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  • Inferno: From The Divine Comedy

  • By: Dante Alighieri, Benedict Flynn (translator)
  • Narrated by: Heathcote Williams
  • Length: 4 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 67
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 55
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 55

"Abandon all hope you who enter here." ( "Lasciate ogne speranza voi ch’intrate.") Dante’s Hell is one of the most remarkable visions in Western literature. An allegory for his and future ages, it is, at the same time, an account of terrifying realism. Passing under a lintel emblazoned with these frightening words, the poet is led down into the depths by Virgil and shown those doomed to suffer eternal torment for vices exhibited and sins committed on earth.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Enjoyable, entertaining and educational

  • By John Horncastle on 06-11-16

Almost a perfect translation

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

Reviewed: 22-09-16

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Dante's Divine Comedy is the keystone of European literature. It was the first important work composed in a modern language, and it is a book that almost every serious writer has read and been influenced by.
If you want to understand poetry, or drama, or novels, or film, or opera - you need to read Dante at some stage (and the younger you first read him, the better).
If all you ever read is till receipts, you can probably get along without him.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Inferno: From The Divine Comedy?

Francesca da Rimini and Ugolino are the two moments everybody remembers. Me too.

What about Heathcote Williams’s performance did you like?

There are some very odd translations of The Divine Comedy into English. Dorothy Sayers writes like nobody ever spoke, while Longfellow manages to be as obscure as he is inaccurate.
Flynn has translated Dante into natural idiomatic English, which leaves the poetry to stand naked. Heathcote Williams delivery is nuanced but not lapel-tugging:- a perfect complement to Flynn's understated excellence.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I'm always tickle by how when Vergil arrives at the gate to Purgatory, he wanders off into a private conversation with Cato (ignoring Dante completely for half the canto).
It's always fun when the characters cut free of the book, but this is one of the most amusing examples of that.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Emperor of All Maladies

  • By: Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • Narrated by: Stephen Hoye
  • Length: 20 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 271
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 218
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 215

A comprehensive history of cancer – one of the greatest enemies of medical progress – and an insight into its effects and potential cures, by a leading expert on the illness. In The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee, doctor, researcher and award-winning science writer, examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with - and perished from - for more than five thousand years.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I had no idea how little I knew about Cancer

  • By Judy Corstjens on 15-09-11

The Tragedy that touches us all

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

Reviewed: 22-09-16

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Every one of us suffers from cancer at some time in our life: if we escape it ourselves, we have a close friend, or a family member, who goes through it.
Dr. Mukherjee explains what it is like to be a cancer specialist in modern medicine, and also takes us through an interesting history of the disease:- particularly its recent prominence and our limited success in dealing with it.
This is information which everyone will need at some stage. I would recommend the book to any friend, but especially those over 40.

What did you like best about this story?

Dr Mukherjee begins with thread of personal anecdote about his own medical specialisation, and what cancer 'means' to his patients.
He then develops an informative history of cancer research, and cancer treatments, but never loses sight of how every cancer is a private battle, and a personal tragedy.
Keeping non-fiction real this way is a rare skill, but a needed one.

What about Stephen Hoye’s performance did you like?

Stephen Hoye manages some very technical points and vocabulary very well (the book avoids specialist language as far as possible, but no further). Hoye's delivery of what is sometimes quite dense text manages to be slow enough to be clear, but brisk enough to stay riveting.
The topic could easily have been dry, and might have been disheartening. An excellent author and a skilled narrator keep the book interesting and surprisingly upbeat.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

This is a topic that needs to be absorbed slowly and thoroughly, and at one's own pace.
I can't imagine it as the basis for a successful ninety minutes entertainment.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Ark Before Noah

  • Decoding the Story of the Flood
  • By: Dr Irving Finkel
  • Narrated by: Dr Irving Finkel
  • Length: 9 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 107
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 98
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 99

In The Ark Before Noah, British Museum expert Dr Irving Finkel reveals how decoding the symbols on a 4,000 year old piece of clay enable a radical new interpretation of the Noah's Ark myth. A world authority on the period, Dr Finkel's enthralling real-life detective story began with a most remarkable event at the British Museum - the arrival one day in 2008 of a single, modest-sized Babylonian cuneiform tablet - the palm-sized clay rectangles on which our ancestors created the first documents.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • What a delightful book!

  • By Sydney on 04-06-14

A real detective story

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

Reviewed: 22-09-16

Would you consider the audio edition of The Ark Before Noah to be better than the print version?

Dr. Finkel narrates his own story. As Assistant Keeper in Cuneiform at the British Museum, he was offered a damaged tablet which turned out to be instructions on how to build the boat most people know as Noah's Ark.
Along the way he weaves into the history some fascinating history of Assyriology as a discipline, the way that deciphering Cuneiform has challenged traditional understanding of the Bible stories, and some interesting stories about how he himself stumbled into being one of the world's foremost Assyriologists.
Having heard this very personal story in Dr. Finkel's own voice, I wouldn't want to go through it in the much colder medium of print on a page.

