Barnaby Rudge

  • by Charles Dickens
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • 24 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Dickens' first historical novel is set in 1780s England at the time of the Gordon Riots. In a case of mistaken identification, Barnaby Rudge, a pale half-wit with long red hair who dresses all in green and carries a large raven on his back, is arrested as the leader of a mob of anti-Catholic rioters. He is condemned to death on the gallows, but an upright locksmith named Gabriel Varden comes to his aid.Dickens provides another memorable cast of characters, including the dull-witted, tyrannical John Willet, Dennis the Hangman, and Hugh the savage ostler.

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What the Critics Say

"Robert Whitfield['s] unflagging energy, imagination, and finesse rank this among the best of audio Dickens." (Library Journal)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Overlong but under-rated Dickens

"Barnaby Rudge" is possibly Dickens's least well-known novel among modern readers. Hollywood has ignored it: there's a 1915 silent film version, a 1960 BBC version, and that's it. There are reasons for this: the novel makes an awkward 5-year jump in the middle, sends major characters off-stage for hundreds of pages, and is in general more padded with extraneous material and long conversations than it needs to be. Even if you're a Dickens fan, you might prefer an abridged version as an audiobook.

But the full version has its rewards. Over time, characters who initially seemed flat and stereotyped take on true psychological depth. The best of them are among the best in Dickens--no one has created a better picture of genteel hypocrisy than Sir John Chester, for example. There are magnificent descriptions of 18th-century inns and an imaginative recreation of London after dark, pre-gaslight. And the historical portions, the depiction of Lord Gordon, the rioters, and the anarchy they unleash on London, are as compelling as the better-known counterparts in "Tale of Two Cities".

Whitfield's narration and voice characterization is excellent throughout, despite a couple of annoying idiosyncrasies (notably, the way he handles "Why" as an exclamation). Audio quality of the file is excellent (enhanced format).
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- David

darker Dickens relevant to our intolerant times

Lighter characters are not as prominent as in better known Dickens' novels, so this is not as heart warming as usual; however, I thought it just as good as any Dickens and, as an historical tale, I liked it better than "Tale of Two Cities." There is less domestic melodrama, but the usual Dickens' cast of characters and stereotypes: overbearing-martyr-complex wife, shrew, feral young man, sensible young woman, beautiful but silly young woman, honourable rich young man, put-upon striving poor young man, and not one but two selfish, narcissistic fathers -- And Barnaby. And Grip -- all embroiled in political and social machination.

Dickens' usual insight into human nature is sharp thoughout: "So do the shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels" -- No psychologist ever described projection, scapegoating, mob mentality, and political manipulation as well as well as Dickens does in "Barnaby Rudge."

Most characters still live happily ever after in the end, however, as the spoiler in the publisher's summary suggests.

Whitfield's narration is excellent as usual.

(And this is a must listen for all fans of ravens, literary or avian.)
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- connie "Narrative makes the world go round."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-12-2008
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.