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The first time I encountered Anthony Trollope’s most popular work, He Knew He Was Right, was in a BBC production. My teen aged children and I enjoyed it. I had not read the book that the mini-series was based on. When I was offered the opportunity to review the book narrated by Nigel Patterson, I was happy to finally get a chance at the source.
He Knew He Was Right was written in 1869. It is very important that the listener keep that in mind. It was a very different world, especially for women. The book follows Louis Trevelyan, a wealthy gentleman, who while traveling in one of the Empire’s colonies (it is a fictitious colony)
meets the girl of his dreams, Emily Rowley. Although Emily has been raised outside of England, she does come from a good family as her father is the governor of the colony. Emily and her family travel back to England for the wedding. The first two years of marriage are wonderful complete with a baby boy. Then Louis begins to take exception to an old family friend, a man her father’s age, visiting Emily. He demands she no longer see the man because he suspects infidelity. Emily digs her heels in and refuses to end her harmless friendship. Louis takes it as proof that he wife is not faithful.
There are several subplots to this book, which is over 300 pages in print and 30 hours in audio. The subplots involve other couples including Emily’s sister, Nora. Each couple has their own challenges to overcome, several involving social standing or economic position. While the subplots are interesting, it is Louis and Emily’s story that is the main attraction.
I did have to keep reminding myself of the 1869 publication date because I had a persistent and overwhelming need to slap Louis. Emily never, in deed or word, gives him cause to doubt her but he is so insecure he cannot trust her. It is a combination of Emily’s stubbornness and Louis’s insecurity that cause this to blow up into a major disaster involving both families and dividing friends. That being said, it really is a great book and worth the impulse to slap Louis.
Mr. Patterson does a great job narrating this book. He captures the characters and their emotions. He also handles the language well. Sometimes narrators can allow the more formal language of the 19th century to sound stilted but Mr. Patterson does not. He makes the language flow naturally. I have not had a disappointing listen from Mr. Patterson yet. If you are going to invest in He Knew He Was Right as an audiobook, get the right one with Nigel Patterson as the narrator.
9 of 10 people found this review helpful
I only wish he were still living and writing! anachronistic, yes, but frankly who cares?
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I have just listened to the unabridged version of He Knew He Was Right, Trollope's long, dark novel of the breakdown of a marriage, read by Nigel Patterson.
The first thing that strikes me as I listen to Patterson's narration is how much younger he sounds than I expected. Surprisingly so. His voice does not conjure up that middle-aged, bearded father figure, lugubriously expounding for the benefit of his family audience, but instead comes across as a pleasant and lively conversationalist, relating the tale to you. Given the intensity of the subject matter and psychologically deep waters he negotiates, Patterson manages to propel you through the story so that the pace does not flag while doing more than adequate justice to the drama of the unfolding catastrophe.
A quick comparison with several of the other audiobooks I have experienced revealed that he reads some 20% quicker (more words per minute) than the narrators of other "classics" to which I have listened. His pace is more akin to that I have found in audio versions of modern thrillers .
He achieves this pace while maintaining absolute clarity of diction, which makes listening both pleasant and easy.
As with the best of other narrators to whom I have listened, he manages to maintain the sense of the convoluted, many-claused Victorian sentences for the listener with careful attention to the punctuation pauses to convey the impact of the meaning. He also handles the dialogue with a sure touch, whether it be male protagonists' or females' speech he is pronouncing. I never lost the thread of the conversations as he shifted from one speaker to another and back.
Overall the experience felt refreshingly current, as befits the theme of the material and I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone looking for a new interpretation of how to approach Victorian classics.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to He Knew He Was Right again? Why?
Only if I had a version of it narrated by Timothy West.
What was one of the most memorable moments of He Knew He Was Right?
I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it yet. It came near the end.
Would you listen to another book narrated by Nigel Patterson?
Not if I can help it! He was reasonably good at the narrative but when it came to dialogue it was awful. The accent and inflections was totally wrong and spoilt the book. I came to see if there was one narrated by someone else to swap, but it is currently the only version of this book on Audible so I had no choice but to keep listening.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
A lot of it was moving.
Any additional comments?
It's such a shame that Timothy West hasn't narrated this book as he has done a lot of Trollope's other books superbly.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
"He Knew He Was Right" is a tragic and humorous examination of the institution of marriage in mid-Victorian England. The major themes have contemporary relevance, and the stories and characters are beautifully crafted. Nigel Patterson's reading is of the highest quality, giving life to the characters and with a convincing narration. Trollope regarded this novel as a failure, but it stands favourable comparison with his major works.