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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, December 2016 - Just as Shakespeare borrowed from Arthur Brooke's The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet as a means to invent a unique dramatization of his own, author David Hewson uses this audio adaptation to explore and expand the various backstories of its characters - their grudges, fears, and motives - allowing previously minor characters to flourish and the stakes to reach an all new high. Actor Richard Armitage makes exhilarating choices in his narration: Juliet becomes a fierce heroine in the throes of an existential crisis; Romeo a soft-spoken emo poet; Mercutio a swaggering bad boy who'd be quite at home in a Guy Ritchie film; and Tybalt a slithering, blood-hungry goon. Taking Hewson's lead, Armitage is more than game to follow these characters to new and unexpected places. And, indeed, this story does not end quite like you'd expect. —Doug, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

Exclusively written for Audible, only available in audio

"I think Romeo and Juliet is the greatest, most tragic love story ever told. What David Hewson did with this script is so exciting to me. I really love the fact that he followed avenues that Shakespeare suggested but didn't necessarily detail in depth. If you want to immerse yourself in a warm bath of Garganega and the heat of Verona and hear a brilliant story about a young woman who is challenging the restraints of her time, listen to this audiobook, which has romance, poetry, politics, and humor to spare." (Narrator Richard Armitage)

It's a story you think you know: the age-old tale of "star-cross'd lovers"; two families at war; a romance, so pure and absolute, fated for a tragic end. It's a story so thoroughly embedded in our culture, and so frequently retold. Yet, nothing captures the spark, the possibility, and the surprise of Shakespeare's work quite like this....

In Romeo and Juliet: A Novel, author David Hewson reworks and expands on the classic story so that it becomes something richer, something new and entirely its own. Much more than a simple love story, it is a brilliant examination of young versus old, hope against despair, and, for Juliet, the search for individual identity at a time when women were regarded as little more than chattel.

An original production commissioned by Audible, Romeo and Juliet: A Novel marks the second pairing of David Hewson and actor Richard Armitage, whose previous partnership resulted in Audible's 2014 Audiobook of the Year, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel. Hewson's talent for writing for audio is undeniable, and he finds his perfect vocal foil in Armitage, an actor of immense range and absorbing intensity. Together, they bring you a familiar story told in a surprising way - with an ending you might not expect.

Bonus: Audiobook includes an afterword written and narrated by David Hewson.

About the author: David Hewson is a British author of more than 20 works of fiction, including the Nic Costa detective series, set in contemporary Italy, and three novels based on the hit TV series, The Killing. For Audible, Hewson contributed to the serial novel The Chopin Manuscript, winner of the Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year. And, with A.J. Hartley, Hewson has adapted Shakespeare twice before: Macbeth: A Novel, narrated by Alan Cumming, and Audible's 2014 Audiobook of the Year Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel, performed by Richard Armitage.

About the narrator: Richard Armitage is a British film, television, theater, and voice actor. A graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Armitage landed his first leading role in the British television show North & South. Peter Jackson cast Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the company of dwarves in The Hobbit films, bringing him international recognition. Since then, Armitage has appeared in numerous productions, including widely-praised performances on stage in The Crucible and Love, Love, Love, along with acclaimed roles on TV in NBC's Hannibal and Berlin Station on Epix.

©2016 David Hewson (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Consummate actor Richard Armitage narrates this dynamic reimagining of Romeo and Juliet. It's an ideal construct for those reluctant to pursue Shakespeare. In addition to using contemporary slang, the author gives the followers of the Montague and Capulet families street cred: They wear red or blue feathers in their hats. Armitage makes even secondary characters unique, with Romeo's and Juliet's fathers sounding like the bitter old men they are. The standout is Juliet's nurse, who provides comic relief. Chapter transitions are faultless, and descriptions of people and places are stellar. Juliet's social conscience, specifically her desire to teach the peasants to read, adds further depth. Hewson boldly alters the story's conclusion. In an author's note, Hewson explains that Shakespeare was inspired by an Italian play similar to Romeo and Juliet. Hewson adds that to him the story is about the contrast between older and younger generations as they react to change." ( AudioFile Magazine)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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The Story and The Voice

A masterful retelling of a classic tale, this adaptation astounds. The fleshing out of a character such as Juliet results in a story which is relatable to this modern generation. The struggles of girls the world over - for autonomy, individuality and freedom - is captured in this one intelligent, headstrong girl.

