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Publisher's Summary

In this remarkable novel, Mauriac brings his extraordinary talent for probing the inmost core of the human character to what is arguably the most exciting theme in the world: the battle for the human soul. In all of literature there can be few more appalling studies of a soul devoured by pride and avarice, corroded by hatred.

Louis, a wretchedly unhappy multi-millionaire, all but personifies evil. Toward the end of his life, seeking to uncover the cause of his unhappiness, he commits to paper his whole bitter story: his indulgent but affection-starved childhood; his first love; the trivial misunderstanding that festered until it poisoned their entire married life and the lives of their children; the old miser's struggle to disinherit his family; and finally, the powerful climax, with divine grace vying to the very end to pierce the evil encrusting Louis' soul.

Public Domain (P)1996 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A modern masterpiece." ( St. Louis Star-Times)
"Mauriac develops a character from the inside out....The listener is able to move into Louis's mind, to feel and understand his motivation." ( Library Journal)

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What listeners say about Vipers' Tangle

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

those nasty rich men

i am always amazed when i read what this book is about, since the main character always seems to me like the only half decent person in the book. it is mostly about religious hypocrisy, how religion is fitted into chaotic lives in neat little pockets of piety. it is also about pride, misunderstanding, family relations being allowed to sour with no attempt at retrieving what has been lost. but it is also full of excitement and little cliff hangers as this man tries to decide what to do with his fortune.

the writing is superb, the man could write and deserved the nobel prize he won. the reader is also excellent.

altogether it was a trip into another world, the inner workings of a french landowning family. i had read it before, many years ago, and was curious to see if my reaction would be the same. it was. a good investment of my money as i will listen to it again and again through the years.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Superb

Geoffrey Howard he also does audio books under the name Ralph Cosham) does a superb job of narrating this book. He is able to communicate emotion without being overly sentimental. I would also recommend his reading of Beau Geste.

The book is excellent. It sounds unappealing, I must admit - almost the entire work consists of the reminiscences of a spiteful rich lawyer who knows he will soon be dead. However it is quite fascinating to see how his life developed and why he has ended up so miserable despite being so successful. It is a wonderful warning to not spend one's short life wrapped up in petty resentments and jealousies.

4 people found this helpful

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Life changing book

Loved it. A study into ressentment and redemption of someone whi is dying. Beautifully written and thought provoking.

3 people found this helpful

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Suspenseful Character Study

Any additional comments?

"Viper's Tangle" is an "prison escape" story of sorts--only in this case the prison is the human heart. Louis, the dying anti-hero of the piece, is cut off from love by a lifetime of disappointment and resentment. Can he find his way to freedom before it's too late? The plot keeps you guessing, and the narrator's understated delivery never gets in the way of the action.

2 people found this helpful

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Engrossing!

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

This is an entangling, fascinating story--unpredictable and moving.

What does Geoffrey Howard bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Howard is great! Clear diction; nice pauses and just the right amount of emotion.

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent Read

Well written. Excellent story. Wonderful narration. I highly recommend French novelist Francois Mauriac's book too you.

1 person found this helpful

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Most Intriguing

A most intriguing take on marital & family conflicts, on how personal & yet impersonal family life is, in its revelation & realism. It is cozy & mean in almost equal measure.

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Excellent

This is an excellent performance of a masterpiece. I could not stop until it was finished. Then immediately wanted to start it over.

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I regret that I didn’t read this sooner

This book was assigned (in French) for one of my French classes. I skimmed through it. How I wish I would’ve paid more attention to it now, after hearing it in English. A beautiful story of hope for even the most wayward of souls.

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A multilayered meaningful story

This novel engrossed me from the first sentence and never let loose its hold. In diary form from the perspective of a wealthy and bitter old man in receding health, who he rails against his wife and children, consumed by his intention to keep them from his fortune after his death. It is multi-layered, addressing the aim of living a happy life, the difference of good and evil, love and hate, forgiveness and selfishness, It also addresses the theme of Christian salvation and its ability to change the receptive who is hard of heart. The audible performance was well done and adds to the appreciation of the protagonist.

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  • Richie
  • 04-26-15

Excellent

A man awaits death and begins to write a letter to his wife. He finds himself alienated from her and, subsequently, his children, all of whom he thinks hate him. He feels loved by none and that people only attach themselves to him for his fortune.

His letter serves as a journey through his life and help him penetrate his own heart as he hurtles towards something that was in him all along.

His heart is a tangle of viperes, but will he escape?

I didn't like this book at first. However, it truly is a masterpiece. The narration is superb.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Marylebone member
  • 05-06-20

A masterpiece

I first read this in my teens. I never forgot its denseness, its power and its clarity of writing. Returning to it as an adult many years later I enjoyed it even more.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Welsh Mafia
  • 07-08-12

Too late the hero

I was lead to this book via a consideration of the recent death of Antonio Tabucchi who cited Mauriac as a great influence. It is possible to see why, but having completed the novel I feel that Tabucchi was the more satisfying read.

That said, there are some really thoughtful insights here and religious meditations that really had me thinking. So much gloom and doom, misogyny and misanthropy is balanced by a religious revelation in the later sections which is then underlain by a final questioning. It is in essence a work of religious Existentialism - if there can be such a thing - delivered through the distanced narrator and the tricks of the modernist. A good, but not a great read - and like the curate’s egg in totality I felt.