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Publisher's Summary

It was a strange, uncertain world that Harriet entered when she married Guy Pringle. Guy taught English at the university at Bucharest, a city of vivid contrasts, where professional beggars exist alongside the excesses of mid-European royalty and expatriate journalists with a taste for truffles and quails in aspic. Underlying this is a fitful awareness of the proximity of the Nazi threat to a Romania, which is enjoying an uneasy peace.

In this exotic landscape Harriet gets to know her new husband and to wonder at the complexity of the apparently simple man she had married.

©1960 The Estate of Olivia Manning (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about The Great Fortune

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Great book, best audio performance I've heard

This narrator is very talented. She even does characters impersonating each other somewhat convincingly. It's pretty dramatic, as opposed to understated, but I'm very impressed.
The story and writing is wonderful, like Anthony Powell but with things happening. The author exhibits cool Olympian disdain for the characters so far. I haven't finished it yet.

9 people found this helpful

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Great Narration to start you off on this trilogy

What about Harriet Walter’s performance did you like?

I had picked up the Balkan Trilogy several times and never managed to get past the first few pages so I thought I'd try the audiobook and I was immediately hooked. Guy's cluelessness, Harriet's petulance, Yaki's pathetic Yaki-ness, is all perfectly rendered. Once hooked, I easily moved on to the second book without needing the audiobook. But for the third and final installment I returned to the audiobook as if meeting with old friends.

If you could take any character from The Great Fortune out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Poor Yaki--he always needs a meal. Although one worries buying him one meal would somehow bind you to him for life.

Any additional comments?

Like Tolkein's Lord off the Rings Trilogy, the books in The Balkan Trilogy don't really stand alone and need to be read as one long book.

7 people found this helpful

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Such a fascinating picture of war descending in Europe,

I loved this book. I purchased copies of the three volumes after seeing Harriet Walter in Sense and Sensibility and knew I would love her narration but it’s taken me years to get round to hearing it. Liked it so much I started right back from the beginning and heard it twice - it’s so rich. What wonderful portraits and such a good sense of the world then as lived. What an insightful author - I’m only disappointed that the Cairo Trilogy is not available as well, I would read it in a heartbeat! Excellent story and atmosphere of a troubled Europe as the war starts, such a fascinating time so much worse than what we are living today - it helps me to bear the weight of the pandemic and our seclusion.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mary
  • 05-10-15

Wonderful cast of characters, starring Bucharest!

What did you like most about The Great Fortune?

This is an involving, atmospheric and intense account of a motley group of British and Romanian characters in Bucharest, watching, fearing, sensing the ever closer presence of the Germans in 1939/40. The book ends with the fall of France and the apparent impotence of the British Army to protect Europe and especially Bucharest and is notable for providing a brilliant portrait of this gilded and vulnerable city, its people, the buildings, the cafes and hotels. It centres around a newly married English couple and their friends, including a pathetic White Russian English eduated prince down on his luck who scrounges off anyone and everyone. Olivia Manning's brilliance lies her characterisation, including creating a potentially dislikeable herione with whom you continue to epmpathise.

What other book might you compare The Great Fortune to, and why?

It is the first of the Balkan trilogy by Olivia Manning following the couples' flight from Bucharest to, eventually, Cairo. In its scope and setting it could be compared to The Alexandria Quartet (Gerald Durrell) and even The Raj Quartet (Paul Scott) though both of these have the reputation of dealing with this period with more political intensity and psychologically insight. I'm not sure I agree with this view.

What does Harriet Walter bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

It takes an actress of great range to portray the cast of characters covered by this book. She gives them all a distinct and recognisable voice. In particular she manages to portray both the bitchiness of Harriet, the heroine, as well as her more admirable qualities.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Tom
  • 07-23-13

Absorbing and superbly narrated

What did you like most about The Great Fortune?

I recently finished reading Olivia Manning's Balkan Trilogy, of which this is the first volume and found it to be absorbing and increasingly gripping as the story went on, a real page turner.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Great Fortune?

Apart from the many very well drawn characters, prime amongst them being Guy Pringle, what I found most interesting were the vivid and memorable descriptions of the political and physical backdrop - you really get a feel for the time and place and the tremendous uncertainties which people must have experienced living in a foreign country close to the onset of war.

Which character – as performed by Harriet Walter – was your favourite?

Harriet Walter narrates all three volumes superbly. Her pace and timing are nigh-on perfect and she draws the characters - men and women - with a sure touch, particularly Guy Pringle, his long-suffering wife, Harriet, and the incomparable Prince Yakimov..

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

As I said a real page turner. Indeed, listening to the trilogy inspired me to buy Olivia Manning's continuation of the tale of Guy and Harriet in the "Levant Trilogy" - alas book version - and I thoroughly enjoyed that too. She is a much under-rated writer.

Any additional comments?

Strongly recommended, particularly if you are interested in novels set in Europe just before the outbreak of the second world war.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Trevor
  • 02-02-13

Excellent Reading of a Fascinating Book

Having both read Olivia Manning’s great trilogy and watched the TV adaptation (twice) I was somewhat wary of embarking on this reading, fearing that it might not accord with my own interpretation of the characters or those of the actors who portrayed them so well on the screen.

I need not have worried. As soon as she got into her stride Harriet Walter’s reading was quite brilliant and revealed many different aspects of the characters that I had not thought about.

Having finished the first volume it was with great impatience that I awaited my next monthly allocation. I have now listened to all three books and have no hesitation in recommending them either to new listeners or any of Miss Manning’s existing fans.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Jane
  • 12-05-09

Will always love this book

Harriet Walter does a brilliant job of making a favourite book (and TV series) even better. Guy Pringle is one of the most memorable and maddening characters in English literature - love him and hate him. I see the next book in the series has just been released. Hope you plan to publish all of them.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-23-15

First of a trilogy will i buy the next?

Beautifully read. The story was a slow burner for me - atmospheric and strangely compelling. I enjoyed it but would not rave about it. I may come back to the second book mainly because i am a fan of Harriet Walter's readings.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Sophie M.
  • 07-05-21

My favourite audiobooks of all time

I could listen to these again and again (and indeed I have). Harriet Walter does justice to these incredible novels with a fabulous, absorbing performance that brings every marvellous character to life. Audible, please please please commission Walter to make a recording of Manning’s follow-up, The Levant Trilogy. Pretty please! *begs*

1 person found this helpful

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  • Cate Schofield
  • 03-28-21

Wonderful

Harriet Walter is perfect as the reader, she captures the characters and the brooding tension of the city

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kirstine
  • 05-23-22

Evocative story set in WW2

An engaging story that drew me into the uncertainty of the lives of a disparate group of people brought together in Romania in the early years of WW2 as the German Armies marched into country after country. A mix of the political situation and the relationships among the colourful characters some of whom are obnoxious, notably Prince Yakimov: a selfish, self-pitying and shameless sponger. He's so so well characterized I longed for his comeuppance! Friction between the newlyweds, Harriet and Guy, is a recurring theme in the narrative as Harriet resents Guy's over generosity to others combined with his lack of awareness of how his actions might upset her.
Harriet Walter gives a bravura rendition of the text that made it seem like a live performance of a play.

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  • Mrs R Samways
  • 10-17-21

Boring

i have got through 4 chapters and am still waiting for a plot to develop. The story just lurches from one drinking party to another. Have given up on it now

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-08-21

Fascinating

I have now listened to all three of the Balkan trilogy books and found them gripping and beautifully read. Harriet Walter holds my attention throughout. The books are so well written and give beautiful insight into a host of characters and most of all the main characters, Harriet and Guy Pringle. It is written entirely from Harriet's perspective but she is an acute observer, even of her own life. The world is crumbling around them and it highlights that for most people in a crisis, you just deal with the situation you find yourself in and don't think much more widely than you need to at the time.

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  • hugh hungerford
  • 06-01-22

excellent book

same review as mine of friends and heroes which is the 3rd book in the Balkan trilogy

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  • Kirsty
  • 02-22-22

A very personal war time experience

Olivia Manning, or Harriet Pringle as she names herself in the trilogy x 2 which she wrote about her own (and many others') experiences of the dislocation of war. It brings home vividly how war is not, and never has been, just about victors and vanquished, but how ordinary people have to survive the extraordinary exigencies brought on them by the policies of evil men.
Unfortunately, Audible has left the story half finished - there are three books to go. Please can Miss Walters be hired to record the rest.