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Summary

This definitive performance of Our Mutual Friend - Dickens' final completed novel - features expert narration by Meera Syal and an exclusive introduction written and read by Lucinda Hawksley, great-great-great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens. Hawksley is a biographer, author and lecturer whose wealth of knowledge on Dickens is both research-led and personal. She introduces us to the themes in Our Mutual Friend and tells us how they connect to the life of Dickens himself.

Full of both satire and social analysis, Our Mutual Friend looks at what could happen in Victorian England when a fortune passes to a working-class couple. The audiobook will enchant the listener with its larger-than-life characters, its poignant depiction of social injustice and the singular seed of hope with which Dickens hints at the possibility of a better tomorrow.

About the author

Having experienced the incarceration of his father, Charles Dickens had to abandon his studies at a young age and set to work in a factory so as to support himself. Despite his short-lived education, Dickens went on to write 15 novels, various articles, novellas and short stories. He lectured and led campaigns for children's rights and education and arguably became the ultimate self-made man.

About the narrator

Comedian, writer and actor Meera Syal rose to prominence as one of the creators of comedy sketch show Goodness Gracious Me and cemented herself as a household name in the UK portraying Sanjeev's grandmother, Ummi, in The Kumars at No. 42.

Multitalented Syal has penned novels, scripts and screenplays as well as lending her vocals to various songs and albums. Here she uses her voice to tell our Dickensian story with all the mastery you would expect from this talented performer.

Public Domain (P)2018 Audible, Ltd

Behind the scenes with Meera Syal

The British comedian and narrator of Our Mutual Friend shares her thoughts on Dickens' final completed novel.
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What listeners say about Our Mutual Friend

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Audible have let Meera Syal down

Meera Syal is brilliant, so why have Audible directed this reading so badly? Compared to her interesting, lively, natural voice (see video clip on the book's webpage), this recording is slow, lacking in life, and sounds like it's being read for junior school children. Other Meera Syal audiobooks have been excellent, and I've listened to other versions of OMF many times - so anticipating this combination of narrator and book had me really excited - but I've ended up really disappointed, and after two tries, of nearly 3 hours each, I've finally, reluctantly - and sadly - thrown in the towel. I blame Audible for not sorting this out, and for letting down a brilliant narrator.

21 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

I loved this book - the story is fantastic - but the narration nearly undid it for me. Shame as I like Meera Syal as an actor

15 people found this helpful

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Dreadful overacting

Had to give up on this book as I couldn’t bear listening to it anymore - dreadful overacting with the characters being given ridiculous voices, it’s like a parody.

13 people found this helpful

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Narration detracts from the story

There is a mildly disinterested tone to the narration which really lets this audiobook down. Dickens demands vivacity and sparkle even in his darkest moments. The rest of this series demonstrate this magnificently. Meera Syal is a great actor, but somehow that disappears in this production. There is no drive or pace to it and you begin feel that no one cares much about anything and that nearly 35 hours is going to feel a lot longer. I had to stop.

11 people found this helpful

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Didn’t enjoy narration

I like Meera Syal, but I didn’t enjoy her narration. Her voice is quite nasal and I found it quite grating. I gave up after about 3 hours. The story had not really got going yet and it was too slow.

5 people found this helpful

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Dickens at his very best !

Wonderfly narrated. Charles Dickens epic classic is beautifully delivered. A great tale that touches on the expectations of society and the perils trappings and evils of money

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Can't get into it

I love Meera as an actress, but I've really really struggled to listen to this. She's been great in character but otherwise really boring to listen to. I've only managed to listen to 5 chapters and with other narrators of Dickens I haven't been able to switch off the device because I've been so immersed. I'll try again but for now I'm taking it off my device. disappointed

3 people found this helpful

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Not the narrator for me

Prefer David Timson by far, sorry. I really wanted to like Meera Syal but I didn't understand why some of the London characters didn't have London voices and it started to grate after a while. Also I felt the pace of the narration was a bit slow. Great story and characters, as always.

11 people found this helpful

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Meera Syal is an excellent narrator!

It took me a little while to get used to the language of the book, but once it got going I found myself enjoying it immensely. Meera Syal is so good at doing all the different voices of the characters (of which there are many); that you could tell who was speaking throughout. I'd love to see her narrating more books on audible, as she is such a delight to listen to!

6 people found this helpful

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Awful, awful narration

I can’t believe how highly others have rated this. It’s one of my favourite Dickens books but Meera Syal is a dreadful narrator. That she was narrating was actually one of the selling points for me because I generally really like her, but her style of reading is totally at odds with classic literature and would be more suited to children’s stories. She stresses all of the wrong words in sentences and the whole style really jars with the book. I’m so disappointed. I was really looking forward to listening to this having not read it for years. I couldn’t get past the first chapter.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Steve M
  • 30-06-20

Spectacular Performance

I read the majority of this book on the page but listened to the audio on a couple of drives. Maybe four or five hours total? Meera Syal's reading was spectacular. She brought the characters to life in ways that stayed with me when I was reading on my own and had an uncanny instinct for timing and pacing when reading the narration. It's so easy to make cartoons of some of Dickens's characters (minor especially) but she gave every one of them depth and humanity. I would rank her at Juliet Stevenson level, the highest praise I can think to give.

As for the novel itself, it is Dickens's last completed novel. The plot gets a little pointlessly complicated, but it didn't detract at all from the power, the humor, the expansiveness of his view of people. This feels like a mature work of art by an author at peak control of his astonishing talents. No other writer I've read creates such a completely absorbing, immersive, vivid experience for their readers. It's like taking a long voyage to another time and place. (A blessing since our own time place aren't so great right now.)

4 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 21-04-18

Fantastic

Charles Dickens has always been one of my favourite authors. This production is wonderfully done and reminded me why l love this story. Thank you Ms Syal.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Hope
  • 18-08-19

Wonderful Narrator

Our Mutual Friend is a complex novel that requires one to pay close attention in order to keep characters and their relationships straight. The performance of the story aided my comprehension of the story greatly.

2 people found this helpful

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  • 96Lily
  • 06-12-20

Top notch narration

One of the best narrators I’ve heard. She fully portrayed every character with a unique voice, personality, and timbre, and brought the story vividly to life!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-08-19

Intricate and captivating story and reading!

I love Dickens’ complex character development in this story, which, simultaneously has the effect of making you love his noblest characters and even develop a fond affection and amusement for the most detestable, laughing aloud at times at the eccentricities and traits of them all. The characterization is well-captured in both voice and intonation of this reader, who has clearly well-acquainted herself with the passages to portray the intricate scenes and interactions as closely as possible to those conceptualized by the author. A must-read/listen!

1 person found this helpful

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  • David Hinden
  • 01-01-21

The Best of Dickens and the Best of Audible!

Meera Syal’s narration of this work, complete with a unique voice for each character, is the best performance I’ve heard on Audible and what a story!

As Dickens writes in an afterword, there are two major plot twists in this novel (John Rockville is the heir John Hanford and the Boffins were in on the secret all along), one of which is deliberately telegraphed to the reader very early on and the other of which is completely disguised until the very end of the novel. The final plot twist is worthy of the finale of Dallas.

And along the way, we see Dickens at his most masterful in creating unforgettable characters and dialogue, skewering society, advocating for the poor and writing some of the finest landscape/riverscape descriptions I have ever had the pleasure to read. This is one of those books the reader savors. I found myself worrying that some particularly wonderful passages were not bound to be bound to my memory.

If pressed for what I liked best, I would have to say the characters and the dialogue: Ms. Jenny Wren, the dressmaker of children’s dolls, the Veneerings, Podsnaps and Miss Tiffen, dinner hosts and guests from hell, Betty Hidgins, a poor woman destined to die on the road, Mrs.Wilfer, who wants nothing more than to rise above her station, Mr. Venus the taxidermist and the unparalleled band of villains—Bradley Headstone, the stalking, murderous schoolmaster, the Lammles, the fortune hunters mutually deceived into marriage, Rodger Ridinghood a river rogue, and Fascinating Fledgby, the indolent “gentleman” looking for a scam and hiding his money-lending business behind the Jew, Mr. Riah, and Charley Hexam, a poor boy with brains and ambition.

These characters are all much more interesting with richer lives, stories, dialogue, than the main characters driving the plot. With Dickens, the plot is just the structure around which the best parts of the novel are strung.

This could be the best Dickens I’ve ever read although Great Expectations will always hold a special place for me. I see that it often ranks among Dickens’ most beloved works, the other one that is frequently mentioned being Bleak House. It’s been at least thirty years since I last visited Bleak House and this experience tells me it’s time for a revisit.