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Customer Review

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Splendid Reading of a Unique Novel., 5 May 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Mr. Norris Changes Trains (Penguin Classics) (Audio Cassette)
On a very few occasions in one's life a personality is encountered who is by all rational measures is an out and out scoundrel, amoral, treacherous, mendacious, cowardly and - totally irresistible. It is a mystery why such persons should earn tolerance, and even regard, and why they should live on in one's memory and affection long after many more worthy characters one has known have faded into obscurity. It is Christopher Isherwood's genius, in this, his probably best novel, to describe such a character in such convincing detail that he lives on, years after first reading, as a personality more real than many actual persons of one's acquaintance. Little good can be said about Arthur Norris - other than that he is an engaging companion - and the reader is never in any doubt about his total unreliability, but it is impossible not to like him as he weaves his pathetically futile schemes of cunning and treachery against the backdrop of the last days of Weimar Germany. With a minimum of detail, but with that minimum telling, Isherwood fixes the time and locale with sharp accuracy and brings it further to life with a bizarre but credible cast of supporting characters. The balance between comedy and tragedy, farce and outright horror, is splendidly managed. This talking book version is all but perfect. Alan Cumming is an ideal reader and adopts a wide range of voices and accents throughout. His use of pauses and of changes of tone and emphasis is masterly. Arthur Norris's fruity tone are horribly enjoyable while the dreadful Kuno (to hear him ask if the narrator has read "Vinnie the Pooh" is enough to make the flesh crawl) becomes an almost palpable presence. In summary - one of the best Talking Books I've encountered. It's the only one you'll need on a long car journey since you'll listen to it over and over.
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