I listened to a couple short classics (one play, one novella) a couple weeks back. Since they were both short and my thoughts on them are equally so, I decided to review them both in the same post. The two really had very little in common. I just happened to listen to them back-to-back.
This is a play about how politics can drive people crazy. Pretty apt in today’s modern world, no? Basically, the story goes like this. A year after Rosmer’s wife gets ill and kills herself, her nurse/friend Rebecca still lives with the family at Rosmersholm. The wife’s brother comes to visit after a long absence, is horrified to learn that Rosmer has become a liberal, and accuses Rebecca of warping his brother-in-law’s mind. Accusations, confessions, and ruined friendships abound. Melodrama spills everywhere. Aaaaaand that’s pretty much it. I didn’t get much out of the play, but hey, it was interesting to read another work of Ibsen’s. Plus, I now understand the lines that head all the chapters of Lethal White, and why this play was used as the reference in that book.
Performance: The audiobook was full-cast. The two women did well at their roles, but the male voice actors all drove me crazy for one reason or another. I was only able to continue with the audio version because I enjoy listening to plays generally. Also, what was up with all the characters having either British or German accents?? The play is set in Norway…
This is a sweet tale of family stubbornness that leads to estrangement and the efforts of a family friend to trick the family into being together again. It’s also Braddon’s very clear denunciation of the way upperclass women were raised at the time, as well as her idealizing of the health of poor folk. (One of the major threads that goes through the novella is the idea that children who run wild and don’t spend a lot of time learning – aka poor children who don’t go to school – have great health and never need doctors, whereas rich children who study a lot overtax their brains, which leads to a deterioration in physical health – even if part of their study is to spend several hours a day in physical activity.) Setting aside the very naive ideas on the best way to live, the story itself was cute. I enjoyed watching Sir John figure out the trick that’s been played on him, and how his heart falls in love with his grandchildren all the same. It’s ultimately a story of forgiveness and the stupidity of stubborn pride, and I liked that.
Performance: This audiobook was read by Richard Armitage, who did a wonderful job, even with the children’s voices. (I usually don’t like children’s voices in audio narration.)