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Summary

World renowned critic John Gardner has received prestigious awards for his wide range of literary achievements, including short stories, novels, and essays. When he turns his talents to retelling "Beowulf", the earliest epic in British literature, the result is a work that combines extensive knowledge with a marvelous strain of pure fun.

In Gardner's version of the epic, instead of lauding the helmeted hero, Beowulf, the spotlight shines on Grendel, a beast whose grotesque body and blood thirst condemn him to the life of an outlaw. Grendel is a horrible monster who greedily gobbles up warriors in the Danish mead hall guarded by Beowulf. But within Grendel lurks a soul that delights in dark humor, dramatic pirouettes, and pranks. Both young adult and adult listeners will revel in this powerful complement to a classic tale.

George Guidall's narration captures a surreal landscape that shimmers on the other side of the original epic's heroic mirror. What we see is that there's a little bit of Grendel living is each of us.

©1971 John Gardner (P)1997 Recorded Books

Critic reviews

"George Guidall masterfully impersonates the grumbling momma's boy with deliciously sly humor and mock-tragic grandeur. Without ever striking a false note, he maintains throughout such a perfect balance of crudity and poetry that we laugh, cringe and weep all at once." ( AudioFile)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Stephanie
  • 12-01-10

Unselfconscious, powerful narration.

I love this book. I've read it several times in print. I never would have listened to it for fear that the narrator wouldn't be able to measure up to Grendel's "voice" my imagination -- the way you might hesitate to see the film version of a favorite novel -- but in the end I wound up buying the audio version so that my son could listen to it as we commuted. And in the end, I loved it so much that here I am, writing a review.

This novel is ultimately cognitive as well as sensory and emotional, and it is full of subtleties, but don't expect any restrained, intellectualized treatment of Grendel's thoughts and words here. George Guidall doesn't hold back; he goes for it in a way that feels raw and real. It is a true talent to manage so much intense emotion -- this narrator only sounds histrionic when Grendel does.

I often find "monsters" at least as human as the rest of us, and at least as able to show us the complexities and contradictions of the human state. If monsters appeal to you, don't miss this audiobook. If on the other hand you usually prefer human heroes and villains, but find yourself in the mood for something unusual, moving, comical, and tragic, consider this.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • David
  • 12-09-10

The monster's point of view

This is a retelling of the Beowulf epic from Grendel's point of view. Grendel, as represented by Gardner, is an interesting character -- sometimes petulant and childish, sometimes witty and droll, sometimes a raging monster, sometimes an earnest seeker of enlightenment. There are parts that become a bit tedious (Grendel whines A LOT), but it's certainly a new way to look at the ancient tale, and Gardner, who was a noted literary author, does not even try to mimic the style of the original. The narration by George Guidall was good; I especially liked the dragon.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Brian
  • 20-02-08

The Monster's Point of View...

George Guidall's interpretation of Grendel provides superb narration of the darker side (the monster's point of view) of the classic epic Beowulf. To be enjoyed by age appropriate younger readers (Grade 8 and up) as well as adults!

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Jason P
  • 07-09-15

A must read for fans Beowulf.

This book made me contemplate my own morality, and what it means to be human. As the tale progressed I truly identified with the monster Grendel.

It was extremely well written, and contains many small references to the ancient tale of Beowulf beyond the obvious characters and locations. The author seems to have had a working knowledge of the actual ancient culture depicted in the original tale.

The narration was impeccable. The author gave the story a gruff tone which resonated well with the nature of the tale.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Daren Redekopp
  • 30-05-15

Stunning performance of a spectacular book.

Wow. If only every audio book experience could be so enthralling. I had read Grendel twice before trying it this way, and now that it's done, I just might start over--it's really that good. A performance that truly draws out the genius of the original work. Bravo!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Nik
  • 06-02-09

Interesting view point.

Anyone who made it through Beowulf can appreciate another point of view. As we have learned from books like "Wicked", there is always another side of the story besides the hero's. Narration was ok. I didn't like the voice the narrator used for Grendel's thinking. However, I thoroughly enjoyed Grendel's psychosis and torment in this book. It was like a more current version of the MacBeth scene with the skull, except in this case it lasted for the whole book. As the reader you will take an exceptionally twisted trip in Grendel's mind. Enjoy!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • 27-03-12

The dragon's speech is the best part

This is a clever but long-winded retelling of Beowulf from the monster's point of view. Grendel is brilliantly realized as a petulant child, a beast who fancies himself an intellectual, sometimes tries to overcome his brutish nature but inevitably succumbs to the temptation to act like a monster and then blames it on the universe. "See what you made me do?" Grendel seems to be saying throughout the book. The dialog is often clever, but I had the same problem I have with a lot of literary fiction: Gardner's descriptive prose sometimes becomes tedious, especially the interminable and largely irrelevant-to-the-story speeches from the dragon and the priest. I'd really only recommend it if you're a fan of the original Beowulf tale; otherwise it's just a story about a monster who occasionally goes on killing sprees between monologues and bouts of self-pity.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott Lowe
  • 02-07-18

A great novel brought to life

I loved this book when I first read it many years ago, and it has been delightful to have George Guidall bring it thrillingly to life.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amber H
  • 12-06-18

It's just not my jam

The story was okay, I think Grendel was a jerk who got what was coming to him in the end. I try to read out of my comfort zone sometimes and this one was on sale so I grabbed it. I wouldn't go around recommending it to anyone.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 14-04-18

Great narration drives this book

John Gardner delivers some incredibly high brow dialogue throughout this anti-hero epic while his characters struggle with defining themselves against one other and the perpetual forward moving life they all share. The narration sells this plot.