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I really enjoy Henry James, and this book was no exception. It is a portrait, perhaps one of the earlier, of a character encountered in a number of books (e.g., Sinclair Lewis' Dodsworth): the intelligent, successful, open and likeable American who goes out to see the (old) world and who is somehow completely blind to European social structure and conventions. In some aspects he is naive, but he is not stupid or inexperienced; he is simply unable to grasp the way members of a class-based society perceive humanity. And above all, he is genuinely likeable. I was also somewhat surprised to find that this book was written in 1877 -- to me, it really felt like an early-20th century novel, though I can't explain the precise reason. It wasn't the greatest piece of literature I've ever read, but it was very nice.
As for the narrator: it's really hard to rate him. On the one hand, he has a very warm, pleasant, clear voice, and he has a touch of that slightly outdated American accent which is perfect for the character and the narrator. He makes no attempt at characterizations, which I thought was fine -- I never felt confused as to the identity of the speaker. But the major problem with him is that he simply doesn't know any language other than American. Most of the story takes part in France, and there are quite a few French characters and expressions. For all of these, the narrator sounds like a caricature of an American mispronouncing French. He even mispronounces French expressions that are used in English, such as "coup d'etat" (he pronounces the final t). And the only character he tries to supply with an accent -- an elderly English woman -- sounds more or less like Dick Van Dyke's hilarious mock-Cockney accent in "Mary Poppins". It really sounded as if the main character was reading the novel. And just like the main character, the narrator has such a pleasant and earnest voice that it was hard to "blame" him for this shortcoming -- that's just the way he is.
All in all, an enjoyable if slightly confusing experience.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
There's a lot going wrong with this audiobook. First, I really don't like Henry James. (Had to read it for a class.) I found this book to be an amateurish effort.
However, even if you like James's work, this recording is a poor production. The reader has a nasal voice and uneven enunciation which, coupled with the low quality of the recording, meant that I missed words here and there. So it's hard to listen to on almost every front.
In the reader's favor, he read in a fairly even cadence, which seemed to fit the tone of the book; no histrionics or goofy voices here. It's simply that he tended to drop off the ending of words and, as the microphone seemed to pick up a pretty narrow range of frequencies, those syllables were lost to me.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful