What do you get when you combine classic travel literature with the inimitable wit of Mark Twain? The Innocents Abroad is a keenly observant, politically incorrect and often hilarious narration of the author's cruise to the Holy Land aboard a retired Civil War ship. First published in 1869 and the best selling of Twain's works in his lifetime, The Innocents Abroad will delight listeners with the celebrated author's musings on historic landmarks, cultural differences, and silly travelling companions.
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I've never read any Mark Twain, so didn't know what to expect. The book is pretty entertaining, but is marred by the narration. The characterisation and accent sound convincing, but the narrator gives the impression of reading the book for the first time, many of the comic moments and sarcasm are ruined by inappropriate pauses. I would have to think long and hard before buying any more audiobooks read by this narrator.
"A step in the right direction."
Until recently, "The Innocents Abroad" was only available read by Flo Gibson. The Flo Gibson reading is one of the most horrible readings available.
I was glad to have this narration available. However, it's got issues: first of all, goofy music at the beginning of each chapter, first it was banjo, then crazy computer music.
The narrator adds some cheesy editorial "ahems" and some other noises that I don't think were present in the text. He also reads very slow in an attempt at a drawl. I was so glad to get a version other than Flo Gibsons, and was happy enough until I listened to Bronson Pinchots "Autobiography," then I knew how this book should have been done.
The Innocents Abroad is a great read, good enough to make up for the shortcomings of this narration, but we can wish for a Bronson Pinchot reading.
"Channeling Mark Twain"
Robin Field comes about as close to channelling Mark Twain as it's possible for someone to do in the electronic age. Contemporaries described Twain's voice as a somewhat high-pitched drawl, and Field's reedy voice comes close to matching that description. He delivers Twain's observations on the Mediterranean world and the people who travel to see it with mostly deadpan humor, occasionally pausing slightly for timing or not-quite-clearing-his-throat for emphasis. For a long time, the only version of this book available on Audible was narrated by Flo Gibson; and while Flo Gibson is always a delight to hear, this reading is clearly more Twain-ish.
The book itself poses some problems for the reader in the 21st century. Twain spares no one his satiric eye; the "quaint" customs of Old Europe come in for particularly acidic commentary, as do the fawning antics of the New World travellers. But it's when the book veers out of Europe and into the Muslim worlds of Turkey, Syria, and Palestine that Twain's voice becomes a bit grating. Twain had few equals when decrying the ravages of poverty close to home, but for some reason when he got to the Middle East, his usual compassion deserted him, and the behavior of people trapped in brutal poverty -- alternately begging, feuding, and slumped in despair -- seems to have aroused a sense of moral indignation at the victims.
Still, Twain was a hard-nosed reporter to his core, and it would be difficult to find more precisely-observed pictures of unfamiliar sights than the ones he sets forth here. This isn't the funniest of his travel books, but it's a good place to start.
"An epic journey with digressions"
Well, Mark Twain is delightful the 5th time or the 100th time, and this is a book that had stayed with me 25 years, so needed revisiting. What I love is the pace - slower than most Twain works - and filled with his digestion of other histories and literatures, so you get a lot of bang for your buck reading this.
I love the delightful tour of Europe, with his ironic reports of how many religious relics there are and the mean conditions of some very grand old cultures from his humorous point of view [no carpets, lousy haircuts!]
It is a genuine channeling of Twain. Terrific pauses for ironic emphasis - you can just see Twain stroking his mustaches.
Actually, a lifelong disdain of cruises came from reading this as a young person.
I was reminded of that when the Italian cruise ship crash happened and wanted to revisit it.
It started right in with a transcription of the promotion for the trip he was about to embark on, complete with all of the promises of cruising elegance and then it did not even take a week for everything on the cruise to be turned on its head.
I laughed a lot, but also cringed a lot.
The racial remarks made throughout the book have to be swallowed in context, but give a lot of insight into the era. Overall, he is as liberal an observer of the era's world as I have found.
"Better read than listened to"
I like the story, just couldn't listen to the narrator.
Cadence bothered me and a lot of mouth noise that was unnecessary.
Best book/narrator matchup I've heard in all my years listening to Audible! Story is good and typical Twain but the narration makes it great!
"A hidden treasure"
The humor and wit of the consummate storyteller Mark Twain is well known and beyond question. My only question is: where has this book been hiding? Detailed and vivid description mixed with antiquities and biblical history and text, riveting vignettes and outstanding satire and humor. The Holy Land, southern Europe and Egypt of 1867 came to life. As usual Robin Field was a fantastic reader; he was Twain. This is a must have for your Audible Library...
"the Middle East and Europe in 1870"
yer, it was fascinating to hear about places in Europe and the Middle East from a historical but sly manner. Twain's observations resonate today.
Great performance. It really added to hearing
the descriptions of being in Syria, Jordan and other middle eastern areas and travelling by donkey to explore.
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