What other book might you compare The Ark Before Noah to, and why?

The book is a study of the origins of written language which has made me reconsider much of what I thought I knew about reading, ancient civilisations, and history in general.
The other books which have got me thinking about language itself this way would be Douglas Hofstadter's Ton Beau de Marot and Steven Piker's The Language Instinct (two other titles which actually changed the way I read).

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The story of how an undergraduate Irving Finkel accidentally ended up studying Cuneiform is so picaresque that I think I have listened to it at least a half-dozen times.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

What Noah ought to have asked.

  • Night School

  • Wake Up to the Power of Sleep
  • By: Richard Wiseman
  • Narrated by: Peter Noble
  • Length: 8 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 485
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 435
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 429

Almost a third of your whole life is spent asleep. Night School uncovers the scientific truth about the sleeping brain - and gives powerful tips on how those hours of apparently ‘dead’ time in the dark can transform your waking life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Informative with a quirky sense of humour

  • By Laura on 19-05-14

Perfect Companion to Insomnia

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

Reviewed: 21-09-16

Where does Night School rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Night School is difficult to rate among other books: it is a non-fiction work about the development of Sleep Science. Since it is interesting, but not stimulating, it is the perfect book to accompany a sleepless night.
So: Number one in a field of one.

What did you like best about this story?

Sleep Science is relatively new (it began in the 1950's) - and has furnished some surprising insights (babies are born knowing which language they speak, most dreams are 'bad' dreams). The book keeps boredom at bay, but won't particularly keep you awake (you can always backscroll to the interesting bits you missed).

What about Peter Noble’s performance did you like?

Peter Noble has a naturally soothing voice, and his delivery is smooth and clear. Ideal for when I am listlessly awake, ideal for when I am starting to drift.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I am fascinated by the discovery that most dreams are anxiety dreams. The speculation about why this might be so is also interesting.

Any additional comments?

Professor Wiseman's books always manage to be both intriguing, and strangely soothing. A book by Professor Wiseman about sleep is a match made in heaven.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Wetlands

  • By: Charlotte Roche
  • Narrated by: Emilia Fox
  • Length: 6 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 37
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 24
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 24

With her jaunty dissection of the sex life and the private grooming habits of the novel's 18-year-old narrator, Helen Memel, Charlotte Roche has turned the previously unspeakable into the national conversation in Germany.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Not Erotic!

  • By JonR on 24-02-10

One of the great combos

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

Reviewed: 19-12-15

Would you listen to Wetlands again? Why?

I am already on my third time with Wetlands. Charlotte Roche's chaotically promiscuous narrator teeters delightfully between tragic and hilarious - and always finds something to say which is as poignant as it is disturbing.

What other book might you compare Wetlands to, and why?

The only other novel I know like Wetlands is Melissa Panarello's 'One hundred strokes of the brush' (another novel about a teenage girl trying out sex for the first time). Charlotte Roche is funnier, more outrageous, and hugely more believable than '100 strokes'.

Have you listened to any of Emilia Fox’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Emila Fox has one of the great voices for audiobooks (clear, measured, informed). But Ms. Fox also has a vocal presence precisely poised between kittenish and comedic which perfectly fits Charlotte Roche's troubled, friendly, challenging narrator.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

There is too much going on in this novel to listen to more than an hour or two at a single sitting. The novel demands repeated listening, but in relatively small bursts. In many ways it is more like poetry than a 'story'.

Any additional comments?

The novel won't be for everybody. There is a lot of sex (some of it rather sad, though none of it is deliberately nasty). There is a lot of physicality, and rather more fluids than many readers will find easy to stomach. 'Wetlands' isn't pornographic - if anything, it is anti-pornographic; but if pornography upsets you, you will make heavy weather of this novel.

  • The Ascent of Money

  • By: Niall Ferguson
  • Narrated by: Hugh Ross
  • Length: 12 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 334
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 244
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 239

Bread, cash, dosh, dough, loot: Call it what you like, it matters. To Christians, love of it is the root of all evil. To generals, it's the sinews of war. To revolutionaries, it's the chains of labour. But in The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson shows that finance is in fact the foundation of human progress. What's more, he reveals financial history as the essential back-story behind all history.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Structure and origins of the financial world

  • By Judy Corstjens on 10-04-15

Everybody needs one like this

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

Reviewed: 17-02-15

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Economic impacts all of us; but few of us study it at school (and even if we do, we probably never learn the important stuff). Understanding Economics is nearly as important as understanding statistics, or probability - and probably even rarer than either of those.

