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Summary

The Mandelbaum Gate divides the conflict-torn realm of Jerusalem, separating Israel from Jordan. Barbara Vaughn, a stubborn young English woman and half-Jewish Catholic convert, insists upon crossing the divide in order to rendezvous with her fiancé, in spite of the very real danger. Her quest sets off a series of bizarre situations and adventures, set against the backdrop of the Eichmann trial of 1961.

Muriel Spark has created a many-faceted novel, both comic and serious, enriched by a wealth of information.

©1965 Muriel Spark (P)1994 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic reviews

"[Davidson] achieve[s] successful transitions through deliberate pauses and changes of voice. Thus, we're able to follow the many tangents the author uses to enrich the story and our listening pleasure." ( AudioFile)
"English-accented Frederick Davidson turns in a memorable performance." ( Library Journal)

What listeners say about The Mandelbaum Gate

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Narration Problem

The narrator uses a very affected English accent. It s very irritating and detracts from an excellent and well written story.
Why couldn't the guy just read it in good old R P ?

7 people found this helpful

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I’m an MS fan

Although this novel began somewhat uncertainly it rallied and covered material not present in MS’ other fiction or short stories.
Set in the newly established Israel in the early 50’s, the primary narrative centres about Barbara Vaughan, half Jewish/ baptised Catholic and a pilgrimage that proves more complex than she’s anticipated .
Muriel Spark’s father was Jewish, so one can’t avoid considering that the material and characters represent a personal resonance and that following the IIWW, MS must have visited the region to have recreated the detail for the work.
At times there is a “Carry On… “ sense of events with a humour that is shared across the cultural groups among endearing characters. Overall the plot is well structured, with unanticipated events that work well enough as a novel.
The narration was disappointing; the English voices were authentic but lesser characters became muddled with inadvertent mingling of accents, and there was a lost opportunity to have credible Israeli and Arab accents; one needed however to ignore this and persevere.

I think MS was an excellent writer and I’m a bit of a fan

1 person found this helpful

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I'm confused

I think the story is either told in a non-consecutive way or the chapters have been mixed up. I have experienced this problem before with Audible, with a novel I knew well, so that I could be sure it was wrong. Also, to Audible's credit, they did refund me.
As to the narrators accent, I didn't mind it, it was a change, but I felt it gave a strong flavour to the novel itself, so that I took it in a different spirit, more approaching farce. I'd be interested to hear more authentic Israeli and Arab accents.

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Great Story, nasally narration.

The narrator didn’t work for me. It’s probably just me, definitely try the sample first.

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awful narrator

I'm sure the book is good but I'll never find out because the narrator is awful.

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G reat narrator

I love books that are narrated by Frederick Davidson and was disappointed by the negative comments in other reviews. chose this book because it is narrated by him and was not disappointed. Thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

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Let down by Narrator

The highly individual narrative style of Frederick Davidson (think Tom Allen) made me concentrate on his irritating inflections rather than on the story. Eventually I gave up. Poor Muriel. You deserved better.

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Complicated … & long winded?

A truly convoluted story to what end wasn’t absolutely clear .. I love Muriel’s sharp writing .. maybe the narrators verrry “posh” rather over done accent was a bit distracting… Although I guess he was trying to bring alive the 1950’s FO English accent .. I felt the Middle East accents more successful… however on balance while there was a lot of historical & info on place, it was a slightly tiresome story.

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  • Karen
  • 19-08-10

Spark Sparks!!

Superb Spark book. Early-ish in her career, so not quite so grim as her later ones. Each character, large or small, drawn with clarity and interest, and all set against the background of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. A bit of a spy mystery thrown in as well. Not to mention crime. Such an amazing accomplishment. The narration is perfect, too.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • connie
  • 26-10-09

Graham Greene meets PG Wodehouse...

Where has this novel been all my life?

I love religious pilgrimage novels, spy novels, political novels, novels that explore other periods and cultures, and literary comedy with eccentric characters and implausible plots. "Mandelbaum Gate" is all of the above mixed together and written in very sharp prose.

I think Frederick Davidison is the perfect narrator for the novel - but just as some people love Davidson's narration and others find him annoying, so listeners will react to Sparks' quirky novel, I think.

She writes from several perspectives with a convoluted timeframe, so you must like that style, too.

7 people found this helpful

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  • M. J. Walsh
  • 04-07-21

A companionable puzzle

Like a difficult crossword puzzle that passes the time on a train, this mosaic of a novel is companionable, but often opaque.

Unlike the author's other work, there is no strong writing voice to be heard in this anecdotal, meandering account of a few weeks in the lives of its characters as they encounter the gate that linked Jordan and Israel in the early 1960s. However it does resemble her other books in conveying the sense that what is being described is only the visible surface of a deeper story that may only be glimpsed, as if through a veil.

Not for everyone, but good for some and Spark's lightness of touch and a very good reading keep it lively and engaging.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Joyce
  • 14-07-18

magnificent book

The Arab/Israeli conflict told with wit, irony and authentic insights. Narrator mostly great, except Freddie.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Edith
  • 26-06-22

Bad

In so many ways! Full of subtle and not-so- subtle antisemitism, racism (against people of Arabic origin), an inane plot and idiotic characters.

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  • Sasha the book eater
  • 28-05-22

The setting is fascinating.

Time and place that give you plenty to think about, and brilliant narration of the characters, dialogue and descriptive passages. A worthy historical novel with a flavor of espionage and danger, and an implicit critique of empire and authoritarianism.

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  • gail
  • 14-04-18

Seems outdated

I listened to this because a retrospective i read on Spark’s 100th birthday said it dealt with current issues. It may be that the same problems persist, but the characters seemed outdated and stereotyped, particularly the Arabs.