I hope this will qualify as focused upon content, as the content of the audiobook is more than the story being told. American audiobook customers are offered a competent but lackluster reading by someone calling himself Jim Dale (come now, is that Joe the stockroom boy, or what?). His pronunciation is acceptable and his apprehension of the story sufficient, but his voicing of a not-short narrative provides no interest of its own and begins to drag down the proceedings. UK fans are blessed with direct access to what amounts to a brilliant performance in Stephen Fry's reading of Harry Potter's first four adventures. Any other performance this striking, with distinct characterizations and pace-conscious narration, would be likely to distract from the story. But Stephen Fry must be every bit the magician Harry Potter is, because he brings subtle detail and wild dynamism to every paragraph, and inhabits the story like a dragon inhabits his scales. It's a feat of alchemy equal to anything in the books. If I had to go down to the bank and change my dollars for Euros I would have this audiobook collection by overseas shipment.
My wife, the family's true Harry Potter fanatic, opines that Stephen Fry would have been ideal in the motion picture series in the role of Hagrid, the animal lover. When Hagrid regards the baby dragon he says, "he knows his mummy," and when Stephen Fry reads the line, I'm inclined to agree with her. When a job calls for whimsy and gravitas in equal measure, Fry has no equal.