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Though a lengthy work, John Barth's Sot-Weed Factor flows apace as the protagonist bumbles his way through myriad adventures in the late 1600's of England and America. Barth has a great turn of phrase, his wit magnified through his idealistic, hapless and often rather daft Ebinezer Cooke.
I am reminded of Voltaire's Candide, and would extend an extra recommendation to anyone who has appreciation for that work. The wit is two-fold in that much is humourous on the face of situation and yet the underbelly of issues related to colonialism, class structure, the struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism, as well as suffrage, to name a few, are raised by an ever changing cast of characters surrounding our main man Ebenezer. To boot there are a great many passages that toy and explore the notion of identity, and we witness a few switcheroos that play well in the adventure.
I was not surprised, though very pleased, to see that Kevin Pariseau is the narrator of choice for all of Barth's full length books, as he brings true character with his narration. Pariseau is a perfect match for this tale, and his phrasing, tone and pacing are pitch-perfect. He has done great justice to the spirit of the work and really has made it an audio book that engages and paints vivid scenarios in the mind.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
I was first exposed to The Sot Weed Factor in my first year English Lit class at university in 1972. I read this book at least once a year for many years until I lost my copy and found it difficult to find another. I have be hoping that it would be made as an audiobook, and now my hopes I come true.
Although the story can be a bit convoluted at times, it is always entertaining, usually funny and sometimes a bit ribald. Barth has managed to capture the life of the early 1600's in both England and the Americas, making it real to the reader on every level.
I just now downloaded it, and have not yet listened to it, but the story itself is incredible and I am sure the narrator will do it justice.
16 of 17 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to The Sot-Weed Factor again? Why?
Very long book but will listen again almost immediately. The narration is wonderful and the humour is rude and side splitting. Like no other book really
What other book might you compare The Sot-Weed Factor to, and why?
Difficult to compare it to another book. It is written in style of 17th century writers. Reminds you of parts of Treasure Island, Moll Flanders, Oliver Twist. Old fashioned bawdiness, but full of wit and wisdom. Deep philosophy is made really entertaining
Which character – as performed by Kevin Pariseau – was your favourite?
The narration was the best I have ever listened to, even better than Dick Hill. The various attitudes of Ebenezer Cooke to all the adventures that befall him are given life and vision by Mr Pariseau. Ebenezer Cooke is a hero for our times. Lost and aimless and gormless, he comes through and grows before our eyes.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
A couple of hours at a go is about right since it contains so much detail and intrigue that you begin to get confused. But that is part of the point - human life is confusing and things change. Once you accept the pace then the humour revives you when it appears out of the blue and knocks you for six
Any additional comments?
Its huge length, scope and education may count against it for some folk, but it is packed with amazing stories, characters, deep thoughts and laughter. John Barth must be some man. Kevin Pariseau deserves commendation
4 of 4 people found this review helpful