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The Seven Basic Plots

Why We Tell Stories
Narrated by: Liam Gerrard
Length: 38 hrs and 58 mins
4 out of 5 stars (8 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This remarkable and monumental book at last provides a comprehensive answer to the age-old riddle of whether there are only a small number of "basic stories" in the world. Using a wealth of examples, from ancient myths and folk tales via the plays and novels of great literature to the popular movies and TV soap operas of today, it reveals that there are seven archetypal themes which recur throughout every kind of storytelling.

But this is only the prelude to an investigation into how and why we are "programmed" to imagine stories in these ways, and how they relate to the inmost patterns of human psychology. Drawing on a vast array of examples, from Proust to detective stories, from the Marquis de Sade to E.T., Christopher Booker then leads us through the extraordinary changes in the nature of storytelling over the past 200 years, and why so many stories have "lost the plot" by losing touch with their underlying archetypal purpose.

Booker analyzes why evolution has given us the need to tell stories and illustrates how storytelling has provided a uniquely revealing mirror to mankind's psychological development over the past 5,000 years. This seminal book opens up in an entirely new way our understanding of the real purpose storytelling plays in our lives, and will be a talking point for years to come.

©2004 Christopher Booker (P)2019 Tantor

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    3 out of 5 stars

Narration forced me to return it.

The narration forced me to return it. The content appears to be well-researched and more worth one's time and attention. I am continually mystified over the poor narration of good material. I have to assume that the author was powerless to stop it.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Insightful but too long

I did enjoy the book but it went on and on and on and on. It could have been jut as effective if they had been more proficient in editing it down.

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Excellent!

Fantastic and brilliant. Content you won't find elsewhere. I enjoyed the narrator and thought he did an excellent job of bringing this wonderful book to life. Highly recommended.

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  • Fred Books
  • 04-08-19

Narrator makes this book: Masterclass in narration

I honestly don't think the other reviewer listened to this book. Liam Gerrard's narration is sublime! A masterclass in narration and acting. The book ties together the notion that every story can fit into one of 7 pre-determined 'plots' (although the author admittedly says the boundaries are very loose). As such the author takes the listener on a journey through the most famous, infamous, epic, romantic and spellbinding stories known to mankind; from Gilgamesh, through Shakespeare, Dickens, Jane Austin, George Elliot, Dostoyevsky, Rabelais, Joyce, Chaucer, Beckett, DH Lawrence, Tolstoy, Tolkien and many many more. If you ever wanted a potted description of the best the history of literature has to offer; you won't go far wrong with this.

The listener is treated to descriptions, analyses, excracts and performances from the greats of literature and Gerrard's performance is sensitive and measured, yet the characters shine when they need to. This book deserves a narrator with the pedigree expected to pull it off, and I'm glad that the publishers chose Gerrard.

The last quarter of the book lets it down, purely because of the writing, not Liam Gerrard's performance. For some reason the author decided instead of stopping and finishing the book, he would carry on and give his own opinions on things as varied as politics, religion and his own treatiste on social anthropology. This is unecessary and not wanted. The desctiption and exploration into the stories up to this point are enough.

In short, an excellent way to delve into the greats of literature, all read superbly by my new favourite narrator. Will be buying more of his titles!

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • sin sin minkin
  • 08-03-19

interesting ideas spoiled

I really wanted to keep going with this book, but the narrator sounded as if he was taking the Mick the whole time. I will probably - though sometimes the writer flogs a well deceased horse - buy Seven Plots in physical form.

Seriously, though I'm a writer and love reading about story structure, I couldn't stand listening a moment longer.

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  • Adele
  • 07-31-19

A disappointingly narrow view on modern literature

The book started promising with a very broad list of stories deconstructed but as soon as mainstream literature stops following the basic plots and ending in marriage or death, described at the beginning, the book becomes a rant on degrading art and society.
A lot of the book’s mass is retelling of the stories it talks about. Yet the understanding and deconstruction of modern literature pieces of the author seem to be very narrow and lacking context.
I didn’t find this book to be very useful in understanding story telling and would suggest rather listening to the base material itself - from greek myths, Aristotle to the modern pieces from Albert Camus and James Joyce (who the author seem to have hated) - it would give you a much more understanding of the subject and would be less of a waist of time.

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  • K. J. Noyes
  • 06-23-19

It's all about archetypes. Long but worth the time

It's all about archetypes. A new way to look at stories. Long but worth the time.

I did wonder at times if I'd manage the entirety, but actually, once I'd settled into listening, this sped by.

A fascinating account spanning the whole of recorded storytelling, splitting the narratives we are familiar with (or not so) into seven categories. These are each broken down into constituent parts, elements focused on important to each, examples given that exemplify their structure and characteristics.

I liked the way the author details each book he utilises - the synopsis of the entire plot, useful if you've not read it or can't remember the detail, in order to compare it with whichever of the seven plots it fits into. I even learnt about several books I've not yet read (and sometimes not heard of). Even some popular films (Close Encounters, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial) are used as examples, showing that it's not just literary fiction that fits.

It did take some concentration, on audiobook, to continue listening for in excess of 38 hours, but the narrator's voice was absorbing and rousing.

This is a book I actually own in paperback and would want to read again on paper, to really attempt to take in more, there is so much detail that it feels impossible to soak up everything and see the constituent parts as sections of the whole.

Seeing stories as one of seven plots is an unfamiliar way of looking at a particular narrative, but a useful one, and picking out the common elements and archetypes an excellent means of classifying, breaking down, or potentially creating one.

Surprisingly enjoyable, though I would want a second read-through.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.