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Isolde

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Extraordinary book, belittling narration

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-07-18

This is a wonderful and important book, as relevant as ever. Le Guin makes no attempt to disguise the social and political messages of this story, nor its clear parallels to our world. It is a brilliant use of multiple view points.
The narrator really interrupts this brilliance by using silly voices and accents. Very distracting, unnecessary, and detracts from the impact of this seminal work of contemporary literature. Audible Frontiers needs to improve its production values, and prevent narrators from making bad choices that detract from the reading experiences.

4 people found this helpful

Extraordinary book, annoying narration

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-04-18

I have found John Sessions’ narration a major impediment to enjoying the Enderby books. In this installment, the narration improves somewhat towards the end, but in general, he charicatures the characters and sneers through every poem he reads. This is such a contrast to the way that Burgess narrated “A Clockwork Orange”. I feel that if the producers of the Enderby books had listened to the author read his own work, they might have made a better choice for narrator. It’s a real shame, because the Enderby books are hidden gems.

1 person found this helpful

Offence of narration

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-12-16

This great book by an Irish author was once again destroyed by an ignorant English narrator putting on cartoon accents that made it all but unlistenable. Aside from having one Irish character sound like Bosco and another like Bob Geldof, her overall reading is melodramatic and careless, often getting the names of characters wrong. This recording should not have passed any quality control for a publisher

15 people found this helpful

The Oedipus Plays cover art

Poor translation

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 15-07-16

This translation is very peculiar, combining modern idioms with formalised speech. It really doesn't work. The performers do an okay job with a very poor script, though the chorus doesn't have a unified in flexion. Disappointing overall

1 person found this helpful

Linguistic imperialism

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 22-05-16

This is an astonishing book in every respect. The story is gripping, the characters multifaceted, the language glorious. How bitterly ironic that the theme of suppression of the Irish by English authorities is mirrored by the producers choice of an English actor to mangle the Irish language that is part of the narrative of this book. This recording cannot be said to be unabridged: The portion of the printed text that appears in the Irish language, whether written in English or Irish spellings, is absent. That is nothing short of a betrayal of the author and the readers

10 people found this helpful

A true classic

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 22-12-13

Gaskell should be as well-known and loved as Austen, Elliott and Dickens, and our understanding of 19th century literature and its relationship to society is incomplete without her. Her observation, subtlety, craft and humour make all her works thoroughly engaging and enjoyable, and North and South is perhaps her masterpiece.
While the novel is often viewed as a picture of class struggle and the tension between tradition and progress in Victorian England, I believe both of these approaches to be simplistic. Throughout this expansive work, she asks the question, "When is it right to resist authority?" Those authorities which she challenges include the Church, the government, the army, class expectations, trades union and gender roles. Her answers are never simplistic, and the consequences of resistance are never easy.
The novel has also been criticised for its seemingly abrupt ending, where it has been said that it is all "resolved over tea". Understanding that the novel was written in serial form for Dickens' "Household Words" journal, and that he sprang the need for a conclusion on her at short notice goes some way to answering this criticism. But I think she brilliantly encapsulates the themes of business, economic life and the balance of power between men and women. Decide for yourself!
Juliet Stevenson seems to be the ideal narrator for 19th century novels, and this performance demonstrates why. She is animated without resorting to caricature, and her accents never seem forced or out of place.
One final health warning: this novel contains unreflective anti-Irish racism! It mirrors an attitude I have heard creditted to Engels before: an anger at the Irish workers brought over to break strikes in the mid-19th century. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that these Irish workers were fleeing a devastating famine brought about by English Imperialism. So be warned, and try not to let this deeply ingrained attitude spoil an otherwise brilliant novel!

More extraordinary insight from George Eliot

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-11-13

Every George Eliot book is a joy and a revelation, and Silas Marner is no exception. It seems like a deliberate reversal of classic motifs - the Prodigal Son, the Lost Princess, the Wicked Hunchback. She deals with her recurring themes of gender and disability / difference with astounding subtlety and complexity. Her radical ideas about the role of religion in society and the upbringing of children are straightforwardly described, yet natural and believable in how they affect the lives of her characters.
Sachs does a good job in the narration, although some of the more peripheral characters can become caricatured, which can belie the integrity of every actor in Eliot's human dramas.
And her description is simply sublime! I particularly like this vignette from Chapter 16:
"The sharp bark was the sign of an excited welcome that was awaiting them from a knowing brown terrier; who, after dancing at their legs in a hysterical manner, rushed with a worrying noise at a tortoiseshell kitten under the loom, and then rushed back with a sharp bark again, as much as to say, 'I have done my duty by this feeble creature you perceive'; while the lady mother of the kitten sat sunning her white bosom in the window, and looked around with a sleepy air of expecting caresses, though she was not going to take any trouble for them."
The observations and loving humour that underlie such passages are, to my mind, part of what makes Eliot a writer for all time.

8 people found this helpful

Insight into the apartheid of disability

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-06-13

I am surprised to learn that Jonathen Trigell does not identify as a disabled artist. As an artist with disabilities myself, I thought surely here was a perspective I could recognise. And surely only a fellow member of the genetic underclass could have created such full characters. Holman, a visual artist who sees the beauty in a fettid world, partly by virtue of his own deformity, having the kind of disability distinguished by meeting disgust in the reactions of others combined with the constant invisible torture of pain. Crick, whose narrative propensities are bottle-necked into literary art by the loss of his sight. Surely, I thought, this is a work of disability arts? How delighted I am to be wrong!
This is a real work of art and craftsmanship. We are treated to prose-poems on the unlikeliest of subjects, and a rich density of plot. As an example of this genius, there is one character in the book whom we only meet briefly in the last few chapters. But his name tells an entire story - "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair".
And this is a work of incisive social relevance. Like all good works of speculative fiction, it holds a magnifying mirror up to our present society. So accurate is this mirror that Trigell has given a savage account of the recent London riots, which was written before the riots even took place. The over-arching tension between ideologies of science and religion are integral to the story as a whole, not just background-painting.
And a host of diverse and seemingly disparate characters are masterfully woven into a plot that insistently moves forward, even beyond the end of the narrative itself. If you love brilliant language employed for masterful storytelling, this book will be a delicious treat for you.

A Sharp Divide

Overall
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 31-01-13

I was both curious and dubious about this book after reading the reviews. I do like Margaret Atwood, and had read and loved Oryx and Crake. But the negative reviews meant I didn't buy it immediately.

Part of what changed my mind was the striking division in customer reviews: female readers loved it, male readers hated it. So I thought I'd find out for myself...

The production decision to arrange and perform the hymns was COMPLETELY wrong - bad idea, bad arrangements, bad performances! Fortunately, my audio-book reader meant I could listen to them at x2 speed, with the added bonus of making them sound like they were underwater!

Aside from that, I loved the book and the reading. Atwood has always been great at problematising the relationships between religion, science and society, and this could be the real triumph of the book.

As for the characters, I found them believable, engaging and sympathetic. Perhaps (this is just a suggestion!) some male readers can't relate to the experience of most of the earth's women as sexual commodities.

I wondered whether it made a difference as to whether one had read Oryx and Crake, as this book is something akin to a sequel. It also works to balance out the masculine perspective of the earlier work. I'd be interested to read a "positive" review from someone who hasn't read Oryx and Crake - if there's any out there?!

Be forewarned about the awful hymns! They would be readable as straightforward text, but are unbearable as "sincere" performed works. Fortunately, they only come at the ends of chapters, so you can just skip forward to the next chapter if your tech has that capability. Otherwise, grit your teeth and set your ears to "satire" - there actually aren't as many of them as there seems!

14 people found this helpful

An Indisputable Classic

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 27-12-12

I recently heard a culture critic claiming that Middlemarch is "irrelevant". He may as well have said that about Shakespeare. No matter how much we might want to think otherwise, certain works of literature never lose their relevance, and continue to speak to all human experience.

Whether it is the story of Dorothea Brook falling in love with the first intellectual man she ever meets, Fred Vincy blaming the world for his own poor judgement, Nicholas Bullstrode using his piety as an excuse for his selfish concerns, or the heart-breaking self-sacrifice of the reverend Fairbrother, each character and their journey through the narrative of this immense work is a complete, recognisable human being. Their choices are often poor, but no different to the choices you or I might make in the same circumstance. Elliot masterfully (mistressfully?) plunges into themes of party politics, class, religion, money, science, art and technology with intelligence and empathy. And the stories will simply leave you breathless.

Juliet Stevenson is a delight to listen to, and I suspect is a great lover of the book herself. This audiobook is an investment that will pay you dividends over a life-time, and perhaps for your children and grandchildren. My grandmother called this the greatest work in the English language, and I can't help but agree.