unfortunately made more so by Frederick Davidson’s reading--probably helped to winTolstoy the sobriquet, “God’s Elder Brother”.

  • The Final Count

  • Bulldog Drummond, Book 4
  • By: Sapper
  • Narrated by: Roy McMillan
  • Length: 7 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 10

In The Final Count, the fourth in Sapper's Bulldog Drummond series, Hugh Drummond returns after the climax of The Third Round saw him embroiled in an electrifying boat chase with his long-term enemy and master of disguise, Carl Peterson. Now, Drummond must attempt to prove the innocence of an inventor of chemical warfare whose weapon mysteriously goes missing. Drummond is utterly resolute: only one man can be capable of such a sinister plot.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • In Which We Regret This is the Last in the Series

  • By John on 06-13-18

In Which We Regret This is the Last in the Series

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-13-18

Admittedly, this last of the Naxos Bulldog Drummond recordings gets off the mark a little slowly. Narrated by a character new to Drummond’s merry band, it takes him a while to join in the fun wholeheartedly. But once we does we’re off, and the thrills, spills and sheer escapism is, as always with “Sapper”, of a high order.

By turns hair-raising and humorous, the latter quality is what makes these tales so irresistible. I call it humor, but it’s really the breezy self-confidence of men who come from a certain class, went to the same schools and survived the Western Front together. This attitude leavens the heroics; Drummond’s band don’t take themselves too seriously, and the passages of high adventure seem keener thereby. When the chips are down, we realize the bluff good humor covers deep feelings of camaraderie. Sapper’s perspective is a nice change; obviously, not every writer who emerged from the trenches in 1918 hated God and country.

As always, Roy McMillan does a superb job. Let’s hope he gets a chance to perform some of Sapper’s six remaining Bulldog Drummond adventures. After all, Peterson may be no more, but Irma lives on.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Return of the Native

  • By: Thomas Hardy
  • Narrated by: Alan Rickman
  • Length: 15 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 809
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 737
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 716

Set on Egdon Heath, a fictional barren moor in Wessex, Eustacia Vye longs for the excitement of city life but is cut off from the world in her grandfather's lonely cottage. Clym Yeobright who has returned to the area to become a schoolmaster seems to offer everything she dreams of: passion, excitement and the opportunity to escape. However, Clym's ambitions are quite different, and marriage only increases Eustacia's destructive restlessness, drawing others into a tangled web of deceit and unhappiness.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Always Hardy

  • By Wallen on 04-20-11

To Be Born is a Palpable Dilemma

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-07-18

Great novelists make us more aware of, and perceptive about, our human nature. Thomas Hardy does that and then goes farther, making us more aware of and perceptive about the world of nature around us. As the flora and fauna, weather, seasons and people of Egdon Heath meld into one seamless whole, it’s easy to see why Hardy considered himself primarily a poet. (If you haven’t read his verse, prepare to be amazed.) Alan Rickman delivers it all flawlessly; as other reviewers have said, this is a perfect pairing of reader and book.

But for all the finely rendered descriptions of nature, the telling metaphors and similes, the keen observations of our humanity and a storyline that gripped and wouldn’t let go, there are aspects of Hardy that try my patience. The tale is superb; but the assumptions from which it is told seem inadequate. If we throw God out of the equation, as Hardy does, we find ourselves in a world where suffering, so far from leading to redemption, just leads to more suffering. And it leads our narrator to deliver observations like the one that serves as my title. Our world, we discover, was, “ill-conceived”, by the Creator, not fractured by us. And our author’s insistence that, “[h]uman beings, in their generous endeavors to construct a hypothesis that shall not degrade a First Cause, have always hesitated to conceive a dominant power of lower moral quality than our own”, may sound magisterial, but it’s wrong on two counts. The Greeks (for one) had no problem ascribing malignancy to their greatest deities. And it is hell, not heaven, that wrecks our lives.

The almost pagan hopelessness that pervades Hardy’s novels and lends poignancy to his poetry struck me, when young and agnostic, as daring. Through the eyes of an older believer, it can seem childish. The obvious conclusion is never drawn: like Paolo and Francesca, these characters follow their passions—and end up in a similar whirlpool. Still, the verbal artistry is there to be savored, the story enjoyed and pondered.

The recording itself leaves something to be desired, too. No reviews I’ve read mentioned it, but I hear annoying fluctuations in room tone and voice level. It’s a tribute to Hardy’s craftsmanship (and Rickman’s performance) that, after a while, I just ignored the flaws. Kudos to Audible for making this a recent Daily Deal.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The World of Byzantium

  • By: Kenneth W. Harl, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Kenneth W. Harl
  • Length: 12 hrs and 11 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 466
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 424
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 422

Byzantium is too-often considered merely the "eastern rump" of the old Roman Empire, a curious and even unsettling mix of the classical and medieval. Yet it was, according to Professor Harl, "without a doubt the greatest state in Christendom through much of the Middle Ages," and well worth our attention as a way to widen our perspective on everything from the decline of imperial Rome to the rise of the Renaissance.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Traditional History at it's Best

  • By Mike on 04-26-14

Beginning to Fill Yet Another Gap in My Education

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-26-18

Professor Harl kicks off with an observation that my own experience bears out: history courses focus on Greece, then Rome, and then the Medieval West that rose from the fall of Rome—forgetting that only half of Rome had fallen. That other half (actually two-thirds, in terms of population and wealth), which would endure for another thousand years, is often bypassed.

I always knew it was there. But I also knew it was complex, remote, exotic and, well…Byzantine. Professor Harl untangles much of the political, dynastic, military, religious, and cultural complexities. Even at a mere 12 hours (why not the more usual 18?) there’s plenty here to grapple with, and I now have a reliable outline of the period and the culture, along with some solid benchmarks (the emperors Justinian and Basil II, for example) to guide future reading and listening. Along the way I also began to grasp the roots of the split between the Eastern and Western Church, Russia’s assumption of the Orthodox mantle, her historic sense of mission, and Dostoyevsky’s rabid anti-Catholicism.

There are moments when I wish I were in the lecture hall, able to ask for clarification (the course guide, however, is crystal clear). Other times I’d like to ask questions. For example, if Byzantium alone turned back the Muslim tide—a feat for which Harl asserts the West was “unprepared”—then what of the Frankish triumph at Poitiers in 732?

Covering early efforts to comprehend the true nature of Christ, Harl sees heresies as merely so many “confessional” options, any of which might have triumphed—and their suppression as the beginning of “medieval censorship”. (Never mind that only by being fully human and fully divine can Christ fully reconcile Creator and creature.) When the faithful process icons and relics, imploring divine assistance in moments of crisis, you can almost see the professor’s eyes roll.

On the other hand, Harl gives the first Constantine credit for a sincere conversion. He also refutes the now-standard idea, first stated by Machiavelli and echoed by Gibbon, that Christian mercy and love hobbled Roman strength and discipline. And he discounts the popular notion—one that I’ve passed on to my kids—that an erudite, advanced Muslim civilization preserved Plato and Aristotle for a shaggy, beer-and-broadsword-wielding West. According to Harl, an erudite, advanced Byzantine civilization preserved Greek philosophy for a shaggy, beer-and-broadsword-wielding West.

Now, with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the next logical step is to listen to Professor Harl’s series on that empire.

  • The Talented Mr. Ripley

  • By: Patricia Highsmith
  • Narrated by: Kevin Kenerly
  • Length: 9 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,232
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,007
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 2,012

In this first novel, we are introduced to suave, handsome Tom Ripley: a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan in the 1950s. A product of a broken home, branded a "sissy" by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley becomes enamored of the moneyed world of his new friend, Dickie Greenleaf. This fondness turns obsessive when Ripley is sent to Italy to bring back his libertine pal, but he grows enraged by Dickie's ambivalent feelings for Marge, a charming American dilettante.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • a sociopathic dreamer

  • By Calliope on 12-11-14

Feels Weird Giving Tom Ripley Five Stars

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-24-18

Like it felt weird knowing that he’d get away with everything (that’s not a spoiler; how else could there be four more books in the series?). And it felt even weirder when I caught myself kinda-sorta hoping he would get away with it (hey, I’m used to liking my protagonists, and we spend the entire book in Tom’s head, viewing everything and everyone from his perspective).

But most of the time, while I couldn’t stop listening, I also couldn’t ignore the knot of uneasiness I carried around in the pit of my stomach. Another reviewer has likened this book to watching a car wreck, and she’s right. I’d only add that it’s a car wreck in which all the innocent people are injured or killed, while the person who caused the accident walks away, haunted not by any guilt, but only by fears of getting caught.

On the other hand, it feels perfectly natural giving Kevin Kenerly five stars. Highsmith’s achievement is to make the inconceivable perfectly plausible, and our narrator brings it all believably, chillingly, to life.

  • The Oedipus Plays

  • An Audible Original Drama
  • By: Sophocles, Ian Johnston - translator
  • Narrated by: Jamie Glover, Hayley Atwell, Michael Maloney, and others
  • Length: 5 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 705
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 649
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 650

The three Theban plays by Sophocles - Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus and Antigone - are one of the great landmarks of Western theatre. They tell the story of Oedipus, King of Thebes, who was destined to suffer a terrible fate - to kill his father, marry his mother, and beget children of the incestuous union. He does this unknowingly but still has to suffer terrible consequences, which also tragically affect the next generation.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • So Well Done!

  • By LacyADM on 07-12-16

Pity and Terror

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-19-18

Years ago, I was taught that Greek tragedy was supposed to purge the emotions with pity and terror. Reading the plays for class, most of my pity was reserved for myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand them; it was that old truth about Shakespeare, or any great playwright: drama is meant to be seen and heard.

In this case, hearing is more than adequate. The cast is superb; I still feel like my psyche has been used as a punching bag. And now I’d appreciate it if someone could plausibly explain to me how a story about a man who unknowingly murdered his father, wedded his mother, and suffered the massive consequences could possibly yield a theory that we all want to do the same thing.

  • Spartan Warfare

  • By: Gregory S. Aldrete
  • Narrated by: Gregory S. Aldrete
  • Length: 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 29
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27

Experience what it was like to be raised a Spartan man or woman, the changes in military tactics and equipment that made their armies so feared, and the tragic flaw that guaranteed that this Greek city-state's power, no matter how widespread or intimidating, could not endure.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Spartan Topic, Spartan Lecture

  • By John on 05-06-18

Spartan Topic, Spartan Lecture

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-06-18

If the aim of Spartan culture was to strip away everything—art, literature, philosophy, architecture—that might impede the production of a superbly trained soldiery, then this lecture is a perfect reflection of its subject.

We get facts. And facts. And some more facts. Very rarely is any cause-and-effect (the achievement of Greek historiography, as practiced elsewhere) introduced. The Hoplite revolution took place—but why? The Spartans conquered Messinia—but why? The phalanx formation is described, but we’re never told the origin of the term (it comes from the Greek for “finger”).

I admit, I didn’t know the whole story of the Spartan boy and the fox, alluded to more than once in the works of P. G. Wodehouse. (What a reminder of how deeply Classical civilization once permeated our popular culture.) Still, this free sample isn’t tempting me to purchase any of Professor Aldrete’s five lecture series on offer at Audible.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Second World War: Milestones to Disaster

  • By: Winston Churchill
  • Narrated by: Christian Rodska
  • Length: 10 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,535
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,828
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,816

Churchill's history of the Second World War is, and will remain, the definitive work. Lucid, dramatic, remarkable for its breadth and sweep and for its sense of personal involvement, it is universally acknowledged as a magnificent reconstruction.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Brilliant! Only Churchill could have done this.

  • By John M on 10-30-08

Sham Augustan Prose

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-02-18

There are few interpretive surprises here; published three years after the peace, this is the first draft of the story, a source from which later historians have drawn ever since. Nor are there many revelations. The author being out of office, German rearmament, Allied spinelessness, the Rhineland, Austrian, Sudetenland and Czechoslovakian crises are all described from the outside, and from a perspective familiar to anyone familiar with WSC.

What sets this apart is the writing. Evelyn Waugh dismissed Churchill’s style as “sham Augustan prose”, a judgement I can’t argue with because, if we drop the “sham”, I agree. We forget that Churchill was, by 1940, a throwback, a Victorian facing a crisis no Victorian could imagine outside a novel. But his old-fashioned cultural confidence is what saw Britain through. Besides, Augustan prose makes for good listening:

“Virtuous motives, trammeled by inertia and timidity, are no match for armed and resolute wickedness. A sincere love of peace is no excuse for muddling hundreds of millions of humble folk into total war.”

“The new House of Commons was a spirited body. With all that lay before them in the next ten years, they had need to be.”

Or this quick sketch of Molotov:

“He was, above all men, fitted to be the agent and instrument of the policy of an incalculable machine.”

Writing so close to the events he narratives, Churchill passes on some old wives' tales--like the Polish cavalry attacking German armored formations--that later research would debunk. And, though this is a memoir (as opposed to history), he spends most of this first volume reviewing the history of 1919-1939, setting the table for the story that follows. Until chapter 17, when Chamberlain asks our author to join his war cabinet, we get little sense of his day-to-day feelings beyond a general dread and frustration. Sometimes, however, he gives more personal details:

“…[Anthony] Eden had resigned [over Ethiopia]. I must confess that my heart sank…In a long life I have had many us and downs; during all the war soon to come, and in its darkest times, I never had any trouble in sleeping…now, on this night of February the 20th, 1938, and on this occasion only, sleep deserted me.”

Yet Churchill’s position outside the inner circle didn’t leave him completely out of action. Soviet ambassador Ivan Maisky, for example, approached him with plans for British-Franco-Soviet cooperation against Germany, plans he felt would be rebuffed in the official channels (as they subsequently were).

Finally, of course, there are flashes of incisive wit, such as his rejoinder to Stalin’s famous question to Pierre Laval, “The pope? How many divisions has he got?”:

“Laval’s answer was not reported to me. But he might certainly have mentioned a number of legions not always visible on parade.”

Christian Rodska serves it all up magnificently. It’s hard to read Churchill’s prose out loud without sounding like Churchill. Fortunately, our narrator doesn’t fight the inevitable.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful