The Chuzzlewits are a family divided by money and selfishness; even young Martin, the eponymous hero, is arrogant and self-centred. He offends his grandfather by falling in love with the latter's ward, Mary, and sets out to make his own fortune in life, travelling as far as America - which produces from Dickens a savage satire on a new world tainted with the vices of the old. Martin's nature slowly changes through his bitter experience of life and his enduring love for Mary. Martin Chuzzlewit is one of Dickens's most humorous and satirical novels, and it contains two great comic creations: the hypocrite Pecksniff and the drunken nurse Sarah Gamp.
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Public Domain (P)2010 Naxos Audiobooks
Great characters, a fascinating story, lots of humour, brilliantly read and characterised by Sean Barrett.
The novel has one or two chapters that are a bit long-winded (don't be put off by Chapter 1), the American section is surprisingly anti-american.
But you must make the acquaintance of some of the unforgettable characters such as Mr Pecksniff, Tom Pinch and may you never be looked after by Mrs Gamp.
I always enjoy listening to audiobooks - but this reading by Sean Barrett is like a dramatisation. It reminded me that Dickens was famous for his theatrical readings, and how susceptible audience members had hysterics. It is a truly wonderful performance. There are tedious passages in most of Dickens' novels but I was so entranced by Sean Barrett's impersonations, of Mrs Gamp, Mr Pecksniff, Mrs Todger, Bill Bailey (the list goes on) that I did not want to miss a word. As a novel, this one is patchy; but Dickens has the knack of conjuring up truly evil characters, such as Jonas Chuzzlewit and Mr Pecksniff, and Sean Barrett's performance made me feel Dickens' magnificence as novelist even more, I think, than simply reading it for myself would have done. The novel has been on my bookshelves for years and I've taken it down, flipped over the pages and put it back on several occasions. The whole experience of listening to a master in performance bringing to life the work of another master convinces me that there's more to be done, yet, in writing novels for reading aloud, rather than simply reading to oneself. The best of story-telling, like this, needs the human voice!
What a combination - Dickens and Sean Barrett. It was such a joy listening to Sean Barrett reading this book. He made the characters come to life seemlessly. I laughed out loud when Mr Pecksniff became inebriated and was put to bed. Definitely one to listen to again.
The narration was brilliant!
Many of the characters are incredibly disagreeable (credit to the writer for creating such a lively lot) compared to most other Dickens novels, and the satire is so biting. The bits in America are still so relevant it's almost painful.
Highly recommended: as brilliant as many other Dickens novels.
Sean Barrett makes a brilliant job of narrating this story especially as the tale moves to the USA. I found that it needs some perseverance as somehow Dickens complex cast of characters struggle to take on depth until the latter end of the first download. The introduction of a transatlantic dimension works well in contrast with the English story and then takes on a pace. My advice is stick with it it is an excellent read with an unusual wider scope for Dickens.
Many hours in spring and summer spent sitting on a slow lawn mower is why I listen to stories.
I had never read this novel from Dickens and it's not the sort of story-line that one comes to expect with most of his books. It does have many of the ingredients but somehow the result feels different. Interesting characters and a regular build-up of the story, and then nothing seems to happen. As if a key passage was missing. A nice listen though, with an incredible narrator able to do all of the voices brilliantly.
There are great characters here but much of the novel is tedious and repetitious and the quality patchy. However, when it is good, it is Dickens at his best. The reading is as good as it could be and the characterisation of the voices faultless. It kept me going when I might have given up had I been reading the book.
Sean Barrett's reading was absolutely fantastic and he certainly brought the book to life.
Everything about it was excellent, great humour, humanity and emotion.
This man could make the phone directory sound interesting. As soon as I finished this book I ordered a number of other books read by him. Probably the best reader I've listened to.
It's 33 hours long so not really practical but I was always eager to get back to it as soon as I could and I have recommended it to other listeners.
A great pleasure. Thank you for making it possible.
Fantastic listen, Sean Barrett does an excellent job narrating. Dickens is a master at writing characters ...I loved this book so much I bought the BBC's dramatisation of it.
"It's worth the wait"
The first few chapters of this delightful story center around one nasty character after another. Don't give up because there are dear friends to get to know -- Tom & Ruth, John, Mark Tapley (the best of all), young Martin at last, and more. I didn't want the story to end. The narrator is brilliant, with perhaps the best characterization of all being that of Sarah Gamp, whose fracturing of the English language is outrageously funny. I can't imagine reading her lines -- they must be unintelligible. Hearing them made me laugh out loud. And Dickens' satire of America is broad but true -- where every man has the title of "Major" or "General", befouls every surface with copious quantities of spat tobacco juice, brags about himself and his nation, swindles, and is cock-sure and greedy. He certainly nailed the worst of our faults, and, once again, presents the flaws and beauties of human nature. Enjoy!
"not my favorite Dickens.... but"
I confess I waded through the first hours getting hopelessly confused, but being a Dickens' fan I persevered. Then It occurred to me I could find the manuscript on line and straighten all the characters out in my mind. From then on I was hooked. It's a delicious satire that I enjoyed as long as it was based in England, cringed when it moved to America and smiled as Dickens resolves it all with full appropriate recompense.
Sean Barrett's performance was masterful sorting out the many characters.
"Great book, good narrator"
This is a wonderful novel with some especially colorful imagery at various points. The narrator is a little bland when speaking as the narrator, but his character voices are rich and varied, and leave nothing wanting.
"Dickens Comes to America!"
Written in 1843, this is an excellent Dickens novel that deserves to be as well known as say Oliver Twist or Great Expectations. The author???s typical tongue-in-cheek humour is very present throughout the work. The number of characters is reasonable, they are relatively fleshed out and it is easy for the reader to sympathize with many. Surprisingly in a Dickens work, some live through phases of introspection and evolve significantly.
The plot is characteristically implausible and includes completely improbable coincidences. It does however entail quite a bit of suspense. In fact, the novel may be perceived in some chapters as a prototype to murder mysteries (which of course had not yet been invented when it was written). Accordingly, despite the length of the book, the reader is constantly enticed to read on.
It is quite fascinating to follow major characters as they emigrate to the United States. The narrator???s comments on America are marked certainly by the author???s own British prejudices. The absence of interest towards culture in the New World and the general obsession with money are developed without subtlety. The narrator???s observations are also coloured by the times. So, New York is described as a ???vast, flat city???. Much more seriously, the paradox of slavery in a nation so proud to be founded on liberty is strongly underscored.
Overall, this fascinating, well-written work is strongly recommended to all.
"excellent narration - excellent book"
This is the first book I have listened to that was narrated by Sean Barrett. He is an excellent voice actor and brings each character to life. It is very easy to follow even though the plot can be quite complex. A very enjoyable audio book.
"Sean Barrett rivals Simon Vance!"
I loved this book, and now I'll have the dilemma of choosing between Sean Barrett and Simon Vance for the Dickens I haven't listened to yet. The narration is exquisite; Mr. Barrett has a lovely voice, and when you listen to Dickens's beautiful writing in Mr. Barrett's beautiful voice . . . well, it's mesmerizing. There are wonderful characters in Martin Chuzzlewit: in particular Mrs. Gamp, the alcoholic nurse who repeatedly violates the Hippocratic Oath, and jolly Mark Tapley, who seeks out trouble and misery because there is "no credit in being jolly" when you're in a good situation. The plot is classic Dickens and if you've read much of his work, you're familiar with his devices, but it's the writing, the characters, and the narration that make this one memorable. As is often the case, Dickens gets pretty Hallmark-ish and treacly at the end, and in his handling of Ruth Pinch, but who cares? It's a great audiobook! Go for it.
"Classic Dickens, superb narration"
I love Dickens and have read all his main works. I'd rank Chuzzlewit about in the middle. Some memorable characters and great dialogue--I especially like Mrs. Gamp. But also the usual flaws-- e.g. authorial coyness that gets tiresome; sentimentality; uninteresting good guys. Sean Barrrett's narration is absolutely excellent: the voices he gives the characters sound perfect.
"Another great Dickens novel"
I had never known anyone who had read this book. It was up to his best in story and character development. An really good read and not too long.
Narration is really well done! The characters are really vivid and well acted. Very much worth it for this narration.
As for the book: Pecksniffs are terrific villains and the satire of America and aspects of English society can be hilarious. Not my favorite Dickens, though.
"Dickens Does America"
Old Martin Chuzzlewit has come to hate his fortune as a misfortune because of its corruption of friends and relatives, and he fears that his money will do great harm whether he keeps it or gets rid of it. He has distanced himself from his family and hired an orphan girl named Mary Graham to be his constant companion, with the understanding that she'll inherit nothing so as to prevent her from hoping for anything. As Charles Dickens' novel Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-44) begins, old Martin and Mary are traveling under the family radar when Martin takes ill so they have to stop at the Blue Dragon, an inn in a small Wiltshire town (near Salisbury). In this town, it develops, resides one of his relatives, one of Dickens' great villains, Mr. Pecksniff, and his two wonderfully misnamed daughters Mercy and Charity. Mr. Pecksniff is an "architect" who takes in pupils as boarders, teaches them nothing, and steals their ideas. He is a seductively articulate scoundrel masquerading (almost to the point of believing his act) as a highly moral man. He takes a Samaritan-like interest in the ailing Martin, scheming to get him under his control so as to get his fortune.
