"Lose yourself in 16th century England"
Well, we all know the story of Henry VIII and his wives, so this book had to deliver something different to keep my attention for 24 hours of listening - and for me, it did. The story is told through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, as he progresses from the gutter in Putney to hold high office in the King's court. There is a wealth of historical detail and a constant undercurrent of political intrigue. Occasionally, Hilary Mantel slips into some loose writing and a bit of self indulgence as she wanders from the story but for me, the star of the show is the narrator, Simon Slater. He has the ability to wrap the story around the listener, breathing life into the characters with a wide range of colour and inflexion to go with the different voices and accents he employs. Far from the saintly man portrayed in 'A Man For All Seasons', Thomas More is characterised as an arrogant cynic, and Slater's voice drips with comtempt and disdain as he speaks his words. I'm not usually one for 'literary' works, crime and thrillers being my regular listening, but I have to say this was such a good story, so well told, it had me spellbound all the way through. I usually listen while walking my dogs and their walks got longer as I just wanted to hear a little bit more... Other reviews are mixed, so I guess the only way to really find out if you'll like it is to try it. By the way, Wolf Hall is the home of Jane Seymour, setting up a sequel, I hope!
"As good as it gets in this genre"
Convoluted, understated, atmospheric. This is typical Le Carre and I would guess is literary Marmite - you'll either love it or hate it. It requires concentration and a questioning mind but the characters are beautifully drawn and the plot complex enough to keep one (or at least me) guessing to the end. The narration is good and the whole thing a classic example of a cold war espionage thriller.
When I was at school, we were taught that a good story had a beginning, a middle and an end and that the most frequent failing of young writers was to devote too much time and space to the beginning and middle and then have to rush the ending. If Michael Faber was taught this at his school, he has clearly forgotten the lesson.
This book has an intriguing start and we are drawn into Victorian London; its strata of society, the hardship of the poor contrasting with the fecklessness of the rich, all carried along by strong narration. A good tale is being woven, with interesting characters and I was always keen to find out what would happen next. However after about 15 hours listening, I began to wonder where the story was heading. Lots of social comment, an abundance of period detail but slow progress on the storyline. After 30 hours, I was beginning to despair. I felt a little ashamed because it's undoubtedly well written and well read but does seem to drag so!
In the end, it became almost a badge of honour to finish the damn thing and, at around 42 hours it stopped. Not with an ending but right in the middle, as if the author had run out of steam or had not the wit to concoct a decent finish. Having listened for the equivalent of a working week, I felt let down, cheated even, and begrudged having invested so much when I could have enjoyed something else.
The book has had some rave reviews so I guess I'm in a minority. Perhaps it was just too literary for me...
"It depends on how you like your crime..."
If you like your crime to be gritty like, say, Simon Kernick, this is probably not for you. If, on the other hand, you're more a Midsomer Murders or Daziel & Pascoe fan, then this could be right up your street. It's a good story and well narrated but the premise is unrealistic and the plot has one or two holes. Having said that, it's an enjoyable listen (as are Elizabeth Corley's other books) and not too demanding. Perfect to chill out with!
"Ruined by the narration"
Some authors, such as Philip Pullman are great readers and add an extra dimension when reading their own work. For others, the reading must be an ego trip as the execution is so poor it ruins a good book. Unfortunately Ms Tartt falls into the second category. The book is written in the first person with the tale told by a 28 year old man, although you'd never guess that from the narration! If you're looking for a page turner, this is not for you. Other reviewers find the plot and the characterisation brilliant. I found it slow and dull. My conclusion is that if you are a 'literary' listener, you may enjoy this but if, like me, you want easy entertainment, you may wish to seek it elsewhere.
"Not Rebus but not bad"
Alex Gray has been billed as writing the Glasgow version of the famous Rebus series. In my view, it's not even close. This is a perfectly good crime thriller, but without the cental police character having the same sort of flaws that define Rebus and shape his investigations. After a slow start, this picks up nicely and is a competent, if not outstanding, novel. However it is lifted by the narration which is outstanding. Joe Dunlop successfully tells the story while creating a web of characters with a range of Scottish accents; male and female, urban and country, young and old. To sum up, an enjoyable but unchallenging listen. You won't regret buying it but neither will it blow your socks off!
"Earns its stripes."
The initial problem with this book is that one has to overcome the expectation that Sharpe will sound like Sean Bean, as he has made the charcter his own after numerous TV outings in the role. However, the book has Sharpe born in London, not Sheffield, and the link to the TV series is soon forgotten as William Gaminara's fantastic narration soon takes hold of the listener's imagination. To start with, this is a great book, with a strong plot, good characterisation, plenty of action and excitement and attention to realistic portrayal of the period. Mr Gaminara's reading brings out a wide variety of characters, and his pace and tone makes the whole 12 hours an undiluted pleasure. It's a good book to read and it's a great book to hear.
"The original vampire story is still the best."
I can remember reading Dracula for the first time when I was fourteen and it really scared me. This audio version also had the capability to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. Greg Wise's narration is excellent, bringing the characters to life and judging the pace to perfection. If you enjoy the Dracula story, this is a terrific version of the classic tale. But be warned - you may not be able to stop listening!
"Could it be true?"
An enjoyable thriller with some red herrings along the way and a neat twist at the end. The parallels to a recent Prime Minister are obvious and have been widely reported. I couldn't help having him and his wife in mind while listening. I thought the narration was excellent and wouldn't agree with a previous reviewer's comment that the disprity in age between the main character, whose account this is, and the narrator is evident. Worthy of four stars but it didn't quite grip me enough to award five. However, it does leave one wondering whether the scenario laid out could really happen...
It's hard to assess this book. I knew it would be well read as I've previously bought a couple of Kate Ellis audiobooks and enjoyed Peter Wickham's narration. By The Mast Divided is clearly well researched with painstaking attention to detail. The problem I found is that the descriptions of activities and the development of the characters are done so thoroughly that it takes most of the pace out of the story. Almost all of part one - just over seven hours of listening - is over and all we've done is get the main characters pressed into naval service and leaving English shores. I feel a bit of a misery criticising the book because the quality of the writing is very good. However, I found myself 'tuning out' for a few minutes, then paying attention again and finding I hadn't missed much! On the basis of this, I much prefer Bernard Cornwell to David Donachie when we're fighting the French and the officer classes!
"Not bad but not his best"
I'm a fan of Frederick Forsyth but, while enjoyable, this is not up to his highest standards. It does give the listener an excellent insight into the astronomic margins produced by illicit drug trafficking and the premise of taking out drug cartels by destroying them economically is a good one. However once the action is up and running, so to speak, the narrative seems to slow and lack pace. The ending suffers from being predictable and unconvincing. But it's an easy listen and the narration is good, without being outstanding. If you like Mr Forsyth you won't be disappointed but you won't be 'wowed' either.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.