In Free Weeks during recent months I have posted about how much I have gotten out of well-read audiobooks. Well-performed audiobooks have added greatly to my pleasure and cultural knowledge, for I might never have taken the time to read through many a thick tome or series when so much else has occupied my hands, (and work has been going slowly for me).
Since we were married, The Husband has tried to get me interested in several series. First was the Hobbit/ Lord of the Rings series. I had friends who were very much into it when I was younger and frankly, I just couldn’t. Along came the Peter Jackson films and with The Husband and Niece complaining about the deviations from the books, I looked into the audio versions, and loved them.
When it came to the “Narnia” books, even the movies did not do it for me. Try as the family might to get me to read the stories or watch the movies, I just didn’t get it. Yes, there were analogies to Christianity, but, well, why not just Christ, as opposed to Aslan? No, it was all lost on me.
But when I was out of excuses and out of ideas as to what to listen to next, I gave it a shot.
I found many versions on YouTube, but simply, most were not well done. Then, when I did find decent ones, I could not find a last section or chapters and was frustrated.
The Husband came to my rescue when he went, unbidden, to our local library and brought home the entire series of Narnia books on CD. I asked him if I had to get through ALL of the stories and he said, yes. We agreed that if I got through these, he’d read a series which I particularly love.
Our Tuesday Fox has mentioned the Narnia books many times, and I have discovered that they are glorious. What truly added to my pleasure was the incredible readings done in the set by Kenneth Branagh, Patrick Stewart, Lynn Redgrave , Michael York, Derek Jacobi and a couple of actors with whose work I was less familiar, but their contributions were no less impressive.
The very mass of work is great, with many CDs per ‘book’. They are in storyline chronological order, not written order. You can tell that some of the ‘first’ parts of the saga were written after some of the ‘last’. By the sheer ease of the writing, the more-ready humor, you could tell that C. S. Lewis was more comfortable with himself as his stories were accepted and loved.
After I listened, two thing happened: I ‘got’ the stories and the Christ/Aslan analogy…and I learned that I really have to stop striking bargains with people, because they never come through with their side.
I cannot find this particular Narnia audio book set as a whole, but I am still looking.
My book-budget is limited, but these readings, done by classically-trained British actors, is beyond any which I have ever experienced, and I may just indulge myself. Buying them one-by-one is pricy, to be frank. I would also love to have these, if only just to be able to share the experience with others.
If you know anyone who would like the books, or would like to hear a great reading of the stories, I could not recommend these more highly. I don’t believe that there is any way I would have read all seven books, and I would have missed so much. It was easy to keep up my end of the agreement.
I’d never have gone for The Last Battle and I probably would not have bothered with the prequel, The Magician’s Nephew. Let me tell you that this particular recording, Kenneth Branagh’s performance is worth a listen, whether you know the story by heart or have never heard of it.
I enjoyed all of the Magician’s Nephew’s story very much and all of the characters came to life, but near the end, (not to give a spoiler), one character changes drastically. I did not realize who it was reading the story until I looked afterward, but I can tell you that I was so completely impressed by the changes in the character’s attitude, the character’s voice and the manner of speech, (slowly during one or two sentences, which came across by beautifully the performance), that I cried.
These are not available on YouTube, or I’d send you there for a listen. Audio ‘plays’ are, there, with the characters voiced by different actors, but since the complete flow of the writings of the books is missing, again, it did not ‘sink in’. Stories are good, (these are great), but I enjoy the way a story is written, more than the story itself. I can’t say that I ever ‘enjoyed’ any story by Ernest Hemingway, but I have probably read everything he has written, just to ‘listen’ to him ‘talk’. Conversely, I supposed that I have missed a number of good stories because I could not get past bad writing.
However, if you have the money and inclination, I will send you to the site:
If you like good stories beautifully read, I can’t imagine any better than this series of recordings.