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Patience Tomlinson is as fine a narrator as Juliet Stevenson or Davina Porter ever thought of being. I don't know why her talents are being wasted on mediocre chapter books. Except for a few works on history, she is kept working reading ephemeral junk.In this wonderful novel, she sings in French and replicates a couple dozen voices of both sexes and all ages and a range of social ranks and geographical origins. For one of them, it sounds like she was holding her nose! For the high-ranking lady, she takes on a twirpy mispronunciation of ordinary words. She is a howling old man whose son has died. She is a weeping toddler who fell down an incline. She brings the story to life! I'm not a Brit, but I loved and appreciated every bit of it.
And this novel must surely be Ms. Gaskell's masterpiece. Yes, it's about bonnets and petticoats and who is marriagable and how much money they have. It's about sipping tea in drawing rooms, leaving calling cards, and the seeming silliness of early 1800's England that we know from other novelists. It is also about the finest details of conversation, putting people at their ease, smoothing things over, twisting the truth, running guilt trips on others, calling attention to oneself -- in short, all the same features of "social intercourse" that challenge us today. Last week I was bullied, demeaned and contradicted in a church knitting group, my hometown called the armpit of the country and all as sweetly as could be. Never mind that I can knit circles around the others, how do I attain peace and possibly put this nasty woman in her place without making the other sweet Christian ladies uncomfortable? It's a puzzlement! And the same things were going on two centuries ago with huge subtlety.
Gaskell gives us a sweet and bright heroine with a widowed physician father who is also bright and loving. She gives us some interesting people in the nearby town -- two families in large houses and quite a few struggling gentility. Then the physician remarries. The new step-mother has a daughter of her own, also a teen-ager and very beautiful and also loving. But the new step-mother must be one of the most irritating, one of the nastiest women in all literature. A second listen only points up how masterfully Gaskell handles this character. I wanted to say, "Oh, shut up!" And Gaskell uses this character's blathering to build suspense. We want to say enough of all that, what is going on with . . . ?
There are love stories and weddings in the book. Gaskell points up the difference between being physically attractive -- slim and well-dressed, nice on the surface -- and being truly kind, dependable, hard-working and intelligent. Our heroine is very bright, curious and caring. She doesn't play dumb, either. This wins her the prize in the end.
I LOVE THIS BOOK!
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Love it and couldn't wait each night to listen! Better than watching the movie. The great detail was wonderful!
I enjoyed this audiobook despite the narration which irritated me from time to time; I prefer narrators that read the book with subtle interpretation and this one, unfortunately, tried way too much (in my opinion) to 'act' the book, going as far as to add sobbing and whistling, which I found grating. I got through it however so it could've been worse.
I was a little startled to find the final chapter was actually written as a summary on the notes left by Ms Gaskell as she passed away just before the book's completion. It was all nearly wrapped up though so I didn't feel cheated as much as surprised. Thought I ought to mention it here to hopefully save others from this feeling, but as I say, I wouldn't let this deter you from reading the book.