Barry Lyndon, first serialized in 1844, is a swashbuckling romp through the aristocratic Europe of the 18th century. The central character, a roguish Irishman, narrates most of the story in the first person, relating his adventures as a soldier in both the British and Prussian armies; as a gambler and confidence man under the guidance of his uncle, a practiced fraud; and as a fortune hunting gigolo in search of wealthy widows and heiresses. Although Barry is a most unsavory character, he is not without his charms.
Barry Lyndon represented a new kind of fiction: the novel without a hero. (Thackeray would later expand these ideas in his most popular novel, Vanity Fair.) The story contains Thackeray's best plot development and contains some of the best prose he ever wrote. Many listeners will hear an echo of Henry Fielding in this magnificent story, though Thackeray's belief that chance was the most overriding factor in most men's fortunes was definitely at odds with the philosophy of his predecessor. Barry Lyndon is a stirring narrative delivered in a rip-roaring whirlwind of a novel.
I think one of the best films I have ever seen was Stanley Kubrick's classic production of this title and now I have gone back to this reading of the original. There are the inevitable omissions, deletions, variations and outright changes between the movie and the book but there can be no question that Kubrick caught the very spirit and essence of this work. Thackeray was a major rival to Dickens in the world of popular mid-Victorian literature and to my mind was the better if far less prolific writer. Both authors shared vivid if not to say startling powers of imagination. Whereas Dickens often descends into sentimentality Thackeray is cool and acerbic throughout and in consequence his humour is far more subtle and telling with a very distinct sting in the tail. "Vanity Fair" is of course his most famous and lasting work (also made into an excellent British TV series in the early 90s, a thousand times better than the frothy 2004 film starring Reese Witherspoon) but this earlier novel does not suffer by comparison. It is a tongue-in-cheek version of "Tom Jones" set in Ireland and follows the adventures and vicissitudes of the young Redmond Barry as he ascends from rural anonymity to the status of a great 18th century English Gentleman. After the Rise comes the inevitable Fall which is funny and tragic in equal degrees. The tone and pace of the language may be slightly off-putting to the modern listener accustomed to snappy dialogue and rapid transitions but a little patience with the opening chapters will be amply rewarded as the tale unfolds. This is really good stuff. If time is short, by all means go out and rent the movie!
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to Barry Lyndon again? Why?
Yes. This is a fictional autobiography of a most engaging rogue, an Irish adventurer, Redmond Barry. Mr. Griffin gives the definitive voice to the first person narrator. To my ears this is a perfect rendition with his affected Anglo Irish accent, and witth a most expressive delivery of all the emotions of the tragic- comic Barry.
Would you recommend Barry Lyndon to your friends? Why or why not?
Which scene was your favorite?
Chapter 10, as Redmond Barry plays hard and gambles for the hand of The Countess Ida.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
No, i savored one or two chapters at a time
Any additional comments?
Thackery wrote a period piece centered on a fiercely articulate narcissist. The language employed is a joy to experience as read expressively by Mr. Griffen.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?
I'm really not sure.
What could William Makepeace Thackeray have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?
There is no story line, just idle ramblings.
Did the narration match the pace of the story?
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
Yes, it is supposedly a classic, which is why I chose it.
0 of 2 people found this review helpful