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  • Rebecca

  • By: Daphne Du Maurier
  • Narrated by: Anna Massey
  • Length: 14 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 190
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 172
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 172

Daphne du Maurier's young heroine meets the charming Maxim de Winter and despite her youth, they marry and go to Manderley, his home in Cornwall. There, the sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers and the mystery she keeps alive of his first wife Rebecca - said to have drowned at sea - threatens to overwhelm the marriage.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Last night I dreamt of Manderlay

  • By rosewart on 14-04-2016

Faded 'classic'

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 14-05-2019

One of those 'classic' novels which somehow I've never got round to. Having got the Audible version read by Anna Massey - she of the cut-glass accent - I at last made it through. Only just, though - I nearly gave up more than once. I found it in turn incredible in plotting, long-winded and over-written, painfully class-conscious even for its time (it reminded be a bit of 'Brief Encounter', where the characters speak as though they're holding a cork up their bottom). And it wasn't the slightest bit alarming. I got off to a bad start when I realised Ms du M. had lifted a good part of her plot from 'Jane Eyre', with the change that the naughty wife is not in the attic but dumped in her little boat at the bottom of the bay.

Having guessed the 'secret' (such as it is) halfway through, I amused myself with reflecting how modern forensic science would have had Max behind bars in short order. They would have found blood and DNA in the boat shed. They would have dug the bullet out the wall. Even a decomposed body would show signs of a bullet-punctured aorta. The wrenched up boards would obviously have been done with a lever.

I found the morality a bit eyebrow raising, too. I mean, just because party-animal Rebecca put it around a bit too generously for the time, why does that make it OK for her maddened husband to kill her and get away with it, supported unhesitatingly by limp-wristed girl-wife No.2? Because, of course, Max belongs to the upper class and the whole thing is settled 'among gentlemen' without any nosy policemen asking awkward questions.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Mrs Craddock

  • By: W. Somerset Maugham
  • Narrated by: Beth Chalmers
  • Length: 10 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 2
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 2
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 2

Bertha Ley comes of age, inherits her father's money, and promptly marries a handsome, calm, and unimaginative man. Bertha is wildly in love with Edward and believes she can be happy playing the role of a dutiful wife in their country home. But, intelligent and sensual, she quickly becomes bored by her oppressively conventional life, and finds her love for her husband slipping away. Originally rejected by publishers, Mrs. Craddock was first published only on condition that certain "shocking" passages were removed. It was 30 years before the full text could be published.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Early Maugham - and it shows

  • By Peter on 07-07-2018

Early Maugham - and it shows

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-07-2018

This was published in 1904, near the start of Maugham's career. The plot is hackneyed - well-educated, idealistic young heiress to a small country estate marries a practically-minded farmer and finds, unsurprisingly, that he's a boor in her eyes. She is astonished that, far from rejecting him as an uncouth gold-digger, the country neighbours strongly approve of his values, his bluff personality and his skills as a manager. Bertha Ley endures years of loveless marriage but makes no real attempt to escape her lot, despite having money of her own. The story, like most novels of the period, is weakened by Maugham's inability to take us beyond the bedroom door, although even so he was forced to censor it. I found Bertha a complete bore (I lost count with how many times she rushes to her room and throws herself weeping on her bed at some slight) and all my sympathies were with her husband who is tolerant beyond belief. The general tone is relieved by the patches of ironical humour from the narrator and the remarks of Bertha's witty aunt. It's amusing that, when a boyishly handsome young lover appears to try to woo Bertha from the straight and narrow, it's Maugham himself who finds his creation an irresistible gay love object. The narrator, who has a high-pitched, rather childish voice, does an excellent job with unpromising material. Even a master story-teller like Maugham had to learn his trade.

  • Rocket Men

  • The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon
  • By: Robert Kurson
  • Narrated by: Ray Porter, Robert Kurson
  • Length: 12 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 42
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 39
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 39

By August 1968, the American space program was in danger of failing in its two most important objectives: to land a man on the moon by President Kennedy's end-of-decade deadline and to triumph over the Soviets in space. With its back against the wall, NASA made an almost unimaginable leap: It would scrap its usual methodical approach and risk everything on a sudden launch, sending the first men in history to the moon - in just four months. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A familiar story, well told

  • By Peter on 13-05-2018

A familiar story, well told

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 13-05-2018

The insignia for Apollo 8 was the infinity symbol: the Saturn 5 took the three astronauts into earth orbit then took them on a trajectory looping round the moon and back to earth. Issues during the flight were minor and cleared the way for the lunar landing flights the next year, in 1969. The Apollo 8 flight program was cobbled together at very short notice, for fear the Soviets would beat the US to a round the moon trip. The Saturn rocket had never flown with men aboard before, and the flight broke numerous records including the first lunar orbit injection and the first human transit of the far side of the moon. The risks of curtailing the Apollo program in this way were huge: NASA itself put the odds of a complete mission and safe return at no better than 50%. Kurson tells this story with extreme clarity and vigour, though it appears to be based entirely on popular, published sources. He is good on setting the voyage into the context of US and world events in the key year of 1968, and there is plenty of human detail about the astronauts and their families: too much for me, as in truth apart from their incredible bravery the men were not in truth very interesting people. The account is very thin, even for the layman, on the technical and engineering side of the mission.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • After It Happened

  • Publisher's Pack, Books 1 & 2
  • By: Devon C. Ford
  • Narrated by: R. C. Bray
  • Length: 12 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 253
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 237
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 238

This omnibus edition contains Survival (book 1) and Humanity (book 2) of the After It Happened series.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Great first 2 books

  • By Mr Timothy N. Clarkson on 14-09-2017

Teenage boys' fantasy

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-05-2018

I started to listen to this vast, post-apocalyptic fantasy purely because, unusually, it's set in England, not the US, after an inexplicable disease has wiped out around 99% of the global population. Like all novels of the genre it is about a small group of immune survivors who have inherited a suddenly empty world. When I'd checked there weren't, at least, any zombies in it I gave it a go.

The first volume, Survival, was nearly enough for me. Ford is a novelist only by courtesy. His characters are cardboard, he has no sense of place, his dialogue is frequently ridiculous, and even his grammar and sentence-structure are more than suspect. His reliance on the passive voice, presumably to pad out his sentences, is maddening: just having a character light, smoke and discard a cigarette can take most of a paragraph. He has no sense of pacing - his idea of a plot is to chain together one violent encounter after another, described in stomach-churning detail. This is unashamed, unadorned male adolescent fantasy, complete with a spunky, teenage heroine, played out with the biggest of big lethal toys looted from military bases, told in basic English.

Nevertheless... George Orwell once said that reading simple-minded popular fiction is like the taste for cheap sweets. Despite myself I kept on with this, right to the end of the series in fact. The sheer size of the story means that one does get to know the characters, trite as they are. Ford's obsessive interest in the most minute details of military hardware (no idea how accurate this is) and the sheer, remorseless plodding accumulation of detail - nothing is too trivial - does grip you a bit despite yourself, like the descriptions in 'Robinson Crusoe' of looting his shipwreck down to the last barrel of nails. My recommendation: don't start this if you suspect you might not be able to resist it.
The gravel-voiced narrator does his best with the material, though I suspect he might have gone in for some eye-rolling in places.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • New Grub St

  • By: George Gissing Peter
  • Narrated by: Peter Newcombe Joyce
  • Length: 21 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 1

One of the greatest novels to have come from the 19th century, a realistic, gritty exposure of the lives, loves, intrigue and rivalry that existed in the literary world of London. The art form and culture of writing is becoming a business, expanding rapidly, and profit is more important than integrity of purpose.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Mournful and brilliant

  • By Peter on 16-12-2017

Mournful and brilliant

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-12-2017

If you could sum up New Grub St in three words, what would they be?

Sad. sad. sad.

What was one of the most memorable moments of New Grub St?

Reardon's ecstatic reminiscences to Biffen of an evening at Athens, and Biffen's suicide.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The terrible scene where the marriage of Reardon and Amy finally collapses under the impact of Reardon's terminal 'writer's block'.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I wanted to, but I rationed myself. I know this novel very well but I loved Joyce's rendition of some of my favourite scenes. He is a brilliant narrator, although I think the Biffen 'voice' is not quite right.

Any additional comments?

This is Gissing's gloomy masterpiece. There are dreadful scenes in it, based on the author's experiences as an educated literary man, of life in the lower depths of London poverty, at a time when there was no safety net but the workhouse. I wish there was an audiobook of his 'The Odd Women'.