LibriVox (zipped mp3s)
Length: 3 hr, 51 min
Reader: Nicholas Clifford
The book: "Why do you have to go around raking in the past?" asks the elderly Mrs. Bordereau to the unnamed narrator. He's trying to obtain letters the (fictional) American poet Jeffery Aspern wrote to Bordereau during their love affair many years ago. Mrs. Bordereau, accompanied by her niece Miss Tita, jealously guards her privacy against the prying eyes of the literary world, from which the narrator is an undercover agent of sorts.
Henry James considered this his best novella, even better than his well-known The Turn of the Screw (audiobook previously reviewed here). James was a great believer in individual privacy, even for those with fame. Knowing the personal details of a great man's life is both fascinating and inspirational. Yet even the most respectful biographers lay bare secret emotions and words of their subjects. Watching James struggle with this conflict through his characters in this book makes for a intriguing read.
Rating: 7 / 10
The reader: This audiobook places a good reader in a bad recording. Nicholas Clifford has a soft, expressive voice that fits the character of the literary historian who narrates the book. The recording, however, makes it difficult to hear his performance. There is a continual hiss in the background and it seemed to me that the sound volume slowly rose and fell throughout the book, forcing me to turn up or turn down the volume controls constantly. If you're hearing this book in a noisy car or on bad headphones, the recording may be an issue for you, but if you're hearing the book in an otherwise good listening environment, the annoyances will probably be minor.
(Entered in Cym Lowell's Book Review Party Wednesdays)