Sunday 25 November 2018

Review of the Audiobook Narnia Chronicles (2002)

I have recently been listening to the (unabridged) Audiobook version of the Narnia Chronicles, from 2002. Each book has a different narrator: LW&W - Michael York; Prince Caspian - Lynn Redgrave; Dawn Treader - Derek Jacobi; Silver Chair - Jeremy Northam; Horse and his Boy - Alex Jennings; Magician's Nephew - Kenneth Branagh; Last Battle - Patrick Stewart.

Overall, I rate them as an excellent series; and a very valuable way to experience the Narnia books. Indeed, I would say that I enjoyed listening to these audiobooks (all at least twice, some more often) more than any other experience of the Narnia world - I got even-more out of the listening experience than I did from actually reading the books myself.

Having said this, and emphasising that all are at-least good; the quality of narration is a bit uneven. In particular, I liked least Michael York's reading of the first volume; which is unfortunate given that this is the most likely starting point.

Favourite was probably Kenneth Branagh's Magician's Nephew, from which I realised that this volume was much better than I had realised before; and Alex Jenning's Horse and his Boy, which was a sheer joy from start to finish, exceeding the expectation I had had from this least known but most 'perfect' of the Narnian stories. Jeremy Northam has prepared meticulously and lets the story of the Silver Chair speak for itself. I would also commend Patrick Stewart for the versatility of his Last Battle; spanning the full range from utter despair to Heavenly joy.

It is interesting to me that I did not especially like the Narnia books as a child; and - apart from LW&W I think I only read Silver Chair... or some of it. I tried to re-read them about 20 years ago, before I was a Christian, but didn't get very far... Somehow, they just didn't 'grab' me (and certainly nothing like I experienced from reading The Hobbit). Even after I was smitten with Tolkien-mania as a teen, and then later still became fascinated by the Inklings, I had to rather force myself through Narnia...

It was Brian Sibley's BBC dramatised version - which I bought in a boxed set in a bookshop sale on CD, and which the family listened-to during car journeys around a deceade ago - that really opened-up the Narnia stories for me (for which, many thanks!)

Since then, I just appreciate them more and more; get ever more from them with each experience, and from reading scholarship and criticism of the series - and would now regard the the Narnia Chronicles as one of my absolute favourites... a Desert Island book. 


Wurmbrand said...

Would you like to say a little more about scholarship and criticism that you have found to be worthwhile? Surely Michael Ward's Planet Narnia!

Dale Nelson

Bruce Charlton said...

Planet Narnia is certainly one of the best. I've read such a lot that I wouldn't know where to start.

Wurmbrand said...

I haven't read Corbin Scott Carnell's Bright Shadow of Reality, but I have the impression that it's excellent on sehnsucht -- so important for the Narnian books. I wonder if you have read it -- ?

Bruce Charlton said...

No I havent.

Anonymous said...

We enjoy the abridged 1991 Caedmon audiobook of The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe read by the late Ian Richardson, but have never caught up with his Silver Chair or Claire Bloom's Prince Caspian, or the late Anthony Quayle's Voyage of the Dawn Treader* in the same series (apparently all recorded in the 1970s). Browsing around online, I found the listing of something I'd never heard of before - abridgments of all the Chronicles of Narnia read by the late Michael Hordern (whom we so enjoy as Gandalf in the BBC Lord of the Rings dramatization). We've also enjoyed what we've heard of the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre dramatizations (which include David Suchet as Aslan) - though (for whatever reason) I'm not sure how much of this series we've heard.

Of these unabridged audiobooks, we (as yet?) only know the Branagh Magician's Nephew, which we thoroughly enjoy (and got in a boxed set with a nice reprint of the book with the illustrations in colour).

David Llewellyn Dodds

*One of the delights of my school days was a complete recording of one of John Donne's Easter sermons read by Anthony Quayle, which our local public library had on LP, so I'd especially like to hear this!

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - I wouldn't be keen on an abridged reading - even by Michael Hordern!