Dickens then introduces other members of the dysfunctional Chuzzlewit clan, including Martin's estranged brother Anthony and his son Jonas, who has been raised from the cradle to seize "the main chance," and Martin's grandson Martin, who was the only member of the family in old Martin's good graces and seemed destined to inherit the fortune until he made the mistake of declaring his love for Mary, which got him exiled from his grandfather. Dickens also introduces other characters connected to the plot, like Tom Pinch, a naïve, sweet, self-denying former pupil and current exploited employee of Pecksniff's; his good friend John Westlock, another former Pecksniff pupil; and Mark Tapley, a worker at the Blue Dragon who wants to earn merit in life by being jolly in terrible situations.
This big novel shows Dickens in full swing, taking pleasure in language and human nature. It features at least three villains, three saints, two rich old men trying to settle matters of inheritance, multiple young men trying to find their places in the world, and plenty of Dickensian grotesques, including Bailey Jr., an undersized boy with an old man's cynical personality; Mrs. Gamp, a midwife/night nurse who is more fond of alcohol than of her patients and has an imaginary friend; and Chuffey, an ancient, cracked, loving, often blind and deaf non-entity of a clerk. Dickens focuses his moral lens on "universal self": "Self; grasping, eager, narrow-ranging, overreaching self; with its long train of suspicions, lusts, deceits, and all their growing consequences; was the root of the vile tree."
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the novel occurs when two characters move to America and learn the hard way about its flaws. Apart from most American men chewing tobacco and spitting out the juice, most of Dickens' circa 1840 satire feels accurate in 2015. His Americans are convinced of the superiority of their country: "the Great United States," "a model to the airth" for "the regeneration of man," "the envy of the world," "the most powerful and highly-civilised dominion that has ever graced the world." They are manipulated by their sordid morbid media, figure that the people of the world should keep up on American affairs, deal with any criticism of their country as an envious attack on their free institutions, and use freedom as an excuse to do whatever they want, supported by knives and guns. With outraged pleasure Dickens exposes the contradiction between freedom loving and slave owning ("of the noble patriot with many followers who dreamed of freedom in the arms of a slave and sold her offspring and his in public markets") and the racism of northern abolitionists. As one character says, the American eagle is a hybrid comprised of the bat for blindness, the cock for aggressiveness, the peacock for vanity, and the ostrich for ignorance.
As an American, I wish Dickens had also satirized England's exploitation of India, but he does target many aspects of British culture in his other books, as in this one he deals with unsympathetic, venal, and smug doctors, nurses, and undertakers.
At his worst, Dickens is too sentimental (as with Ruth Pinch, little woman, little creature, little figure, little child, with little hands, a little laugh, and a little heart), overwrites (as with a character's death, "Dead, dead, dead"), and gets too carried away on riffs (as with a literary levee featuring Transcendentalists). He's capable of brazen plot contrivances, as when some characters happen by chance to rent rooms from a landlord too convenient to the plot. Sometimes for the sake of (melo)drama he makes people do unbelievable things, as when one reformed character is egregiously unfair to an innocent friend. Sometimes he withholds key information as to motivation and character in order to surprise us in a way reminiscent of manipulative mysteries.
But Dickens' heart is in the right place, and his novel is so full of good-natured love of people, food, music, language, and life and satire of their opposites that it's hard to dislike most of what he writes, and when he's on his game he's unbeatable. His descriptions of gusty winds, stormy nights, shabby neighborhoods, dismal swamps, country walks, and alcoholic tea parties are prime. He writes funny and vivid lines, as in these on a lawyer's office, "with a great, black, sprawling splash upon the floor in one corner, as if some old clerk had cut his throat there, years ago, and had let out ink instead of blood."
Sean Barrett revels in reading the audiobook! His savage, paranoid Jonas, flabby-faced, exalted Pecksniff, cracked, loving Chuffey, greedy, callous Mrs. Gamp, cheeky, precocious Bailey Jr., and coarse, laconic Americans are all splendid fun.
Readers new to Dickens should start with his masterpieces David Copperfield and Great Expectations, but readers who've read a good bit of Dickens would find in Martin Chuzzlewit much delicious fare.
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