What did you like best about this story?

I was lucky to pick up a basic understanding of bank credit, government securities (bonds), and company stock (shares) while I was at college (though I did an English degree). I was still pretty confused about most sorts of derivatives, and hedging - and I'd hardly suspected how central insurance products now are in commercial markets. Niall Ferguson reminded me of most of the stuff I had forgotten, and introduced me to a plethora of crucial and fascinating new information.

What does Hugh Ross bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Ferguson's book is a surprisingly comprehensive introduction to the central ideas of contemporary financial systems (including some interesting ideas on the relative merits of investing in financial products as against devoting as much of your liquidity as possible to buying your house). Hugh Ross was faced with delivering a fairly challenging text (albeit a well-written one) in a casual and engaging manner. The performer of this book needed to be an engaged non-specialist: Hugh Ross managed this creditably.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Everybody that owns a house and has money in the bank will have a strong reaction to some of the ideas launched here. Most of what I heard, I found reassuring. Some of what I heard, worried me a great deal.

Any additional comments?

I bought this at the same time as the audiobook of J K Galbraith's Affluent Society , and listened to them back to back. Together the books are as much fun as The Casual Vacancy, and as disturbing as Carrie.

  • The Magic Army

  • By: Leslie Thomas
  • Narrated by: Martyn Read
  • Length: 21 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 22
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 10

The war, they said, would be over by Christmas. That was in 1939, and it is now January 1944. An exhausted Britain faces another year of conflict. Meanwhile, small coastal villages in Devon are facing an invasion from an army just as foreign as that of the Germans. The Americans are smart, well-fed and well-equipped, and they have swept the bewildered citizens of South Devon from their homes in deadly earnest rehearsal for D-Day.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • old style writing at its best

  • By michael l williams on 07-05-15

Puts you in the picture

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

Reviewed: 12-12-14

Where does The Magic Army rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

The Magic Army is part of Leslie Thomas' effective trilogy about the way that World War II transformed even civilian society in Britain. I first read this book (together with Dearest and the Best, and Dover Beach) nearly thirty years ago. Now, I can see even more of how Leslie Thomas showed what a watershed our first contact with the US (through the arrival of GI's in the run-up to D Day) became.

What did you like best about this story?

The story centres on the US Army displacement of villagers in Devon, as the military set up training camps for Operation Neptune. A war novel centring on the US invasion of a part of Britain shows many unexpected aspects of how the war experience changed even home life.

What does Martyn Read bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

The novel must be a nightmare to read. The British characters are nearly all West Country folk, but the Americans hail from Philadelphia, New York, Connecticut. Martyn Read keeps the drama seething, and the humour bright - and gets near enough with most of the accents.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

When the American Army invaded Devon.

Any additional comments?

The section about the US general's first encounter with Yorkshire Pudding, and Brussels Sprouts, is some of the finest comic writing of the later twentieth century.

  • Paradise Lost

  • By: John Milton
  • Narrated by: Anton Lesser
  • Length: 10 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 199
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 161
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 159

In words remarkable for their richness of rhythm and imagery, Milton tells the story of man's creation, fall, and redemption, "to justify the ways of God to men". Here, unabridged, and told with exceptional sensitivity and power by Anton Lesser, is the plight of Adam and Eve, the ambition and vengefulness of Satan and his cohorts.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Sonorous metal

  • By Francis on 06-12-07

Lesser Oratorio

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

Reviewed: 25-07-14

If you could sum up Paradise Lost in three words, what would they be?

Seminal, opinionated, blind.

Would you be willing to try another book from John Milton? Why or why not?

Milton is very much the key to the Puritan Commonwealth, and a huge influence on most later English writing down to about the 1920's. If you want to understand the Puritan regime, you probably need to read lots of Milton. If you only want to know what happened next (after Shakespeare) Paradise Lost on its own is probably enough (especially in this version).

Which character – as performed by Anton Lesser – was your favourite?

One of the strengths of Lesser's performance is that he allows the blur between (say) Satan and Moloch to come through, without entirely obliterating the difference between their characters. Milton's characters are not strongly differentiated (the way that Shakespeare's and Marlowe's are) - this is a Borg world. Lesser is nearly unique among readers in showing this without letting it become a weakness.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

You can't film Paradise Lost. Milton was blind by the time he wrote it. It is an invisible poem- that is half the point.

Any additional comments?

The Puritans shut the theatres for a generation, but Milton's early work Comus is a play without the costumes, the scenery, or most of the characterisation. Paradise Lost is best thought of as an Oratorio: a drama, but with most of the action removed, and a heavy dollop of moralising to make up for that. Lesser has the dramatic skills of an actor, but also the penetration of a philosopher. You need both for this hybrid work. Anton Lesser's reading is by far the most coherent of the many available.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful