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Jude The Obscure

Narrated by: Stephen Thorne
Length: 15 hrs and 21 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (128 ratings)

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Summary

Exclusively from Audible

Eager to escape the confines of his lower-class upbringing, Jude Fawley dreams of pursuing higher education, graduating from university and becoming a scholar. Slowly, we witness the resistance Jude is met with and, in keeping with Hardy's other works, the consequences of having dared to defy a society with long-held traditions.

Thomas Hardy's last novel, Jude the Obscure, offers scathing commentary and insight into 19th century England. Widely considered Hardy's boldest and most avant-garde work, it was first published in serialised form, sending weekly shockwaves of outrage to its Victorian audiences. Despite being an able and driven young man, Jude's potential is squandered and his aspirations quashed when he relents and becomes a stonemason. Grounded by an unhappy marriage and a lack of opportunity, Jude's only escape comes in the form of his beloved cousin, Sue Bridehead. An unconventional yet extraordinary heroine, Sue becomes Jude's only chance at happiness, but in a society so unwilling to accept change, their love becomes their undoing.

One of the most influential and prolific novelists and poets of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Thomas Hardy followed the naturalist movement and was greatly inspired by the works of Charles Dickens and William Wordsworth. In turn, his work enthused the likes of Robert Frost, W.H. Auden and Philip Larkin.

Narrator Biography

Stephen Thorne is a classically-trained radio, film, stage and television actor. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and has toured with The Old Vic Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company. His voice experience is extensive and he is credited with over 2000 radio broadcasts and 300 unabridged audiobooks. These include works by James Henry, Dick King-Smith, Arthur Conan-Doyle and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Stephen famously voiced the character of Aslan in the 1979 adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. His unique narration style has won him various awards in both the UK and the USA, including a Talkies Award and several Golden Earphones Awards from Audiofile Magazine.

Stephen is no stranger to the screen and his television roles include Z-Cars, Death of an Expert Witness, David Copperfield, Crossroads, Last of the Summer Wine and Doctor Who. He also appeared in the 1984 film, Runaway and the 1985 film, Lollipop Dragon: The Great Christmas Race.

Public Domain (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Irritating in places

Would you try another book written by Thomas Hardy or narrated by Stephen Thorne?

I would try any book written by Thomas Hardy.

What did you like best about this story?

A great classic.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

As for the narrator, Stephen Thorne, his voice is very agreeable. Unfortunately, Thorne thinks it necessary to render the women's lines in a painfully querulous falsetto. The result strips the dialogue of credibility and drama. As someone put it on Twitter, it sounds as if the characters are being mocked, and/or infantilized. Pity. I recently listened to a great performance by Annette Bening, who never altered her voice when playing male characters, leaving the writing shine through.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

I was pulled out of the story during most dialogues. Listening was particularly irritating when the narrator was supposed to convey a woman's strong emotion. But a few male characterizations suffered as well. Each time a character other than the protagonist speaks, Thorne has to send it up.

Any additional comments?

It seems to me that the narrator should resist the temptation to make a theatrical performance of a reading.

6 people found this helpful

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Hardy at his best and darkest

Thomas hardy reminds us how far he was ahead of his time with this stunning, sad, story on the perils of love and marriage.

2 people found this helpful

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Wonderful Novel / Mixed Performance

Performer's interpretation of the female voices is distracting and irritating, which is rather unfortunate as it detracts from the narrative.

1 person found this helpful

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Haunting

Beautifully written and narrated story. Haunting in its tragic love story and reflection of society. Brought me to tears

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Powerful themes amongst pathos and regret

Jude the Obscure is a roller coaster of intensity but doesn’t flow as well as Hardy’s other novels, and there are moments when contrived events seem to propel the plot

Hardy describes a conflicted society in a story of individual pathos and regret; challenging the church, moral issues of relationships, sex and academic opportunity the time.

One has great sympathy for the lead protagonists, Jude and Sue; innocents battered, and victims of a repressive and perverse society. I unsuccessfully willed Jude on, frustrated by his naïveté; Sue is complex, presents unexpected revelations but is finally worn down.

There is a quaintness ... when Sue and Jude have their first discussion after many months of friendship...Sue says that “she has remained as she began”...(that she is still a virgin) ... how euphemistic is that ! ? ... and partly exemplifies the hypocrisy of the time ....attitudes toward sexuality, marriage and oppression of women

I’m no longer surprised by anti-semitic references in Victorian novels... are these justified as accurate reflections of the day, or Hardy’s gratuitous and thoughtless inclusions .... !

There is high feeling and emotion; the novel builds and matures and the final chapters stupendous. Not the strongest of Hardy’s, but one needs to discover this and experience his work through; certainly the social comment is key.

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Rubbish narration...false.

A false sounding. narration. Story clearly a classic text. Sadly, ruined by this version. x

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Narrator spoils this.

The narrator was not sensitive to the story he was telling... Thomas Hardy had a great understanding of ordinary people’s lives....
And was not judgmental!
I tried to listen to it ... but had to give up on it !

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Hardy's final triumph

The novel is a disturbing masterpiece, but infinitely worth reading. The narration by Stephen Thorne is also masterly absolutely congruent with all aspects of the narrative.

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A Harrowing Tale

The novel was beautifully read . A multilayered tale of thwarted idealism and the tragic consequences thereof.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tad Davis
  • 16-02-10

Staggering

I first read this book about 40 years ago, and coming back to it now, with Stephen Thorne's wonderful narration, I feel the same sense of overwhelming tragedy. The climax of the book is shattering.

Jude is a country laborer with a dream, and with patience and determination to match. He teaches himself Greek and Latin while supporting himself as a stonemason, and he hopes to become a fellow at the University. But one thing after another happens, and his opportunities become more and more constricted. Personal drama takes center stage. He falls in love with his cousin Sue, a relationship doomed not only by his own prior entanglements but by Sue's own indecisiveness and apparent horror at physical expressions of love. (There's something damaged about Sue that Hardy never tries to explain: it just is.)

Stephen Thorne is a terrific reader: all characters distinctively voiced in a variety of accents, with the brooding narrator hovering over all. Enthralling throughout: but be forewarned that it ends badly for pretty much everybody you care about.

10 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Em D-M
  • 17-03-09

It kept me engaged...

I thought the narrator was good as far as creating the environment but his portrayal of the female characters is weak and kept slightly pulling me out of the story. Not enough, however, to bring me to quitting it all together. I don't regret the time spent on the book.

3 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Julia
  • 20-09-09

Thomas Hardy would never have wanted this narrator

I love this book, and have loved it since I was a teenager dreaming of how Jude and I would have been soulmates, but this narrator is the worst! His deadpan, inflectionless reading of this heartrending text is unlistenable-too. I had to stop. Poor Jude, he was sounding as exciting as last year's weather report. Oh my, what a lost opportunity to bring a fantastic novel to life!

4 people found this helpful

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  • KAtl
  • 05-03-20

Want to feel better about your own life? Read this!

Wow so incredibly sad but in a very meaningful and moving way. A story that was beyond its time. Hardy portrays the struggles of his female characters so well. Enjoyed the narrator although would’ve liked him to differentiate the characters and especially female ones more. Would still highly recommend.

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  • Lewis Teeter
  • 17-08-19

Not Hardy's Best

As a lover of classical literature I found Jude the Obscure a bit tiresome. There wasn't a sympathetic character to root for in the entire story and I found myself regularly checking how much time I had left before the book was finished. If you've never read Hardy I recommend you try Return of the Native.

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  • Natalie Bartels
  • 23-12-16

A truly complex and lovely tragedy

If you could sum up Jude The Obscure in three words, what would they be?

Lovely tragic novel

What was one of the most memorable moments of Jude The Obscure?

Jude's foolish drunken scenes.

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

No, it would have been too rich

Any additional comments?

My first Hardy novel. Brilliant. Tragic. When I finished it, I had an overwhelming feeling of having participated in something so aesthetically rich and complex. Learned a a lot about myself by exploring these characters. Would recommend.

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  • Chrissie
  • 27-04-14

Jude cannot pick women!

Just as the book description clarifies, through this book Hardy criticizes the three institutions - marriage, religion and education - during Victorian times. Although I agree with his criticism, he exaggerates; he finds example that go beyond a fair analysis. Some of the characters are good and some evil, as in all novels, but Hardy goes beyond this and throws in characters that are mentally instable. Their behavior cannot be seen as a just criticism of the inflexible morals, rules and beliefs. A better criticism would have been achieved through more stable characters.

I have nothing against depressing books, but this is excessively depressing and frustrating beyond words since the characters cannot make up their mind. Talk about vacillation! It was tiring to see how they make a decision and then changed their minds, not once, but over and over again. Yes, such rigid institutions can force people into craziness, but not to the extent portrayed here. These people would not even be happy in less restrictive times, and thus Hardy's message loses impact.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Stephen Thorne. I was not pleased with the women's voices, and you could not tell who was speaking. The tone was disagreeable, but so were the characters.

I liked Jude, but felt such pity for him. It is hard to see a man so crushed by life, and his choice of women could not have been worse.

I might try another book by Hardy.