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The American

Narrated by: Ralph Cosham
Length: 10 hrs and 1 min
4 out of 5 stars (63 ratings)
Regular price: £20.29
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Editor reviews

Martin Booth is posthumously back in the spotlight again, thanks to George Clooney and a film adaptation of his novel, originally titled A Very Private Gentleman. Imagine his handsome graying head bent over a half-finished butterfly painting at a cafe table in southern Italy, then aiding in the murder of prominent public figures in Washington, D.C. Indeed, this yarn is actually the very interesting inner monologue of a man who makes guns for covert political assassination plots. It is not a thriller per se, which is perhaps why the film has not been particularly well received. But Booth launched his career first as a successful poet, and the novel is a wonderfully evocative character portrait in a way that simply cannot be captured by film.

It can, however, be captured by voice. Ralph Cosham, who has narrated other such deep portrayals in the likes of Heart of Darkness and Frankenstein, brings the same super classy and sleuth-worthy British accent that he brought to The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. He can spend several minutes discoursing on the proper way to pack a false-bottomed briefcase, then jump to his philosophy on the important differences between the two hookers he's been seeing together twice a week.

Suffice it to say that the plot is intensely understated, and that the real treat is in this man's ability to understand himself and his surroundings. He is a speculative and moral creature who does not shy away from examining his own fleeting pleasures and broad failures. During these 10 hours of Cosham's strangely absorbing monologue, there is still enough time to thread in a sparse and therefore reasonably plausible conflict of a spy on the run from another spy. The things that might make it a failure as a film are precisely those things that make The American worth a listen. —Megan Volpert

Summary

The locals in the southern Italian town where he lives call him Signor Farfalla - Mr. Butterfly - for he is a discreet gentleman who paints rare butterflies. His life is inconspicuous: mornings are spent brushing at a canvas, afternoons idling in the cafés, and evenings talking with his friend, the town priest, over a glass of brandy.

Yet there are other sides to this gentleman’s life: Clara, the young student who moonlights in the town bordello, and another woman, who arrives with $100, 000 and a commission - but not for a painting of butterflies.

With this assignment returns the dark fear that has dogged Signor Farfalla’s mysterious life. Almost instantly, he senses a deadly circle closing in on him, one which he may or may not elude.

Part thriller, part character study, part drama of deceit and self-betrayal, The American shows Martin Booth at the very height of his powers.

(Previously published as A Very Private Gentleman.)

©2004 Martin Booth (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic reviews

“Booth constructs his most focused, tightly written novel to date, reminiscent of William Trevor’s classic Felicia’s Journey and the late Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels.” ( Publishers Weekly)
“Booth has created a rich, conflicted antihero whose clever rationalizations mask a soul weary with self-doubt…making us question our own moral values." ( Boston Globe)
“Haunting, shocking, and tense…Crisp yet lyrical, simple yet intelligent.” ( Booklist)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Keith
  • Aldershot, Hants, United Kingdom
  • 05-04-11

Beautiful, compelling...loved every moment ...

This was a complete revelation...to me it was poetry written as prose...I was totally drawn into the Italian culture the author was describing...it was like staying on after a wonderful holiday and becoming part of the fabric of the culture that had impressed you...and juxtapositioned against the antihero's flawed philosophy it was a totally compelling read..I couldn't put it down..I later found out that Martin Booth was in fact a respected poet and this doesn't surprise me...it is simply beautiful to read... I wish he'd written a sequel...don't judge it by the film - I found the the book a totally different experience...and the narration is outstanding...that's my opinion on a great read.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Geoff
  • Christchurch, United Kingdom
  • 24-01-12

A wonderful narrative !

Having seen the film, I thought it would be great to read/hear the story. Being a fan of all things Italian , I was hopeful the story wouldn't disappoint.
Well the narrator reads perfectly and the story although slow moving is poetic in it's beauty . It is so engrossing time floats by and you feel saturated in Italian village life and the underlying 'thriller'.
Having read many many books and having converted to ' audible' this is by far the best story and narrative I have listened to, feeling I now know both the main characters and the wonderful locations. Molto Fantastico !

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Americans!

What a remarkable book!! I hate that they changed the title, but I love that they did because I may not have read it if they had not! A story much deeper than the movie, with a lot more insight into a man who made such deadly weapons, his life and little quirks that made him the human being as well as a ‘shadow dweller.’ Ralph Cosham’s voice and accents had me enthralled I could not stop listening and at once puts a different face on the main character other than Mr Clooney’s. (No offence Mr Clooney.)

Martin Booth created an amazing little piece here, with insight and depth that I feel sure must be someplace near the truth during the times it was written and even today; if you swap some of the lesser technologies to more modern ones. The description of Italy was beautiful I was walking down those little streets, sitting in the Piazzas, sipping Espresso and smelling the lemons on the trees in a sleepy Italian town that seemed to carry on as though the rest of the world did not exist. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys books such as ‘The Day of the Jackal’ and wondered of the life of the Gunsmith these assassins buy their tools from. Descriptive, exciting, well written and well told. This is a great audio book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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

Interesting ...a bit different

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

I found it a real change from others ive read. Much more reflective than my usual choice. It took patience to stay with it as there was much less action than usual, but there was something compellng about finding out what the main character was all about and who the title referred to

If you’ve listened to books by Martin Booth before, how does this one compare?

This was my first book by this author.

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

Not listened to others with him yet

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Not the action adventure that I was expecting.

Lovely descriptions of Italy, intertwinned with some Italian phrases, but not the adventure story I expected. It was long winded and boring at times which was not helped by the narrators voice.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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

Quite good

This book was very descriptive which isn't what I like, I like much more fast moving plots. The narrator didn't change his voice between characters. If you liked this listen to American Psycho!

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

The American?

Not sure why the title was changed.... well I do and it's because of the film that was adapted from the book starring George Clooney. An American. However, this novel is resoundingly English and the primary character is referenced as such.

That aside, even if you have seen the film, give it a go. It's well paced, although not fast, and an easy listen.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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

Moody American loose in Europe.

Loved it but I wasn't totally gripped. It's not all action but more all build. The action is teased out and when it comes a bit quick.

I liked it but not totally satisfied.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful