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This is obviously a book that was not meant to be put in audio. In fact, the editing is quite poor, where some stories don't even announce the title and author. That said, there are two real gems: The Yellow Wallpaper and The Diamond as Big as the Ritz. Both are read extremely well. In fact, they were more of a dramatic performance than a reading and made the listen worth while. If you can get this book on the cheap, get it for these two delights.
Every story has a different narrator, some difficult to understand with their heavy Brittish accents. Others are recorded in low quality making its sound a bit distracting. Still others are plainly boring (with all respect to these recognized masters).
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Judged on standards of quality of writing, narration and psychological coherence (the weak link), I would rate this collection a 4.5.
Eventually, though, I gave it 4 overall. The reason being there is little sense of joy; on the contrary, there is an ironic, mocking tone and questioning of human frailities throughout. You are confronted and often you cringe. All the tales are set before 1950 and may seem old-fashioned and slow-moving. They are best savoured over a week or two.
Now the good news!! None of the stories are duds; several are outstanding, as is the narration. The Yellow Wallpaper, a description of slow disintegration into madness is mesmerizing in its detail, focus and imagination. It was written quickly and from the heart over two afternoons, I believe, by Charlotte Perkins Gilmore. I suspect that feminists love it (men are ambiguously and indirectly maligned ... or maybe not, that is its charm). The Gioconda Smile by Aldous Huxley is another great yarn. Set in the 1920s, it depicts a conceited, supercilious Englishman who betrays women seemingly without damage or remorse until everything goes pear-shaped with a vengeance. It is beautifully written, well-crafted and excellently read by Michael York I think. Unfortunately, no acknowledgement is ever given. The outstanding narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper is likewise snubbed - an avoidable annoyance.
A final recommendation: I liked this collection on the first listening but I enjoyed it wholeheartedly the second time around. It is quality material. Give it a whirl!
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