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Mr. David Shaw-Parker's marvellous performance makes Trollope's masterpiece truly unforgettable. The story is told with absolute mastery, with ever so many different accents and voices that every character appears as having a life of its own.
Drawn in by British TV and radio, I've concentrated my Trollope-reading on the Barchester and Palliser series. The Way We Live Now is the first standalone Trollope novel I've tackled.
As always, the characters are unique and realistic, few of them all good or all bad. There are four callow young men - Paul Montague, Dolly Longstaffe, Felix Carbury, and Lord Nidderdale (if he has a first name, I missed it) - and although it's easy to get them confused in the beginning, their different personalities soon assert themselves. Of the four, Paul is the closest to being an honorable man, but even he has moral baggage: a woman from America, with whom he lived for awhile and then dropped, has followed him to England and threatens to cause a scandal.
Hovering over the proceedings is the brooding figure of Augustus Melmotte, a wizard of finance, who promises to make the fortunes of many but turns out to be the mastermind of a kind of Ponzi scheme. He has a daughter, Marie, who is pursued - for her money - by Carbury and Nidderdale. For the sake of her fortune, they're willing to overlook Melmotte's shadowy past, which includes the possibility that he may be Jewish.
Which brings us to another point. There's a fair amount of anti-Semitism depicted in the novel. One subplot, involving another couple, results in tirades of racist invective: it's so over the top and so clearly irrational that it seems to absolve Trollope himself of being anti-Semitic. But the author's point of view isn't always so obvious, and it remains a vexed question. Trollope strikes up conversations with his readers easily and repeatedly, and he never hesitates to tell us what he thinks of his characters; but he never takes the trouble to make himself clear on this one issue.
David Shaw-Parker is a wonderful narrator of Trollope who has done all the Barchester novels for Naxos. Long may he continue. He has the knack of capturing exactly the right tone for Trollope - affectionate, amused, clear-headed, and eminently sensible. And he can do a credible American accent as well, which for this novel is crucial.
The one thing he can't do is make any of these finely drawn characters endearing. It's a great job, but there aren't any heroes to root for in this one.
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Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Anthony Trollope is the ultimate comfort read for me. It's like floating on a sea of Victorian storytelling, where everything comes out right in the end. That being said, The Way We Live Now was not always a comfortable book to read. I don't think it would be my first recommendation for people new to Trollope. The characters aren't quite as sympathetic as some (I think the wrong man got the girl in the end) and the length of this is pretty daunting.
What did you like best about this story?
This novel has some serious staying power/relevance. It first popped onto my radar back in the days of the financial crisis when a couple of people I knew told me that this novel was all too close to the then current story of Bernie Madoff. Fast forward two presidential terms later, when I finally get around to tackling it, and Bernie Madoff is old news. It's not him I see most in Augustus Melmotte, the vulgar nouveau-riche man trying to prove himself worthy in London society. "There was one man who thoroughly believed that the thing at the present moment most essentially necessary to England’s glory was the return of Mr. Melmotte for Westminster. This man was undoubtedly a very ignorant man. He knew nothing of any one political question...He had probably never read a book in his life. He knew nothing of the working of parliament...But yet he was fully confident that England did demand and ought to demand that Mr. Melmotte should be returned for Westminster. This man was Mr. Melmotte himself."I wish I thought Trollope was psychic. Instead I am afraid that The Way We Live Now may just be the way we are always going to live. One just wishes that Ivanka showed as much strength of character as Marie.
What about David Shaw-Parker’s performance did you like?
The reader manages many voices and accents without ever letting his performance overwhelm the material.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful