Recently a BBC-TV serial starring Alice Krige, this audiobook is read by one of the stars of the TV film, Martin Jarvis.
"One of the greatest 19th-century novels....Incisively and with subtlety, the novel examines careerism, political opportunism, the climate of fear and denunciation in Restoration France, and bourgeois materialistic values." (Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature)
I struggled to finish this audio book, in spite of its reputation. I think the performance seriously affected my experience.
I can't believe some of the negative listener reviews of other editions of this masterpiece! This abridged version is fabulous. I bought it about ten years ago and went to bed with it every night. Even after I bought other audio books, I continued with this one and left others unopened for a good while. I have not listened to a word of it since, but witness here how well I remember it.
Julien Sorel is a scheming genius. He doesn't miss a trick, reads others like a book, and manages them for his purpose of getting ahead. He is the epitome of native peasant intelligence, with an incompatible dream: to possess a fine Parisian lady. He practices on a local mayor's wife while he tutors her children in Latin. The local priest has recommended him to the woman's husband as a fine Latin scholar, and he impresses the family with his ability to recite the entire Bible. There is nothing this peasant can't do.
Eventually, he wins his fine lady, impresses her father, manages the older rman's business, travels to London to present a plan for restoring the old aristocratic order, and establishes a reputation for himself in battle. He is a man for all seasons and a Leonardo, too. A wonder--and the reader wonders at the incredible intrigue Stendhal has created. This peasant is flying high, and no matter that he must be undone, the reader is left with admiration for him and only a few chuckles at his gumption and daring.
The narration couldn't be better. I haven't sampled the unabridged editions, but have read some uncomplimentary reviews of them, so perhaps this abridged version is the one that will please. Just don't miss this book! Oh, the other one of my two favorites is The Vicar of Wakefield.