Marked by Milton's characteristic erudition, Paradise Lost is a work epic both in scale and, notoriously, in ambition. For nearly 350 years, it has held generation upon generation of audiences in rapt attention, and its profound influence can be seen in almost every corner of Western culture.
Having been enthralled by the myths of Vikings and of ancient Greece and Rome, I always suspected that Christianity had a bit more to offer than the limp moralising stories I encountered at school and through the Venerable Bede. Not only have I found this in Paradise Lost, which has now taken the place as my favourite piece of mythology, but I would say this is one of the greatest books I have ever read.
Almost everything is perfect. From the start, with Satan crashing headlong into hell, I was gripped. Milton takes what I always considered a bland and tedious subject matter, the fall of man, and turns it into a romping story with cataclysmic battles, horrific monsters and disarmingly human characters. I recognised myself in Adam and Eve, and indeed in Satan, who is portrayed as a complex but understandable evil. The writing is breathtaking and leaves me, an atheist, in the awkward position of finding it perfectly plausible that it was, as Milton claimed, divinely inspired. Every line is a treat. The scenes he spins are as clear and dazzling, or as dark and terrifying as the subject matter. And this is story with a purpose too. Milton tackles some of the deepest questions about what it is to be human with a clear and persuasive logic.
It angers me that a story as deeply affecting as this has to, according to the leaders of many religions, be taken not as allegory but as fact. It is clear that Christianity, or at least Milton’s interpretation of it, has a lot to offer. I found myself struck by the relevance of many of the themes. But do we really have to tie in rules that say we have to believe in holy ghosts and heavenly kingdoms? It seems like such a pointless waste.
Though this is not to say that I was comfortable with everything presented. Foremost, the role of women, weaker and subservient to men. I looked hard for some saving graces in the text, but while Eve has depth, ultimately I found the messages about women uncomfortably antiquated. Secondly, the chastisement of those seeking knowledge. It really does reek of the tools used by rulers to oppress their subjects and stifle curiosity. I take the point that there are limits to what we can and should explore, but without our thirst for knowledge we wouldn’t have made such leaps in medicine, and helped save the lives or alleviate the suffering for so many people. If human life is as precious as Christianity makes out, the angels should be singing Hallelujah at these advances in science, not ticking people off for daring to probe deeper.
I also inevitably got confused at Milton’s dense poetic verse from time to time, but this comes with the terrain and certainly shouldn’t put anybody off. It’s Shakespearean in style, with all the benefits and challenges that brings, but with the summaries, the “arguments”, at the start of each book, I never got bamboozled for too long. I must also confess now that I cheated a little in “reading” the audiobook, but epic verse like this was made to be read aloud, and Simon Vance’s narration is, as ever, flawless.
A staggering achievement in literature and one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever encountered, even with my reservations about some of the messages embedded in the subject matter, I still consider this one of the greatest and most enjoyable books I have ever read.
"The most accessible reading of Paradise Lost"
Simon Vance's pace and tone are excellent, infusing the verse with appropriate dramatic tones.
Naturally, the book is a classic. However, I never thought listening to Milton would be so rewarding.
"Wonderfully read audiobook."
This reading does justice to Milton's great poem.
I highly recommend it for those interested in Milton or already fans.
"brilliant and beautiful"
a masterpiece of the English language. Milton is the modern Homer and has crafted a poetic epic the scale and import of the Iliad.
"I love this book."
Paradise Lost is written in Old English fashion and the only way to enjoy it completely is to listen to it with a narrator that can capture that certain finesse. I would highly recommend it.
Simon Vance always does a tremendous job. The poem itself can be dull at times, but the last few books of it were intense and vivid. It is a difficult read, but if you're into the subject matter, I would recommend
"Beautiful and intelligent reading"
Milton's complex lines are read with articulate care, rendering even the most convoluted stanzas clear to the listener and drawing out their unique beauty effortlessly
really enjoyed the postulation the maid while pulling in so much scripture. can bring new light 2 scripture because he allows you to see it possible for ground
"This guy should be famous"
I took a chance on this little known author and he didn't let me down. Milton's insights into the human condition and man's expulsion from Eden is told in stunning heroic couplet. Simon Vance provides unwavering and seamless narration. Unfortunately, Milton's views on women are antiquated, but overall this book is sure to be named a masterpiece. Get on the bandwagon early!
"Having trouble concentrating."
I am usually multi-tasking while listening to audible books. This is one book i cannot do that with. I went down to my local library to get a copy to read while being read to. It is helping. (Have i mentioned i am not a big poem reader?)
That aside i really enjoy the story. I am not a religious person and most of what i know about the fall from heaven is from movies so this book is great.
"difficult to follow"
the story was very captivating, but following along in the old vernacular prose was taxing
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