Sunday, November 16, 2014

Audiobook Review - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Last month, I started working for my local library as a shelver. Since I work on my own and don't work with library patrons much, I get to listen to music or audiobooks while I work. This is an amazing perk and helps me multitask and "read" more books than I would otherwise be able to.

The first audiobook I listened to was F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Despite the fact that it is a classic and there have been several film adaptations, I hadn't read or seen any of them and was quite unfamiliar with the story. I checked out the William Hope version from my library's online system and started listening.

Hope's voicing and characterization immediately engrossed me. Instead of feeling like someone was reading to me, I felt like someone was telling me this story about themselves. His voicing of the female characters did take a little getting used to (as would pretty much any man voicing a variety of female characters). I absolutely loved this version and would heartily recommend it.

But, I didn't finish the book quickly enough before the online system made me return the audiobook to the library. So I checked out a different version, this one voiced by Tim Robbins. This version was similarly done, with Robbins adding characterization to the narrative. I think if I had listened to this version from the beginning, it would have seemed like an excellent version. But coming from the William Hope version, I felt that Robbins' characterizations were off, his accents wrong, and the emotions not conveyed as well as they could have been. It was well done, but not as well done as the Hope version.

After finishing the book and exploring online to see what other versions there were, I came across a more recent version read by Jake Gyllenhaal. This new version was released around the same time that the newer film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio was released. This audiobook got a lot of press and as I browsed the Google search results raving about Gyllenhaal's performance, I decided I needed to take a listen and judge for myself. So I listened to several different snippets and found myself disappointed. This is not to say that Gyllenhaal does a bad job narrating the story, but this version felt more like being read to instead of being spoken to. Gyllenhaal didn't even attempt to do the voices of the characters, which I suppose is better than doing it badly. But I feel that the characterization adds a lot to the listener's experience. I felt that the emotion in this version was seriously lacking.

Have you listened to audiobooks before? Do you have favorite narrators? I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject as I'm just getting into the audiobook scene. Please tell me your favorites (and least favorites) in the comments below!

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