Here is Henry James' dark comedic masterpiece, written in the final period of his life.
Lambert Strether goes to Paris to bring back Chad, son of the wealthy New England widow he plans to marry. But he gradually comes to feel that life in Paris may hold more for him than in Woollett, Massachusetts.
American-born English author Henry James (1843- 1916), was one of the founders and leaders of realism in fiction and is considered to be one of the great British novelists.
Please note: This is a vintage recording. The audio quality may not be up to modern day standards.
A very problematic reading
I usually love the RNIB audiobooks: they may have an "older" feel to them, but the narrators are all unmistakably professional and generally do their jobs extremely well. Peter Grey is also a professional narrator, but sadly he is not the right man for this audiobook. First of all, his accent is so "plummy" that it would make the Queen sound common. This in itself is not a very big problem for me, but if you're not used to this sort of accent it might be enough to completely ruin the audiobook. Listen to the sample and decide. But the bigger issue is that most of the characters in the book are Americans, and Mr. Grey tries to read their parts with an American accent, which is where he completely and utterly fails. His idea of an American accent seems to be to pronounce all the R's, but all his vowel sounds remain unchanged. It would have been much better had he not tried at all, and read everything in his own accent. A secondary problem is that he barely differentiates the different characters' voices, but there are enough cues in the text itself and in the paragraph breaks to make this tolerable.
In the end, I was able to ignore the narrator's shortcomings and follow the prose, but it was hard work. I would recommend looking for another version of this book, unless your own accent happens to be like that of Mr. Grey, in which case you probably wouldn't mind it.
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Way below Audible's standard
This is a great novel, but as other reviewers have mentioned, the reader is terrible. The phony American accent is bad enough but it often breaks down into an awful Irish accent! When Audible offers something for a low price, listen to the sample first
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- london girl
This is a very old recording and the sound quality is very bad. I don't think it should be available through audible.
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Not only is the quality dreadful (I guess you get what you pay for - $6.90), but the narrator has a ludicrous British accent so over-the-top that I truly believed that it was meant to be a joke at first, and, even worse, he does an imitation American accent that is so terrible that I couldn't identify what it was meant to be until I was couple of hours into the recording. Henry James does not deserve this - pay the extra to get a reasonable recording.
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Fine book, difficult to understand narration
Was looking forward to hearing this book after the excellent audiobook of Washington Square narration. Having traveled widely enough to appreciate and enjoy various accents and inflections, unfortunately I was unable to follow what was being said at times during this narration. It was a great disappointment because I am a longstanding fan of James. Sadly, somehow there is a distortion of narration that made listening and comprehension nearly impossible.
- A Reader
The best of many Audible versions
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Yes. I listened to all of Audible's sample readings of James' novel The Ambassadors. Though a bit quirky at first, I got used to Mr. Gray's reading style. James is very hard to read aloud and I felt Mr. Gray did it the best. He also, unusual to many readers, saw James' humor and even giggled at points. His reading was delightful.
What other book might you compare The Ambassadors to and why?
Other late James - the Wings of the Dove or The Golden Bowl. James was unique in this period of trying to be realistic rather than romantic, trying to eliminate the author from the story and ulitimately telling the story from his protagonist's point of view only.
Which character – as performed by Peter Gray – was your favorite?
Certainly Lambert Strether.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
Definitely the seen on the river when Strether espies Chad and Mme. de Vionnet as they really were.
Any additional comments?
A long story but well worth listening to. I did refer now and then to the actual text to read along or reread what I'd heard. James' writing deserves that.