Pierre; or, the Ambiguities

  • by Herman Melville
  • Narrated by Robin Field
  • 19 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Pierre Glendinning is the 19-year-old heir to the manor at Saddle Meadows in upstate New York. Engaged to the blonde Lucy Tartan in a match approved by his domineering mother, Pierre encounters the dark and mysterious Isabel Banford, who claims to be his half sister, the illegitimate and orphaned child of his father and a European refugee.
Driven by his magnetic attraction to Isabel, Pierre devises a remarkable scheme to preserve his father's name, spare his mother's grief, and give Isabel her proper share of the estate.
First published in 1852, Pierre; or the Ambiguities was condemned by critics of the time: "a dead failure", "this crazy rigmarole", and "a literary mare's nest". Latter-day critics, however, have recognized in the story of Melville's idealistic young hero a corrosive satire of the sentimental Gothic novel and a revolutionary foray into modernist literary techniques.

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Customer Reviews

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A rare treat for Melville fans

The novel is incredible and this audiobook provides an unabridged edition - this is important because many who are familiar with Pierre these days are familiar with the abridged edition edited by Herschel Parker and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. I personally appreciate this full unabridged edition and find it indispensable to an understanding of Melville and his work.

It is easy to call the novel itself "flawed," as indeed it has been so called, but it's quality is of the sort that rather than having virtues and flaws it rather seems like a titanic mountain with crags and gorges, roughly but beautifully complex in its textures. If you enjoy Melville in general, the narrative voice in this novel is frankly lovable. Listening to it in audiobook form, I felt as if wearing this lovely narrative voice like a cloak. I am loath to cast it off!

Robin Field's reading is generally excellent and his tone, especially as narrator, is quite fine for this writing. However, I did occasionally wince at his reading of female voices - sometimes a little too much of the "damsel in distress" tone that male readers are sometimes wont to fall into. But it is a minor quibble (and some of that tone is in the writing as well, though not so much as it sounds in the recording), especially considering that this is really the only recording of Pierre that I am aware of that is a professional production, and unabridged to boot. Overall, highly recommended!
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Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-16-2016
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.