The pacing of the story ensures that ones imagination is free to soar. Descriptives are kept to a minimum, while being sufficient to act as a spring board.

Narration...well, what can one say?...the rich chocolate voice of Richard Armitage, and the vocal characterizations he presents are a joy to the ear.

Congratulations Mr. Hewson, this is indeed a triumph!

47 of 48 people found this review helpful

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Hewson & Armitage - Romeo & Juliet

What made the experience of listening to Romeo and Juliet: A Novel the most enjoyable?

Richard Armitage's amazing voice, of course!

Which character – as performed by Richard Armitage – was your favorite?

No surprise, probably the nurse. Richard Armitage does such a great job with character voices, and especially quirky older ones!

Any additional comments?

Hewson is an amazing writer, and his Hamlet collaboration with Armitage is one of my very favorite audiobooks. Somehow I was not quite satisfied with the ending, perhaps because the original story is almost archetypal to me - it's probably just me, though as it's quite well written. Knowing it's switched up a bit keeps you on your toes while listening, in a way. I like the way Hewson fleshed out the personalities of Romeo and Juliet, and "modernized" them, if you will. Richard Armitage doesn't "read" audiobooks, he "portrays" them! I can read much faster than I can listen to audiobooks, but the way Armitage performs them makes it an experience! (And I could never speed up his reading, that's heresy!) I highly recommend Romeo and Juliet to you!

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful, Imaginative

This is so very, very good.

A million years ago, when I was a young teenager, I was captivated by the 1968 Zeffirelli film/interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, and very seldom does any production come close to that initial charm. This does. A different forum, I agree, but the combination of Mr. Hewson's interpretation of Shakespeare [he does not follow of the play completely] and Mr. Armitage's superb, wonderful, wonderful narration makes this a five star rating for me.

I've been an Audible customer for almost a decade now, many many books, and more and more I choose the narrator first, the subject second; British narrators first, everybody else second. Add in Shakespearean acting experience for the narrator, and everything comes together.

Highly recommended.

51 of 55 people found this review helpful

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Read to me Richard Armitage...

Pleasantly surprised! I did not realize what I was getting myself into when I downloaded this story. It gave some characters I thought I knew so much more depth. I loved that there was historical value thrown in there also. Oh, and most importantly, I could listen to Richard Armitage read about anything...sigh.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Rahni
  • SARATOGA SPRINGS, UT, United States
  • 01-12-17

A 5-star listen

Another wonderful retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story. I heartily applaud the author's decision to raise Juliet's age to 16 (the same age as previous-to-Shakespeare versions of the story), instead of Shakespeare's absurdly youngyoungyoung 13 years. Setting the story in 1499 really added a wonderful historical depth to the issues of the day as well. Hewson used a deft hand to help immerse the reader back into the high hopes, dizzy passions, and the optimistic and ambitious social pursuits of the teenage mind. I enjoyed the ride.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Beautiful Adaptation!

Many of us know the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, and when I saw this new adaptation, I immediately pre-ordered it. One thing that makes this novel stand out for me is the great amount of detail and historic research that must have gone into it: the politics, description of the towns of Verona, Venice, and Mantua, current state of politics and world events taking place at the time, down to the recipes of food served at the banquet. Since I have read the play in English and Italian, and recently visited many of the places mentioned, it was very easy to go back there in my mind. The author even skillfully lifts a key phrase or oft-quoted line right from the play and weaves it seamlessly into the story.

The only problem I had was that since this is an Italian story, on reflection, I thought there should have been a few expressions or phrases in Italian, such as idioms, or at least some greetings when the characters speak to each other. Instead, there is actually some Cockney slang among some servants, which is working-class London! This felt particularly out of place for an Italian setting. I often found myself pausing the audio to think because the Cockney was jolting simply because it's the wrong place, momentarily putting me out of the story.

For the most part, Richard Armitage's narration was simply spell-binding. I have noticed he narrates many classic English stories, such as by Charles Dickens, and is a great choice for a mostly-male cast of characters, and my God, can this man read poetry! That said, his choice of voicing for some of the characters was a bit jolting and out of place. This probably has something to do with the writing, as noted above. For example, Count Paris is from Florence, and at one point it specifically says he and his guards have "thick Florentine accents," yet they are read with the same British as the rest, and the guards speak with Cockney slang! Again, since this is an Italian story, I feel the characters ought to have Italian accents, though since the play adaptation was by Shakespeare, who (rumors aside) was British, perhaps that's not so out-of-place.

The story has a twist ending, which I at the same time liked, and didn't like (how dare he change Shakespeare? lol).

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Loved it!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I'm always a little skeptical of actors narrating a book. But, Mr. Armitage does an EXCELLENT job in his narration. Really liked the book, as well. It's a retelling of Romeo & Juliet, more in depth giving backgrounds on other characters. Written w/ a 3rd party voice, which I really enjoyed. It's also written in "simple" English, not old English (The's and Thow's). Much easier to listen to. Thank you David Hewson for the rewrite and Richard Armitage for fantastic narration.

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

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Oh be some other name!

I got this book for two reasons: 1) Richard Armitage’s narration, which I greatly enjoyed and was thankful for; 2) Because it’s Romeo and Juliet and I have been reading/watching many version to see how I would play with the story. This version was not one I enjoyed. The author said he wanted to go back to some of the original source material and try to be more accurate to the times, but I didn’t enjoy some of the changes that were made. It felt too much of a departure from Shakespeare for my liking, but I received it as I would a director’s retelling of any of Shakespeare’s work - enjoyed what I could, and will leave it at the curtain call.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • AV
  • 02-13-18

A Real Love Story

A retelling of arguably the most famous love story in the world, but one that is grounded in the lived truth of its primary actors: adolescents trying to make sense of their own lives in the midst of the swiftly changing world of the early Renaissance.
I thought I knew this story, but its fresh and contextual perspective was like a brand new story. It had my full attention from the first few minutes through to its completion, which I found as satisfying as any of my most favorite tales.
Equally compelling was the narrator's brilliant performance: Armitage Is masterful at every point. The combination of story and performance was so compelling that I began this book late on a Friday afternoon and finished it on the Monday morning commute. This was a joy.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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And Shakespeare ... ?

There are many I am certain who have and who will enjoy this very modernist retelling of one of the great bard's most famous tragedies. I must admit I looked forward to a fleshing out of the characters myself and was interested especially as to whether the author would lean toward the romantic, or the failure-of-child-to-be-obedient moral. It seems he took a middle road and leaned to neither, bringing forward the bitter feud of the families as his main object of interest. His characters were all excellently brought to life, except his Juliet, I think; who was far more fit to be a young woman of the late twentieth century than the late fifteenth where he 'set[s his] scene'. She is the only character I find out of place. Indeed I am not certain Shakespeare would have recognized her, nor would he have appreciated the almost without exception negative view of God and the Christian Church the author sometimes subliminally, sometimes openly inserts whenever possible. In the end, and regardless of the author's excellent ability to give the time, place, and each character full telling, I am happy to recall the original will be that version remembered.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Dorothea
  • 12-18-16

A new view on an old story that actually is very current...

This story is a lot about Juliet.
A girl, a young woman fascinated by what renaissance promises to bring. A teenager, much like we all were as teenagers or as our daughters are at that age.
Only by telling the story not in (of course very beautiful) verses, but in prose it nearly becomes a story of today. The last 500 years have not changed much in the feelings of teenaged first love. And as well not in the senselessness of many hostilities, be it in families, between counties or for what reason ever.
The message of this piece is so up to date.
David Hewson has found beautiful words, that serve the old story and at the same time bring it to our time.
Richard Armitage has again delivered a great piece of storytelling. Listening to him makes me often forget, that it's just one man narrating.
This audiobook is like some of my favourite books...destined to be listened to again...and again...

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • AudioJoy
  • 09-24-17

incredible!

This is such a masterly well-imagined and skilfully told adaptation of a tale you think you already know... so well written and wonderfully performed!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • davis@6eaststreet.freeserve.co.uk
  • 08-09-17

Beautifully performed by a master

I listened to Hamlet the novel and thoroughly enjoyed that, so I thought I would try a story I thought I knew very well. This was such a beautiful adaptation - thought provoking, historically interesting and with such insight into the relationships between the characters. The 'reader' was superb, his brilliant acting really comes into its own here.
I would like to have heard the end notes at the beginning, to be aware of the changes.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Kenny
  • 04-04-17

Wonderfully enjoyable!

Any additional comments?

Really like all the characters, well voiced by Richard Armitage for most, some older characters such as Juliet's mother I am not as keen on. However, the story is intriguing and very well written. We may all know how this story pans out, but it is such a joy to listen to it in this way...'A Novel'. Hamlet is next on the list after this...

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • sarah
  • 03-13-17

Beautiful Version

Truly beautiful. I loved every minute of this well read version of a timeless classic.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • faizel kimera
  • 12-25-16

charmed

charming. so vivid and beautifully crafted, both story and reading. recommend! you won't be disappointed.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Brendan
  • 03-22-18

very gripping

great story and the last chapter was interesting. the discription wad great with minute details. the sound was ok . the book was not too long. just right

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mrs. K. Sowden
  • 03-13-17

Wonderful version

Not a rewrite or a translation of Shakespeare but a reimagining of the two tragic lovers. Beautifully read by Richard Armitage - in my opinion the best narrator there is.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Donnocha
  • 03-04-17

Wonderful.

A brilliant (retelling) of an age old tale. Full of suspense and drama and wonderfully read by Richard Armitage. Definitely a book that I will listen to again.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Richard Southworth
  • 01-16-17

Brilliant, fleshed out version of a familiar tale

Would you consider the audio edition of Romeo and Juliet: A Novel to be better than the print version?

This version may suit the expectations of modern audiences better, as it has more fleshed-out characters, and better explains why Romeo and Juliet are attracted to each other beyond love at first sight.

Which character – as performed by Richard Armitage – was your favourite?

Armitage shows great versatility in his character voices for this production; aside from some occasionally odd choice of accents, his voices all seem to fit the characters they are for. My favourite character was Juliet, who is given a lot of depth: it would be easy for even this version of Juliet to be a cliché of a headstrong young woman who just wants to be free, but she is given plenty of unique thoughts, ideas and wit to make her an interesting character.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

"As a century ends, passion is born."

Any additional comments?

I highly recommend this audiobook. While it generally sticks to the original story, I liked most of the changes and original scenes that exist. I enjoyed the detail with which it describes Verona, and the story's historical and geographical context, and the depth it gives to the characters.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Teesha Fowler
  • 04-30-18

Amazingggg!

Richard Armitage is simply amazing. The number of different characters with different voices, you knew who each character was by the sound of their voice. That is truly a gift.

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  • Blank
  • 05-14-17

Great narration to go with great narrator

Loving Richard armitage's narration and I'm loving how the story is being told. The scenes are so vivid and the gentleness Richard gives Juliet really seeps through, never thought I'd like a Juliet with such a low and masculine voice. The story is told with much more vivacity and tenacity than the play by Shakespeare, though great as it's own, is much more suited for the new generation of today.

Though told a million times before, this edition brings new depth to the characters in both the narration and by the narrator, a perfect mingling of voice and story.

I will be looking forward to other narrations by Richard armitage in the future.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Velencia Beedah
  • 05-02-17

Excellent

Loved it. Richard Armitage did an amazing narration and the characters were so vivid