LISTENER

Mr SA Lambe

  • 26
  • reviews
  • 65
  • helpful votes
  • 180
  • ratings
  • Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

  • A Sortabiography
  • By: Eric Idle
  • Narrated by: Eric Idle
  • Length: 8 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 268
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 249
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 249

We know him best for his unforgettable roles on Monty Python - from the Flying Circus to The Meaning of Life. Now, Eric Idle reflects on the meaning of his own life in this entertaining memoir that takes us on a remarkable journey from his childhood in an austere boarding school through his successful career in comedy, television, theatre and film.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Pop Idle!

  • By Simon on 02-10-18

Fine as far as it goes

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

Reviewed: 08-02-19

I loved John Cleese's autobiography, which was a joy, and have also enjoyed Michael Palin's diaries, so I was desperate to like this. And I kind of did, but...

It's a fairly pacey sprint through Eric's life that focuses on two major events - the song 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' and Spamalot. There's a fair amount about Python here, but not quite enough, and the book does feel like a list of famous names. I guess that's fair enough - he was close friends with George Harrison and Robin Williams, for instance - but it really does come across as a bit smug at times.

However, it's also very honest. Eric admits his personal flaws ( he liked to shagalot, back in the day), but overall there's very little of the vivid time and place that emerge from John or Michael's writing. Nonetheless, it's still good fun , superbly read (as you'd expect from the most verbose Python) quite moving and the bit about the Olympics closing ceremony is splendid. Recommended, with reservations.

  • Our Man in Havana

  • By: Graham Greene
  • Narrated by: Jeremy Northam
  • Length: 7 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 817
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 712
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 708

In a legendary novel that appears to predict the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Graham Greene introduces James Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman whose life in transformed when he is asked to join the British Secret Service. He agrees, and finds himself with no information to offer, so begins to invent sources and agencies which do not exist, but which appear very real to his superiors.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Shame about the music

  • By DD Kaplan on 27-07-10

The music is terrible but the rest magnificent

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

Reviewed: 29-07-18

It's a great book and brilliantly read by Jeremy Northam. The music is a disaster, to be honest, and desperately needs a re-edit (that won't happen) to get rid of it. BUT those that have marked the book down massively as a result are doing it a serious disservice. Marking it down a star overall is probably a balanced perspective. Listen to it, but bear in mind there's some appalling, unnecessary, music to get through.

  • Long Road from Jarrow

  • A journey through Britain then and now
  • By: Stuart Maconie
  • Narrated by: Stuart Maconie
  • Length: 12 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 131
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 123
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 123

In the autumn of 1936, some 200 men from the Tyneside town of Jarrow marched 300 miles to London in protest against the destruction of their towns and industries. Precisely 80 years on, Stuart Maconie walks from north to south, retracing the route of the emblematic Jarrow Crusade. Following history's footsteps, Maconie is in search of what modern Britain is really like today.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fabulous, edgy recreation of the Jarrow March

  • By Mr SA Lambe on 27-08-17

Fabulous, edgy recreation of the Jarrow March

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

Reviewed: 27-08-17

Initially, this must have been a simple idea - recreate the Jarrow March 80 years - to the day - after it took place in October 1936, and compare how the walkers fared to what he discovers on his own journey. Typical Maconie, you might think. However, Brexit and Trump hang so heavily over this excellent, thoughtful book, that it becomes - as well as an excellent potted account of the 1936 walk - an analysis of where England finds itself in 2016-17. As you might expect, he is no fan of Trump, May or indeed Brexit itself, nor is he a fan of Corbyn - accusing him, with some justification, of ignoring Labour's traditional working class voters, so typified by the Marchers themselves. Along the way he eulogizes about Leeds has little good to say about Market Harborough, but is charmed by the drinkers in an Italian bar in Bedford, and has other memorable encounters with multi-cultural England, most of them positive.

As you might expect, this is an entertaining book, beautifully read by the author (although be warned that there is some rather jarring editing that almost made me take a star off the performance - but I though to do so would be churlish and insulting to the author). I suspect the strong political slant may grate with one or two listeners, yet as always his points are well made and winningly argued.

Overall,Long Road From Jarrow is funny, educational and actually rather moving. Highly recommended.

PS. Any book that slips in a mention of Yes guitarist Steve Howe is fine by me.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Selfie

  • How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It's Doing to Us
  • By: Will Storr
  • Narrated by: Jack Hawkins
  • Length: 11 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 156
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 149
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 148

We live in the age of the individual. We are supposed to be slim, prosperous, happy, extroverted and popular. This is our culture's image of the perfect self. We see this person everywhere: in advertising, in the press, all over social media. We're told that to be this person, you just have to follow your dreams, that our potential is limitless, that we are the source of our own success. But this model of the perfect self can be extremely dangerous. People are suffering under the torture of this impossible fantasy.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Brilliant

  • By Mr SA Lambe on 17-08-17

Brilliant

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

Reviewed: 17-08-17

This is one of the best audiobooks I have listened to - and I've listened to a lot! A fantastic combination of sociology, psychology and history - with a bit of politics and economics thrown in. This is the first time I've listened to a book and found it resonating with me, personally ("but that's ME") in places.

A few bonuses - his concise dissections of the financial crisis and the Brexit / Trump phenomenons are pithy and eminently quotable. Also Jack Hawkins reading - and his novel interview with Storr right at the end - are both fabulous.

Oh, and my score was 7 out of 40. Listen to the book, and you'll know what I mean.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Why Vote Leave

  • By: Daniel Hannan
  • Narrated by: Daniel Hannan
  • Length: 4 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 166
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 150
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 146

MEP and award-winning political writer Daniel Hannan argues for a British exit ahead of the coming referendum. Hannan demonstrates that the EU is past its sell-by date, rendered obsolete by technological advances, shrinking economically and less relevant to our economic needs than ever. Worse than that, he shows that the EU can’t reform, can’t be democratic and can’t be divorced from its goal of ever-closer political union.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent

  • By aa on 23-10-16

Useful perspective if taken with a pinch of salt

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

Reviewed: 27-06-17

As a left-leaning remainer, but with an interest in other perspectives, I've been reading anti-EU pieces from a number of sources with a view to better understanding the issues - albeit a year too late. Given his conservative credentials, I was apprehensive of listening to this book, but in fact this is a clear, concise and largely factual analysis of the institutional flaws of the EU, largely focusing on issues regarding sovereignty and economics.

First of all, it's good to read a piece that takes a reasonable, analytical approach without resulting to the appalling anti-immigration rhetoric that dominated the debate in 2016. He does stick with the £350 million per week line, but explains why. His analysis of the flaws of the EU is excellent. You may agree with it's path towards federalism, but as Hannan explains, it doesn't really fit in either with our character or the way our political or legal systems have developed over the last 1000 years. He also focuses on the failure of the Euro - a criticism that has come both from the right - as here - and also the left, and the lack of the EUs democratic accountability.

I have often felt uncomfortable about the irrational - almost hippyish - romanticism that has accompanied some remain arguments. I feel that myself. I want us all to get along together and I distrust a backwards step. I understand now, why others feel differently. But this is not an unbiased piece, as the title tells us, and in the final chapters we get his vision of Britain after Brexit - a free trade, unregulated utopia, with lower prices due to the lack of regulation from Brussels and the ability to trade freely around the world. While he is probably right that the EU over-regulates, his call for almost none is troubling, with the dismantling of regulation in the City of London - surely part of the cause of the 2008 crisis - particularly scary. Surely a more balanced approach is needed.

So - listen to this book by all means, and take heart that the consequences of Brexit are not the potential disaster they might be, but remember what perspective they come from. Hannan reveals his true colours at the end of the book. I do not believe this bok is propaganda - as some of the one start Amazon reviews have suggested - but take his views with a pinch of salt.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Dead Zone

  • By: Stephen King
  • Narrated by: James Franco
  • Length: 16 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,308
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,215
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,215

Meet Johnny Smith. A young man whose streak of luck ends dramatically in a major car crash. Followed by blackness. A long, long time in cold limbo. When he wakes up, life has been turned upside down. His fiancée has met someone else. And Johnny is cursed with the power to perceive evil in men's souls. He's had these hunches since he had an ice-skating accident as a child. Now he has an ability to see into the future. An ability which will bring him into a terrifying confrontation with a charismatic, power-hungry and dangerous man....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The Bright Light of a Master Story-Teller!

