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Summary

H.H. Munro (Saki) is one of the undisputed masters of the short story. In this complete compendium, the full gamut of his subjects and themes is experienced. His stories are imbued with humorous satire, biting irony, and often the macabre, all of which have one target: the stupidities and hypocrisies of Edwardian upper-class society.

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Public Domain (P)2021 Naxos Audiobooks

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Wodehouse with teeth

Saki’s stories are so brilliantly crafted and so effortlessly entertaining that it is a mystery why he isn’t more widely-read. Dripping with venomous cynicism, acidic wit and a dexterous mastery of the English language, every story is a neatly-plotted and chillingly macabre slice of Edwardian life.

These aren’t for everyone, although Saki’s stories have much in common with those of P.G. Wodehouse they couldn’t be further from the cosy drawing rooms and good-natured silliness of his work. Saki is Wodehouse with teeth, or perhaps even fangs - feral, murderous children roam the countryside, acts of racial genocide are staged as elaborate practical jokes and we are never more than a page or two away from some new act of rare, spectacular savagery. Saki revels in showing us the nasty underbelly of early Edwardian society, a corrupt, sinister and deeply cynical world where nothing and no-one can ever be entirely trusted.

None of this should really matter as these are quite simply some of the funniest stories ever published. His genius - like that of Wodehouse and Waugh - is profound in spite of its flippancy - or possibly because of it - and every sentence is crafted, sharpened and flung at the reader with the precision of an archer.

Because Saki’s is such a unique voice - cynical, unsettling yet spit-out-your-coffee hilarious, there are very few recordings which do justice to the devastating wit for which he is best known. This recording is easily the closest we’ve come, Degas never quite gets the sly, seductive wit of the author but offers a very solid telling of the stories, engaging and interesting without ever being exactly brilliant. There are a few little gripes but overall it’s great to finally have a (more or less) complete set of Saki’s work in audio form. It never made me laugh in quite the same way as the books and at times the narration is a bit flat but it’s a very respectable recording of one of English Literature’s most unique and under-appreciated authors.

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