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  • It Can't Happen Here

  • By: Sinclair Lewis
  • Narrated by: Grover Gardner
  • Length: 14 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 80
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 69
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 70

Doremus Jessup, a newspaper editor, is dismayed to find that many of the people he knows support presidential candidate Berzelius Windrip. The suspiciously fascist Windrip is offering to save the nation from sex, crime, welfare cheats, and a liberal press. But after Windrip wins the election, dissent soon becomes dangerous for Jessup. Windrip forcibly gains control of Congress and the Supreme Court and, with the aid of his personal paramilitary storm troopers, turns the United States into a totalitarian state.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A story for our times

  • By Patrick on 20-07-16

A forgotten gem rediscovered

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

Reviewed: 17-11-17

Sinclair Lewis has long been a "name" to me but I have never actually read him. Interest in this book seems to have been rekindled by recent events in America and it is indeed a salutary reminder of the fragility of democracy. I like to imagine that the checks and balances built into the American political system would preclude such events as Lewis describes, but in an age of "false news" and digital chicanery who knows?

The ironical tone of the book is well captured by Grover Gardner's excellent reading.

Highly recommended.

  • Britain's War

  • Volume 1, Into Battle, 1937-1941
  • By: Daniel Todman
  • Narrated by: Ric Jerrom
  • Length: 35 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 48
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 43
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 43

The most terrible emergency in Britain's history, the Second World War, required an unprecedented national effort. An exhausted country had to fight an unexpectedly long war and found itself much diminished amongst the victors. The outcome of the war was nonetheless a triumph, not least for a political system that proved well adapted to the demands of a total conflict and for a population who had to make many sacrifices but who were spared most of the horrors experienced in the rest of Europe.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Realistic

  • By Mr S.M.R.Plocki on 29-03-17

Ric Jerrom not at his best

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

Reviewed: 17-11-17

Having listened to Ric Jerrom's masterly reading of the Patrick O'Brian Aubrey/Maturin series, and as someone who remembers the tail end of WW2 (I was born in 1938) this audiobook seemed the perfect choice.

It is, indeed, an excellent history of everyday life and social attitudes in Britain during the war. Ric Jerrom is very good on accents and the extracts from Mass Observation reports are convincing but I was a little disappointed in the general style of his reading with emphasis too often in the wrong places and a slightly pejorative interpretation of some individuals that could not be justified by the text. Perhaps I was just expecting too much from this marvellous narrator.

Todman is right to question the almost universal approbation that surrounds Winston Churchill as a war leader and also to emphasise that Chamberlain was not quite the ninny many historians would have us believe.

A nice long listen for those interested in the period.

  • The Yellow Admiral

  • The Aubrey/Maturin Series, Book 18
  • By: Patrick O'Brian
  • Narrated by: Ric Jerrom
  • Length: 11 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 157
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 144
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 146

Life ashore may once again be the undoing of Jack Aubrey in The Yellow Admiral, Patrick O'Brian's best-selling novel and eighteenth volume in the Aubrey/Maturin series. Aubrey, now a considerable though impoverished landowner, has dimmed his prospects at the admiralty by his erratic voting as a member of Parliament; he is feuding with his neighbor, a man with strong navy connections who wants to enclose the common land between their estates.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • At last

  • By Mark on 16-06-15

A Little Disappointing

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

Reviewed: 29-10-17

One gets the feeling that in this, his eighteenth book in the Aubrey Maturin series, O’Brian, was beginning to run out of steam. Nevertheless it is still an extraordinary achievement for an 82-year-old author. O’Brian’s research is as immaculate as ever, his writing just as polished and his wit just as dry. The book is mainly land-based and features a set piece prize fight between Barret Bonden and a local gamekeeper - which is somehow reminiscent of the great hunt scene in Tolstoy’s War and Peace - and a serious quarrel between Aubrey and his wife Sophie. The subject of the highly contentious enclosure movement is also an important element in the story.

Anyone who gets this far in the canon will have become addicted to the Aubrey Maturin series and will certainly enjoy the book but so far it is perhaps the closest O’Brian gets to being dull.

As always, Ric Jerrom’s narration is superb.

  • A Legacy of Spies

  • By: John le Carré
  • Narrated by: Tom Hollander
  • Length: 8 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,158
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,056
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,045

Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, is living out his old age on the family farmstead in Brittany when a letter summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself are to be scrutinised under disturbing criteria by a generation with no memory of the Cold War.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • New life into a favourite series

  • By nicole on 10-09-17

Would still have preferred Michael Jayston

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

Reviewed: 02-10-17

And so we say goodbye to George Smiley, the greatest of fictional spymasters. His final bow, like his whole personality, is undramatic: in the end, like all good soldiers, he simply fades away.

A Legacy of Spies is clearly intended to round off neatly the whole Smiley canon. The plot is less labyrinthine than in many of le Carré’s novels but the author takes the opportunity to contrast the dusty anonymity of the antiquated old Cambridge Circus premises with the brash ‘in your face’ brutality of ‘Spyland beside the Thames’ as metaphors for the old world of George Smiley with its arcane jargon and the new, shiny, digital spy world of ‘Bunny’ and the appalling Laura. He also takes the opportunity, through Smiley, to question whether so much that was done in the secret world during the cold war actually achieved anything at all. There is, of course, no mention of Brexit but Smiley also states that everything he did was not exclusively for England but in the hope of “leading Europe out of her darkness and into a new age of reason.”

Le Carré’s ear is as accurate as ever but much of the narrative is in the form of reports and memos (which Guillam is obliged by his interrogators to re-read) which, for me, did not quite work – at least in audiobook format. Brilliant though Tom Hollander’s narration is I would still have preferred Michael Jayston, who has read so many le Carré titles, if only for continuity. I know that Jayston is now in his eighties but this would have been entirely appropriate as in A Legacy of Spies Peter Guillam - whom Jayston played in the iconic BBC production of Tinker, Tailor - is now elderly and long-retired.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • The Letter of Marque

  • Aubrey-Maturin Series, Book 12
  • By: Patrick O'Brian
  • Narrated by: Ric Jerrom
  • Length: 11 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 224
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 209
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 209

Captain Jack Aubrey, a brilliant and experienced officer, has been struck off the list of post-captains for a crime he did not commit. His old friend Stephen Maturin, usually cast as a ship's surgeon to mask his discreet activities on behalf of British intelligence, has bought for Aubrey his former ship the Surprise to command as a privateer, more politely termed a letter of marque. Together they sail on a desperate mission against the French, which, if successful, may redeem Aubrey from the private hell of his disgrace.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fine story, masterly narration

  • By Trevor on 07-05-17

Fine story, masterly narration

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

Reviewed: 07-05-17

Another great yarn from Patrick O'Brian. The books become more and more enjoyable as one gets to know the characters, something that is made much easier by Ric Jerrom's wonderful narration.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Kind of Blue

  • A Political Memoir
  • By: Ken Clarke
  • Narrated by: Ken Clarke
  • Length: 23 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 242
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 229
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 222

Ken Clarke needs no introduction. One of the genuine 'Big Beasts' of the political scene, during his 46 years as the Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire he has been at the very heart of government under three prime ministers. He is a political obsessive with a personal hinterland, as well known as a Tory Wet with Europhile views as for his love of cricket, Nottingham Forest Football Club and jazz.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Good company

  • By David laird on 17-09-17

Autobiography of an amiable man

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

Reviewed: 24-02-17


Or, more properly as the title has it, a "political memoir".

One problem with autobiography when presented as an audiobook is that, despite leading interesting lives, many autobiographers are not good readers. Conversely when an individual's voice is well known it seems wrong to hear his or her memoir being read by an actor. Fortunately, as a barrister and an MP Ken Clarke is an accomplished speaker and his reading works well.

Clarke's congenial, hail-fellow-well-met exterior disguises a keen intellect and he was never afraid to disagree with his cabinet colleagues or his prime minister. His account of the Thatcher years is especially interesting.

Clarke is a well known advocate of the EU and the book is sufficiently up to date to include the results of the recent referendum and his views on that result (as well as recalling his now famous off-the-cuff comment about Teresa May).

On his own admission Clarke's successful 45-year political career owed much to his naturally easy going temperament and the loyal support of his wife. Incidentally, he asserts that despite the mythology he NEVER wore Hush Puppies. His suede shoes were hand made and very expensive!

Recommended, especially for those who remember the Thatcher years.

  • Elizabeth Jane Howard

  • A Dangerous Innocence
  • By: Artemis Cooper
  • Narrated by: Eleanor Bron
  • Length: 15 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 51
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 44
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 44

Elizabeth Jane Howard (1923-2014) wrote brilliant novels about what love can do to people, but in her own life the lasting relationship she sought so ardently always eluded her. She grew up yearning to be an actress, but when that ambition was thwarted by marriage and the war, she turned to fiction. Her first novel, The Beautiful Visit, won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize - she went on to write 14 more, of which the best-loved were the five volumes of The Cazalet Chronicle.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fascinating

  • By DartmoorDiva on 15-02-17

The Thinking Man's Courtesan?

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

Reviewed: 10-01-17

I have never read any of Elizabeth Jane Howard’s novels but she has cropped up in a number of books that I have read including those concerning Tom Rolt, Robert Aickman and the early days of the Inland Waterways Association as well as Martin Amis’s memoir "Experience".

What seems to have struck everybody about EJH was her physical beauty. I have never been able to see this but obviously photographs do not do her justice as so many people were struck by it. Great beauty can be a curse as well as a blessing and, coupled with moral ambivalence can, as in her case, be very damaging, not least to its possessor.

It is perhaps unfair to call her sexually voracious but she does not seem to have done much to resist the advances of a good many men within the literary and intellectual circles in which she moved – even if they happened to be married to one of her friends!

The book gives Eleanor Bron little scope for anything but a fairly routine reading and this made me wonder whether audiobooks are really the best vehicle for biography? Great for novels but in this case I greatly missed being able to refer to photographs and, particularly, an index.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • A Place of Greater Safety

  • By: Hilary Mantel
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
  • Length: 33 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 392
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 352
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 350

A tour-de-force of historical imagination, this is the story of three young men at the dawn of the French Revolution. Georges-Jacques Danton: zealous, energetic, debt-ridden. Maximilien Robespierre: small, diligent, and terrified of violence. And Camille Desmoulins: a genius of rhetoric, charming, handsome, but erratic and untrustworthy. As these key figures of the French Revolution taste the addictive delights of power, they must also come to face the horror that follows.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Highly recommended

  • By Maddy on 04-06-14

Complex book, brilliant reading.

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

Reviewed: 08-12-16

This is a very long book, which suits me as I mainly listen whilst tramping the Shropshire hills.
Like Hilary Mantel's later (and better) Cromwell books the reader/listener has a fair bit of work to do but this is greatly aided by Jonathan Keeble, who is able from the beginning to establish the three main protagonists, Danton, Desmoulins and Robespierre as three very different characters.

Not for everybody perhaps but it has caused me to re-examine the tumultuous events of the French Revolution, which I have not studied since my schooldays 60 years ago (and only sketchily then).

  • Alan Bennett: Keeping On Keeping On

  • Diaries 2005-2014
  • By: Alan Bennett
  • Narrated by: Alan Bennett
  • Length: 2 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 193
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 164
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 165

Alan Bennett narrates the latest installment of his diaries, as heard on BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week. Following on from Alan Bennett's best-selling, award-winning prose collections Writing Home and Untold Stories, Keeping On Keeping On is a third anthology featuring his unique observations, recollections and reminiscences. At its heart is his latest published collection of diaries.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Described as unabridged but not really

  • By pwgc on 10-11-16

"Unabridged?"

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

Reviewed: 08-12-16

This is another highly entertaining reading by the inimitable Alan Bennett of extracts from his diaries but anybody who is expecting to hear the diary as it appears in the print version (let alone other material in the book) is due for a disappointment as the contents of the book have been savagely abridged.
This may be a full version of the extracts as broadcast by the BBC on "Book of the Week" but it is certainly not an unabridged version of the book itself, as the run-time of a mere 2 hours 16 minutes clearly indicates.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • The Surgeon's Mate

  • Aubrey-Maturin Series, Book 7
  • By: Patrick O'Brian
  • Narrated by: Ric Jerrom
  • Length: 13 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 285
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 251
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 252

Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are ordered home by despatch vessel to bring the news of their latest victory to the government. But Maturin is a marked man for the havoc he has wrought in the French intelligence network in the New World, and the attentions of two privateers soon become menacing. The chase that follows through the fogs and shallows of the Grand Banks is as thrilling, as tense and as unexpected in its culmination as anything Patrick O'Brian has written.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great story, great narration, missing a few words

  • By John Colman on 09-01-18

Well up to standard

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

Reviewed: 28-08-16

I came to the Aubrey-Maturin series with slight reservations but, as I have now listened to six of them I am clearly "hooked|".
The books are, of course, extremely well written and very idiosyncratic, but quite frankly, I doubt whether I would have got this far in the canon had it not been for Ric Jerrom's narration.
Disregard any criticism you may have read that compares him unfavourably to previous readers - we all tend to anchor our opinions to the first time we saw or heard a performance - and take it from me that Jerrom is quite brilliant.