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The Way of All Flesh

Narrated by: Frederick Davidson
Length: 15 hrs and 24 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
4 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Summary

This brilliant satirical novel, tracing the life and loves of Ernest Pontifex, has continued in popularity since its original publication in 1903. Every generation finds in The Way of All Flesh a reaffirmation of youth's rightful struggle against the tyranny of harsh parents and its admirable will for freedom of personal expression.

This is one of the most fascinating character studies you will ever read, the story of a young man who survives the baleful influence of a hateful, hypocritical father, a doting mother, and a debauched wife, to emerge as a decent, happy human being. It is also a stinging satire of Victorian gentry, their pomposity, sentimentality, pseudo-respectability, and refined cruelty, a satire still capable of delivering death-blows to the same traits that exist in our present world.

(P)2000 Blackstone Audiobooks

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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

undiscovered masterpiece

I can see why this was such an influential book on Huxley, Graves Waugh etc. It even anticipates Larkin's 'they f**k you up your mum and dad.' Hugely satisfying

2 people found this helpful

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

Read very well and the book itself is fantastic

I have already read this book a lot so I knew the story and the writing would entertain me. Butler writes about the behaviours of difficult parents and takes the reader through an entire generation of a family, and life of Earnest, very stylishly. The reader does justice to butler and makes the overall experience of this audio book a great pleasure. If you haven't yet read or heard this book please do. it's one of the greats.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Eric
  • 15-08-05

A masterpiece&the narrator isn't so bad after all

When I originally attempted to listen to this book, I was completely offended by the narrator. After bearing through it for some time (and adjusting the equalizer to drown out his slurping and breathing) I was treated to a wonderful story about morals, morality, and moralism. The difference is subtle, but striking, and Butler conveys it masterfully with fine character development, plot, and not too little psychological and philosophical anlysis. It is even better than I expected too because the narrator turns out to be an amazing actor and he is really able to draw the audience in with his diverse voice. The book is truly a masterpiece and it is a wonder how it was written before the 20th century (so many of its themes became mainstays in the literature of the last century). Listen and enjoy.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Connie
  • 04-06-08

classic satire- would make Jon Stewart laugh

I found this laugh-out-loud funny in places. I read the novel in the 80s and it was even better as an audiobook. My prof for a course in 19th century novel said about it, "No one born in this century can enjoy this humour." I disagreed with her then, and still do --as would the other reviewers! Like good wine, it got better with age.

This novel would appeal to fans of Anthony Trollope, with satire a bit more savage and prose less meandering than the Postmaster's.

The prose is at times dense, so it's perhaps not a novel for listeners new to audiobooks if they want to grasp all the satire which is often conveyed quickly and/or through understatement.

Davidson is one of my favourite narrators, but this is not a sample of his best work --with, for example, the audible breathing as mentioned by another reviewer.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jake
  • 19-01-06

Really spectacular

This book is really quite amazing. I constantly found my own assumptions about modern society turned on their head. I was amazed at how readily issues like coporal punishment by parents, or atheism were discussed. I've always taken for granted that liberal views on issues like these were recent developments but I'm obviously mistaken.

Aside from all its social commentary, though, this book is fabulously entertaining from beginning to end. It doesn't feel the least bit dated at any time.

The one thing that holds this back from a 5-star rating is the narrator. This is a love-or-hate guy. He is unquestionably talented -- able to maintain a seeming endless array of character voices in his head, which he switches between effortlessly, even in conversations involving four or five people. The problem is, his voices, including his normal one which he uses for the non-conversational narration is foppish, pretentious and obnoxious. He also has a tendancy to make his protagonists sound like wimpy little pansies.

The book is so good, though, that you will find yourself not even noticing the narrator (or maybe you'll love him -- lots of people do). I take some comfort in the fact that I listened to his reading of David Copperfield and by comparison this narration is spectacular. I nearly gave up on David Copperfield halfway through deciding that I'd better just read the book myself rather than having a classic ruined for me by this guy.

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Merlin
  • 07-07-10

Entertaining like Trollope

This is a novel you see in all the shops but no-one ever seems to have read. It's written in the classic, tongue-in-cheek pompous ironic Victorian style, rather similar to Trollope. The plot is nothing much: I think the novel is autobiographical. Beneath the humour there's a lot of bitterness. There are also lots of witty philosophical asides and digressions, a la Tom Jones.
I thoroughly enjoyed both the book and he reader. The reader's default voice is a little on the posh side, but that's appropriate; and he differentiates between the characters well. If you like Fielding, Thackeray, and Trollope, you'll probably enjoy this.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Lisa
  • 29-09-09

sardonic wit

Frederick Davidson does a great job as the droll, sarcastic narrator of this story. It is still funny, even a century later. The plot does get bogged down in philosophical thoughts and bits of Christian theology, and the first part of the book is better than the second, but I enjoyed the reading and marveled at how much the truth of how we are treated as youth matters as to what kind of adults we become.
After reading this book, it is fascinating to look up history on the life of Samuel Butler and see how thinly this novel is a disguised autobiography. He is really a tremendously talented writer.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Eugene
  • 24-01-18

A surprisingly funny coming of age story

I love this book. It follows a young boy with a cold, overbearing father and loving but profoundly misguided mother on his journey from youth to adulthood. The story is told from the point of view of an old family friend, and the events are therefore filtered through the perceptions and prejudices of this iconoclastic and opinionated character, who fills the text with biting, hilarious asides about the other characters and the society in which they live. He's my favorite part about the whole book, and there are many other very well-drawn characters too. But the story is also interesting on a plot level and on the level of a social critique, which is nearly as applicable today as I imagine it was when this book was written. I highly recommend this book to people who enjoy classic novels. If you don't enjoy stories told at a leisurely pace in an old fashioned (but always elegant) style then this won't be your cup of tea.

Also, the narration in this audio edition is spot on. Frederick Davidson does an excellent job enacting the sneering, condescending but utterly likable narrator.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Virginia Waldron
  • 21-09-08

A Masterpiece

The narration is intelligent and relective and makes the most of the nuances of the text. This book is simply wonderful. I enjoyed every minute of it and will listen to it again in the future. Beautifully written and read. Very insightful and moving novel. A sharp satire on human foibles. I enjoyed the sense of place and time which placed me right there. Engrossing listening experience that remains in the mind after the end. A well- deserved place in the classics.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • LonestarReader
  • 24-06-08

Victorian humor

Frederick Davidson brought Butler's humor and irony to life with his pitch perfect reading of this story. I was running out of time to finish the book for a my reading group when I found this version.
This is not a book I would have chosen for "light" reading but Davidson's delivery really brought the story of the hapless Theobald Pontifex and his hypocritical Victorian parents to life.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Elizabeth
  • 18-06-04

What a read!!

There are a few really interesting ways of assessing life in this book. Those gems were worth every minute of wandering.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Bill
  • 28-04-04

Simply Phenomenal

One of the best novels I've read or heard.

7 people found this helpful