I adore audio books and always have one playing away in my car during my commute to work; — so when I went hunting to purchase a new unabridged audio edition on CD of Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park, I was quite surprised to learn that my choices were very few at exactly two; a Blackstone AudioBooks, Inc (2008) read by Johanna Ward and a Naxos AudioBooks (2007) read by Juliet Stevenson. My first choice was of course the Juliet Stevenson version, for what Janeite could ever forget her outrageous performance as Mrs. Elton in the 1996 movie adaptation of Emma? My abject apologies to Johanna Ward, who I am sure must be a very fine reader since she has several audio books to her credit, but the thought of listening to Mansfield Park read by Mrs. Elton just intrigued me and gave me the giggles. If anyone could liven up Mansfield Park, reputed to be Jane Austen’s most complex and dark novel, she could!
Being a reader for an audio book is not an easy task since so many different ‘performances’ are required to distinguish each of the characters for the listener. I have found through a course of trial and error that I enjoy audio books read by classically trained actors. Juliet Stevenson fills this qualification perfectly for me using every inch of her Royal Shakespearean Company training. Her understanding of Jane Austen’s use of language and her true British accent added greatly to my enjoyment of this fine production.
Naxos AudioBooks has made quite a solid commitment to present quality productions of all of Jane Austen’s six major novels in unabridged and abridged formats. You can read about all of their recordings on their excellent web site and listen to a PodCast of an interview of Juliet Stevenson as she discusses her involvement in the audio recordings and her affinity to Jane Austen. Of note is the free download for this month of Milton’s L’Allegro read by Samantha Bond (Maria Bertram in Mansfield Park 1983 and Mrs. Weston in Emma 1996)
It has been said that Jane Austen often read her writings to her family as entertainments. Her beautiful use of language which just flows effortlessly is completely suited for the spoken word. When you add to perfection an accomplished actress with a keen sensitivity to Jane Austen’s particular style, the results truly are remarkable.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Regency Stars
Mansfield Park Madness: Day 4 Give-away
Leave a comment by August 30th. to qualify for the free drawing on August 31st. for one abridged and one unabridged copy of
Mansfield Park: The Complete Classics Series Audio Book
Naxos AudioBooks (2007). A brilliant reading by the acclaimed British actress Juliet Stevenson. Unabridged 14 CD’s (17 hours), ISBN: 978-9626344675, abridged 3 CD’s ISBN: 978-9626340677
FREE JANE AUSTEN AUDIO SAMPLER
Available to all participants of Mansfield Park Madness. Just leave a comment between August 15-30, 2008 and e-mail your physical address to Austenprose at Verizon dot net before September 1, 2008 and you will receive one copy of the following sampler by mail. US residents only.
Jane Austen Naxos AudioBooks Sampler, read by various artists
Naxos AudioBooks, Ltd. (2008). A lively sample reading of the Biography of Jane Austen by Elizabeth Jenkins, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and an interview with actress Juliet Stevenson. 1 CD, 75 minuets.