  • By Simon on 28-04-17

Superb,understated reading of one of King's best

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

Reviewed: 07-05-17

In the era of Trump, this great novel is still chillingly relevant. As usual, King luxuriates in his world - Maine and New Hampshire - and so don't expect a lightening pace, just superb atmosphere created by a masterful way with tension and detail. As for James Franco's performance, it's brilliant. His reading is very different in style to the expressive, accent-filled readings that British actors often give, yet it works. I first read this book while staying in a B & B in Portsmouth, New Hampshire during winter, and my close proximity to the action of the novel left a huge impression on me. Franco's melancholic performance brought it all back. Superb.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection

  • By: Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen Fry - introductions
  • Narrated by: Stephen Fry
  • Length: 71 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 6,412
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 6,006
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 5,981

Ever since he made his first appearance in A Study In Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes has enthralled and delighted millions of fans throughout the world. Now Audible is proud to present Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection, read by Stephen Fry. A lifelong fan of Doyle's detective fiction, Fry has narrated the complete works of Sherlock Holmes - four novels and five collections of short stories.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Brilliant audio book, shame about the navigation.

  • By Mr. P. J. Marsh on 10-03-17

An essential purchase - but with minor flaws

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

Reviewed: 15-04-17

First of all, 71 hours of high quality audio for one credit is a must-purchase, even if you only "dip in" once in a while.

Let's tackle the navigation to begin with. It's a good as it can be, I think, given the massive length of what is to be downloaded. I heartily recommend downloading in version 4, which splits the files into 6 parts and makes navigation a lot easier with a bit of patience. The slight loss in sound quality is easily adapted to.

The stories themselves are what they are. "Case Book" and "His Last Bow" are a little weaker, but I'm not marking them down for that! Although I am a big fan of Stephen Fry (even though I've never listened to the Harry Potter Books) I have two minor issues with him here. His readings are a little "ripe" for me. This is a marginal thing, and even though I prefer his reading to those of Simon Vance, I'd still rather listen to Derek Jacobi. He's still excellent, though. The other issue is his introductions, which although they are, again, fine I found myself slightly disappointed that they did not go into more detail. I'd have welcomed a really comprehensive assessment of the Holmes canon, and we don't really get that. Perhaps there a book in you about that, Mr Fry?

That said, I'll be dipping in for years to come, I expect, and if these versions are not quite definitive, they are still jolly fine indeed.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The End of the Day

  • By: Claire North
  • Narrated by: Peter Kenny
  • Length: 12 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 125
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 118
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 118

Charlie meets everyone - but only once. You might meet him in a hospital, in a war zone, or at the scene of traffic accident. Then again, you might meet him at the North Pole - Charlie gets everywhere. Sometimes he is sent as a courtesy, sometimes as a warning. Either way, this is going to be the most important meeting of your life. The End of the Day is the stunning new story from Richard and Judy Book Club author Claire North: the voice behind the word-of-mouth best-seller The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Such a disappointment

  • By Eugene Oconnell on 14-04-17

Another excellent high-concept modern fantasy

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

Reviewed: 12-04-17

I finished this one today, and while it would be more logical to wait until I've absorbed this book a bit over the next few days, I feel the need to get something down.

First of all - the familiar. This is another high-concept fantasy set squarely in the modern world. As usual, the globe is suitably trotted. Our hero visits (among other places) Greenland, Belarus, the USA, Nigeria and London. And he is a bit of a hero, as well. He's Charlie, the Harbinger of Death, originally from Birmingham and working for an office in Milton Keynes and.... he goes before. If that concept sounds a bit Terry Pratchett, it is, but that's pretty much where the comparison ends.

Some of the satirical elements evident particularly in the Sudden Appearance of Hope are here too - the book is very funny in places and horrifying in others. The main torture scene towards the end of the book is so sustained and well drawn that it's quite shocking. Elsewhere, however, the usual thriller elements are largely absent, replaced by an episodic but fascinatingly melancholic meditation on (it seems to me): Mortality, humanity, and the human spirit. It's also a book that could only have written during this turbulent last year. Brexit is mentioned and while Trump isn't, the system that elected him is. The death of reason is an important theme, particularly within the context of the irrational destruction of the earth in the name of big business.

Much is left unsaid and unexplained in the book, and I'm still dissecting what it all means, so for now I'm giving it a "cautious" four stars, since the ride is, as always, magnificent, even if the end result might not be quite as profound as Claire / Catherine wants it to be. But then again it might be. Five starts go to the great Peter Kenny, who delivers what must be the performance of his career. The man is a virtuoso, plain and simple.

Claire has yet to come up with another "concept" as clever and mind-bending as that in he First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, but this new book is definitely a more mature and confident piece of writing.

So, er, anyway, I liked it. I'm just not quite sure how much yet.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain's Political Class

  • By: Tim Shipman
  • Narrated by: Rupert Farley
  • Length: 32 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 349
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 323
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 323

Based on unrivalled access to all the key politicians and their advisors - including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, George Osborne, Nigel Farage and Dominic Cummings, the mastermind of Vote Leave - Shipman has written a political history that reads like a thriller and offers a gripping day-by-day account of what really happened behind the scenes in Downing Street, both Leave campaigns, the Labour Party, Ukip and Britain Stronger in Europe.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Magnificent blow by blow account

  • By Mr SA Lambe on 02-03-17

Magnificent blow by blow account

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

Reviewed: 02-03-17

This remarkable - and very long - book reads like distant history, It is hard to believe that (at time of writing) the referendum was only 8 months ago, but this superb account manages to humanize most of the key participants - particularly Cameron, Osborne, Gove and Johnson, while bringing to the fore many of the support players, particularly Dominic Cummings. Johnson comes across as a pretty sympathetic figure, Nigel Farage, on the other hand, doesn't.

Tim Shipman's book manages impartiality by only expressing opinions through the mouths of the participants he interviews. Sometimes these are named - like Farage or Arron Banks - more often they are " a source close to Gove" (for example). He only expresses opinions himself to drill down into situations where accounts differ - amazing considering he was writing just weeks after these events took place.

There does seem to be a little bias - though it is buried deep, and may simply be down to contrasting natures of the two campaigns. The characters in both main Leave campaigns, for instance, come across as much more colourful than those in the worthy but duller Remain camp, but that may just be because they probably were. The otherwise-admirable multitude of options that pervade the book seem to go missing when considering the somewhat lackluster Labour Campaign and Corbyn's remarkable effect at galvanizing new party members is dismissed, suggesting (without comment) that they are mainly leftist nutters.

So, if you want a quick and/or biased (one way or the other) account, then look elsewhere. If you want a riveting, beautifully written (and read) day by day historical account of what happened to who and when, then you will enjoy this. Shipman does examine the reasons that Leave won - and offers plenty of often contradictory opinions from his sources - but never reaches a definitive conclusion. After all, he'd have to interview tens of millions of people to do that, and that's probably a bit much, even for him!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • The Human Factor

  • By: Graham Greene
  • Narrated by: Tim Pigott-Smith
  • Length: 9 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 164
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 129
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 129

When a leak is traced back to a small sub-section of SIS, it sparks off security checks, tensions and suspicions - the sort of atmosphere where mistakes could be made. This novel opens up the lonely, isolated, neurotic world of the Secret Service.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Superb Narration

  • By Peter on 02-05-13

Brilliant novel, superbly read

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

Reviewed: 17-11-16

I haven't read enough Graham Greene, but this spy novel - of course it's not about spying, it's about the damage and futility it can cause - is quite magnificent. Don't expect James Bond or even Le Carre - the actual spying is almost incidental, here. It's about sorrow, paranoia and loneliness. Also, the Owl scene is one of the funniest I've listened too in an otherwise mannered, dramatic book. Tim Pigott-Smith is great, even if his characterizations do sail a little close to impersonation sometimes.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful