Source: Listen to Genius
Length: 9 minutes
Reader: Beth Richmond
The story: The genius of “The Open Window” lies in its brevity. In a coastal English village, a young man on medical vacation for his nerves visits a house in which a French window (I believe what I would call a French door) is left standing open. While he waits for the lady of the house to come meet him, a conversation begins with the lady’s niece, Vera (the name means “truth”) which forms the basis for a surprising plot. Though the story is short, these two characters are real enough that by the end, we have more insight about them than such a brief acquaintance would suggest.
Faced with such a short work, one would expect most authors to sacrifice some aspect of the story. Many authors would forgo building complex characters, allowing two-dimensional stereotypes to serve as a shorthand. Others would supply only the barest plot, making their story more of a character study or vignette. A more economical writer might provide a generic setting to save having to describe it. Yet, Saki takes none of these shortcuts. Instead in this story, he distills down characters, plot, and setting while leaving their essence intact.
The reader: This is a professional recording featuring Beth Richmond’s reading. The sound quality is very high. Ms. Richmond’s performance brings out the wit and sarcasm of the piece. Especially fine are her character voices – they aren’t just different sounds so you can tell who’s speaking, but a reinforcement of the characters’ attitudes and personalities.
Note: I have recently been informed that the download link is causing problems with at least some versions of Internet Explorer. I used Firefox v2.0 and had no problems. The site requires you to click on the download link rather than right-clicking and saving. Make sure pop-up blockers are turned off and Java is updated. If you still can't get the link to work, download Firefox; it's a great browser.