Crime and Punishment is such a dark and intense book, with a reputation arguably with being difficult which I'm sure puts many people off. Perhaps, however, the best way to experience it is an audiobook; much of the book comprises dialogue or inner monologue, so a good narrator can really make sense of the story and bring the book alive.
And indeed Anthony Heal does a marvellous job in this audio-version; he reads at quite a pace, but always clearly, and this in fact suits Dostoyevsky's style very well. He also paints the large cast of complex characters in a convincing and vivid way, and is assured with the pronunciation of Russian names. I have previously listened to the George Guidall reading, which is truly excellent, but this version is just as good.
One minor beef: sound quality was not ideal - quite heavy in the base registry - surprising with such a modern recording; dont think it was my headphones, but try a sample first if you are thinkng of buying the book, though I wouldn't let this put you off.
Vanity Fair is a terrific read. Despite being very long the story bowls along a a great pace and one never loses interest in the many characters, which are drawn with great wit, affection where merited but without any gushing sentimentality. The style of the book lends itself perfectly to being read out loud, and Frederick Davidson's amused and ironic tone, and his perfectly paced and articulate delivery, greatly adds to the listening pleasure. I was sorry when the book ended and I am sure I will listen to it again. Very strongly recommended.
This is not my favourite Jane Austen book (Pride & Prejudice is). None of the characters is particularly interesting, amusing or likeable, and the heroine, Fanny Price, is a bit of a drip if truth be told. But it is still well worth reading for the witty and deadly way that she dissects the mores and lifestyles of the upper classes in the 19th century. Better still to have it narrated as you then really appreciate the quality of the prose - provided of course you like the narrator.
I can well see that Frances Barber will probably not be everyone's cup of tea as a narrator. She reads in a very precise, articulate and almost cut-glass accent, which comes across a bit cold at times. Personally, I think this suits the book very well; and her characterisation, particularly of the ghastly Mrs Norris, is spot on. Sound quality is faultless too.
I enjoyed the book very much, and would happily recommend it particularly to Jane Austen lovers, but I agree with the previous reviewer that it would be as well to sample the narration first - and try out some others (there are quite a few on Audible)- to make sure you are happy with it before buying.