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This is a wonderful novel - how did I manage to avoid it for so long? (I've been working my way through all of Dickens' novels over the last couple of years. I would almost say I've been "working them off," but if you listen to this one - and I strongly recommend that you do - you'll understand that working things off is not always a good thing.)
Dickens is at his morally outraged best in Barnaby Rudge: the story centers around the anti-Catholic riots in London in 1780. I'd read a little bit about the riots before - they show up in biographies of Samuel Johnson, who was in London at the time - but nothing like the real horror of it. Tens of thousands of rioters marched through the streets. Hundreds of people were killed, many by the soldiers called in (finally) to restore order; houses, churches, and carriages were burned by the score. Newgate Prison itself was destroyed and all the prisoners set free. In the aftermath, dozens of rioters were hanged.
Moving through this gripping slice of history are the simple-minded Barnaby Rudge; his mother; a brace of loving couples; a heroic locksmith; and a chilling assortment of villains. Barnaby, in his simplicity, is coaxed into carrying a banner for the rioters, and thinks he's being a brave warrior in a noble cause, until he comes face to face with the gallows.
It's not all grim. Dickens' comic invention is in evidence throughout. The dialogue sparkles, and at least three of the four main villains have brilliant star turns that are wickedly funny. (The fourth villain is a brutal, frightening concoction - one of the most unredeemed, and unredeemable, parents Dickens ever invented.)
Sean Barrett's narration is brilliant. Every character has a unique voice, and all are utterly convincing, even the almost too-good-to-be-true Barnaby. Most of the villains have coarse, gravelly voices, but one has a voice as smooth as silk and is all the scarier because of it. This is going down as one of my three or four favorite audiobooks of Dickens. For me, it was infinitely more interesting and rewarding than his other historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities. It's a rip-roaring tale, and I loved it.
24 of 25 people found this review helpful
Reading (knd of) Dickens has been one of the gifts that Audible has introduced me too. As a historical novel this is a bit of a departure from Dickens normal period and I needed to remind myself of that change of era at times through the story.
Before this book I knew that there had been "Gordon Riots" but I had no idea what or who Grodon was and what the riots were about. Dickens sets out the story clearly and using the kind of characters and storylines that he seems to create better than anybody else. By the end of the work all the threads have been drawn together for a satisfying story but also the history has been told in a clear and memorable way.
The narration is good and clear, characterisation is useful rather than intrusive. Recommended.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
I read Barnaby Rudge many years ago and I remember struggling with it a little. In Sean Barrett's hands everything is made clear, all the characters brilliantly delineated. It is a great Dickens novel, one of his early ones, and it is masterfully brought to life in this rendition. Highly recommended.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
The listening of this interminably long book is eased by Dicken’s fine prose and Sean Barrett’s superb performance (rather than mere narration) making it impossible for me to give anything under a 5 star rating. It is also very interesting historically and rather chilling, to compare these riots which occurred in 1780 with those of 2011 and find that there is virtually no difference in the mindless rule of the mob.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful