(P)1998 Blackstone Audio Inc.
"Crome Yellow, Huxley's first novel, is famous for its technique, ideas, and acute psychological descriptions." (The Times, London)
"Robert Whitfield's unabridged reading of Huxley's first novel is a triumph of one man's vocal capacities....Whitfield's vocal acrobatics in portraying the cast of characters assembled at an English country estate for a summer vacation in the 1920's makes for dazzling aural entertainment. Otherwise fatuous goings-on become intriguing shenanigans, and the characters' psychological portraits are rendered accurately through the unique voices Whitfield assigns them." (AudioFile)
"Robert Whitfield does it full justice and proves that he is now one of the best narrators in the business." (Library Journal)
Witty, humerous and sharp edged. The kind of thing that benefits from being read aloud particularly by a fast reader like me, as it made pay proper attention to all the lovely lines
Thoroughly enjoyable! The characters, the mark of the time on thought and life, depicted, now playful, now melancholic? but always with full colour, honesty and depth? and with such delightfully vivacious narration, it was a joy.
"Bloomsbury in a blender, 1922"
This is Huxley's satire of the personalities of the Bloomsbury Group plus a few others. If you don't get satire or like dry British humor, you're really, really going to hate this book.
That said, it is a brilliant old-school satire, and very much of its time. That is to say, by way of fair warning, the detraction of racial epithets does appear from time to time.
Denis, a 23 year-old writer who's just published the requisite "slim volume of verse" and is hard at work on his first hackneyed novel has come to the Wimbush family's seat of Crome.
When he arrives, Mrs. Wimbush flatters her guest by exclaiming she'd forgotten he was coming. She hardly listens to him because she's busy making astrological calculations. Once a degenerate gambler who lost vast sums, these days Mrs. Wimbush keeps the sweet cash rolling in by consulting the stars.
Denis is helplessly in love with Anne, the daughter of the house, but she is preoccupied with another guest, the lascivious painter Gombaud. Another girl, Mary, is all too interested in Denis and chatters at him at the most inopportune times. The vicar is laboring under the misapprehension that the Counter-Reformation may still be going on, what with his fear of Italian poisoners and Jesuitical conspiracies. (Nonetheless, "There were times when he would like to beat and kill his whole congregation.") And then there's a strange journalist, Mr. Barbecue-Smith, who gives Denis some advice: he must try automatic writing, so that he may decant inspirations from the unseen world in "aphoristic drops." After all, that's what's behind his own impressive daily word count!
It is a house party from hell, complete with a village fete. The mad personalities fling witticisms and epigrams, holding forth upon philosophy, chattering constantly, even unto breakfast.
For me, Mr. Wimbush was the star-turn. He's the only one who really talks sense. This observation is priceless: "As reading becomes more and more habitual and widespread, an ever increasing number of people will discover that books will give them all the pleasures of social life and none of its intolerable tedium. At present people in search of pleasure naturally congregate in large herds and make a noise; in future the naturally tendency will be to seek solitude and quiet. The proper study of mankind is books."
He also believes in the "perfectibility of machines," hoping one day his ideal may be realized and he will "live in dignified seclusion surrounded by the delicate attentions of silent and graceful machines and entirely secure from any human intrusion." (Alexa, bring Mr. Wimbush a gin and tonic).
I loved it. I listened to it while I restrung a harp and several other stringed instruments. All the while I kept imagining the book fully illustrated by the late Edward Gorey. It would have been divine.
"Excellent Reading of an intellectual book"
I certainly would. Aldous Huxley's manifold characters are vividly portrayed. The philosophical musings are interesting and situations are humorously described. Even the names Huxley gave to his protagonist are already signifying their characters, It was an edifying and entertaining read (or more correctly "listen").
"This is the CODA of Huxley's canon"
Here's an obscure quote that sums up how I feel "I mean Led Zeppelin didn't write tunes everybody liked. They left that to the Bee Gees." - Wayne Campbell, Wayne's World
The thing that I loved about Brave New World is that Huxley was able to insert his philosophy and ideas into an overall narrative, which made it easier for the reader (or listener) to absorb. For me, this didn't happen in Crome Yellow. I'm not sure if this was a common practice in the 1920's, but the premise is that of bright young minds gathering in an old English estate and discussing various subjects in an intellectual manner. Like a social think tank. Giving the book almost a vignette style. Some of the subjects were interesting, but they were very few, far an in between. It was difficult to stay engaged.
I would not say disappointed. I appreciate that this was Huxley's first novel and I'm glad I listened to it for that fact alone. However, the "story" was simply not my cup of tea. I would like to attempt it again, but I would have to be in the right mind-set for it. There are some good nuggets to think on.
Robert Whitfield does the best of what he has to work with. He makes the voices distinguishable, is able to color the dialogue and any lack of attention that the listener may experience because of the "story" is not his fault. A less talented narrator would make Crome Yellow a much more tedious listen. I would give serious consideration to another book if we were narrating it.
That's the problem. I found myself tuning out a lot of it, so I can't remember the parts that would need cutting out.
Despite my criticisms, I like Crome Yellow in terms of following the trajectory of the author. From what Aldous Huxley did here and how he refined it in Brave New World. I'm looking forward to reading more of the author's works.
"mostly for "literary" types?"
This "English country house" novel has many trappings that are standard: a main character (one of them) who is a self-conscious, artistic type incapable of action, early 20th century class pretensions, and the idle country house setting.
However, Huxley skewers many stereotypes, and that is what makes it fun.
The reader is very good, doesn't get in the way at all.
Perhaps it is because I never found British literature profound or intriguing that I also did not like Chrome Yellow. Perhaps is that I do not understand British humor, but the book was not comical, nor it did portray a psychological picture of the characters. It was on the other hand, a good snapshot of the social dynamics of the era, but the characters lacked emotional depth and the situations were shallow and disconnected. The narrator did an excellent job, however. If you like Dickens and other British authors, then this book might be ok. If you enjoy the depth of Ayn Rand, Dostoevsky, Faulkner's characters, then do not read/listen to this book.
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