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I truly did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did. I bought it because it is something I've heard about since school and expected it to be very dry. Anything but.
It is one thing to read history and know that during the late 1600s that people had to deal with things like small pox, minor infections which could result in death and just saying the wrong word could result in jail, or execution. And the wrong word especially in Pepys time and place changed from month to month. He lived and worked while Cromwell's puritan regime folded with his death, and was literally an eye witness to Charles II coming to England.
But oddly it is the everyday things that are so interesting. Of course he records things from his own personal view. We hear about his wife burning her hand, "the girl" refusing to kill birds for dinner. She just will not kill anything, his wife had to do it. Wow, I thought in the time before refrigeration that people did what they had to do. I couldn't kill anything either, so it is amazing to look back across the centuries and see a kindred spirit, however small and unnamed the spirit is.
The narrators are clear, pleasant, and cheerful. It is easy to feel that Samuel himself is just chatting aloud. I am glad to get a small "peep" into such a distant world.
13 of 15 people found this review helpful
Volume 1 of the Naxos Audiobook Version of 'Diary of Samuel Pepys contains the first four books/years of his diary:
1660 - Book 1:
The first book (1660, with 117000 words) and first year of Samuel Pepy's famous diary. There are so many things about this book to love. As a survey of the time and place it is amazing, as a history of the English Restoration it is fascinating, as a social commentary it is priceless. Pepys' honesty and transparency (it was written in a short-hand code that took 165 years to decipher, so...) is incredible. He writes about his dalliances, worries, money, health, religion, music, the arts, sex, drinking, shit, and family with an openness that is incredibly interesting. It was informal, but detailed with so many revelations that sometimes while reading I felt like I was invading a private space, a voyeur in another's life.
The arc of the 1st volume is the return of Charles II to England and the rise of Pepys' patron Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich. Pepys buys a new home, sees his finances improve as he rises as Lord Mountagu's secretary and is given the position of Clerk of the Acts.
1661 - Book 2:
The second book (1661, with 84,000 words) is an interesting year for Samuel. King Charles II was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661. Admiral Sir Edward Montagu (aka Lord Sandwich) is gone shortly after on a mission for the King as Ambassador to Portugal and to retrieve Catherine of Braganza, from Lisbon to England, to be the new Queen. Pepys keeps busy with work and family. He sees his personal fortune grow, but worries that his eating, drinking, and time at the theatre is reducing his money. He also worries that due to some complication with his uncles will, their family will not inherit as much as they should. His mother is starting to mentally become more simple and argumentative (dementia) causing troubles for Sam's father. More and more people are getting sick and some good friends and family of Samuel have died. I keep on having to remind myself that he is only 28.
1662 - Book 3:
The third book (1662, with 105,000 words) shows that 1662 has been a pretty good year for Pepys. He is rising in the esteem of both the Duke of York and Lord Sandwich. He is constantly working to better himself at his job and knowledge. He has hustle and is innovative. This year he has taken an oath to only dream two cups of wine a day and limit his times at the theatre and it appears to be helping him be more productive. His major stresses are his Uncle's estate and the lawsuit involved with it, his brother Tom's need for a wife with sufficient money, his wife and maid Sarah's constant fighting, the politics at work with Sir William Pen and Sir J. Mennes, two coworkers who he is in disputes with about their co-lodgings. He is learning like Epicetus' rule says, "Some things are in our power; others are not".
1663 - Book 4:
The fourth book, and final year in the first audio volume, (1663, 159,000 words) will be remembered by me as the year Sam Pepys really struggled with farts, finance, fidelity, and family. I would say I digress, but no, really. Those were big things for Sam in 1663. Seriously, one of the greatest 10 pages of literature devoted to a man's flatulence and stool MUST be Oct 5 - 13, 1663 in Samuel Pepys diary.
I might have only given the first volume 4 four stars, but Sam EARNED that last star this last year. Pushed it right out he did. Also, there was a pretty good go Sam had with Mrs. Lane on July 18: "By and by Mrs. Lane comes; and my bands not being done, she and I parted and met at the Crowne in the palace-yard, where we eat (a chicken I sent for) and drank and were mighty merry, and I had my full liberty of tossing her and doing what I would but the last thing of all; for I felt as much as I would and made her feel my thing also, and put the end of it to her breast and by and by to her very belly -- of which I am heartily ashamed. But I do resolve never to do more so."
Nobody believes you Sam, you dog.
So, my review is finished, and so to bed.
28 of 34 people found this review helpful
I love diaries, and this is perhaps the master-diary. I also like long and easy-going reads. This is ticking all the boxes. That said, it is just so very long, even for me, I am, after listening to the first 2 volumes back-to-back, listening to one at a time and then listening to another, entirely different sort of book before going on to the next volume of Pepys.
As there is really no plot whatsoever, this does not leave you wondering 'what next?' because you know that next, Samuel will eat another venison pasty, go about his work and his house renovation, meddle with the affairs of his family, have talk with his wife, write his journal and so to bed. If I tried to listen to it all in one lump - which would take weeks - I think even I, with high thresholds of tolerance when it comes to lengthy books, would give up.
It is well read. Not over-acted, with just the right hints of peeve or greed and lust, but mainly just conversational. Accents are not needed which is a relief.
I may be imagining a very inaccurate vision of his London, but as we go about his day-to-day rounds together, I think I can see the London of his day, in my mind's eye. The effect of 'living' with him and his family etc over a long period is that of layering up his contacts, friends and colleagues so it becomes a mini-soap! I also love the daily food references and very much want to try capons, venison pie and plum porridge. Not so much the tripe.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful
Truly amazing! Still Holds true for life today. Can listen to this time after time. Huge laughs throughout. What a man.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful