The Chronicles of Clovis, published in 1911, was the third in Saki (H. H. Munro)'s series of very funny and very vicious stories. As an insider, Saki was ideally poised to eviscerate the Edwardian middle class way of life, and his pitiless and magnetic sense of humour - teamed with an ability to wield that sharpest of writer's tools, the (very) short story - makes these some of the funniest and most quotable of tales.
All of the running themes in Saki's work are here: the ghastly maiden relatives, plucked directly from Munro's experiences as a boy with a pair of overly disciplinarian aunts and delivered up to retribution in such famous stories as "Sredni Vashtar"; the somewhat dodgy attitude to female emancipation, shown very short shrift by the newly crowned fictitious King of England in "Hermann the Irascible"; and the ease with which nature, red in tooth and claw, overcomes the seeming power of the Edwardian sense of its own civilisation in the merciless hunting story "Esmé".
There are 29 stories in this collection, each one exquisitely crafted, totally vicious and very, very funny.
Public Domain (P)2007 Silksoundbooks Limited
Each of Saki's short stories is a perfectly formed gem of wit and cruelty. This collection has many of his best, including "Tobermory", about a cat who is taught to speak, "Sredni Vashtar", about a persecuted boy who enlists a ferret for his revenge, and "The Unrest Cure", in which Clovis Sangrail, the mischievous character around whom most of these tales revolve, devises an ingenious torment for a man who had dared to complain that his life had become boring.
Ian Richardson's narration is so perfectly tuned to the nuances of Saki's characters and the peculiar sardonic humour of the author that I don't think I'll be able to read these tales again without hearing his voice. One of the best audiobooks I've bought. The only negative point is that, as always with Audible, the download is not chaptered, so there's no way of jumping to an individual story.
Christopher Morley aptly characterized Saki's writing as "delicate, airy, lucid, precise, with the inconspicuous agility of perfect style". Richardson's reading could be appropriate for Shakespeare, but this ponderous, florid performance does Saki's effervescent stories a disservice.
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