Well, hello there! I feel like I’ve been pretty remiss lately.
(So you call yourself an Armitage blogger?) Yes, well… it just seems that there’s not a whole heck of a lot going on at the moment, and when I was racking my brain trying to think of non-quilt-related topics, the best I could come up with was that, although I’ve listened to it twice, I haven’t commented on Richard’s sort-of recent narration of The Chimes by Charles Dickens. I think it’s a little telling, the fact that I have listened to it, more than once, but haven’t had much motivation to talk about it. Every time I’d sit down to write my impressions, I’d find my mind wandering back to my quilting.
So let’s start with why that is. On the one hand, I LOVED the narration. Totally, and unequivocally. Richard has never yet let me down in one of his narrations, and this was no exception. On the other hand, as much as I’d love for his narration to have made of me a “Dickens convert”… I just can’t say that he has. Luckily for them, Richard Armitage and Charles Dickens together have another crack at that coming up in less than a week, when his narration of David Copperfield is due to be released by Audible on Feb. 9. Naturally, I’ve pre-ordered that book and I’ve every confidence that I will, at the very least, enjoy one aspect of it. Richard.
I’m not the only one looking forward to David Copperfield despite it being, well, David Copperfield. A couple of days ago, I got an e-mail from Audible with a link to the “Editor’s Select: Books We’re Most Excited About in February.” Here’s what I found when I followed that link: “There are some authors whose genius is so legendary, whose body of work is so vast, and whose renown in the literary world is so immeasurable, that to make a step into their catalogue becomes a daunting task. For me, this was Dickens. What if he didn’t live up to the hype? What if I didn’t get it? To make the plunge, I needed some assistance. Enter Richard “Ear-Candy” Armitage, as he’s become known around the Audible office. As always, his narration is immaculate, bringing Dickens’ extraordinary tale to great heights and voicing its diverse cast with unmatched verve. But Armitage succeeded in bringing David Copperfield to life for me and I can’t wait to dive deeper into Dickens’ brilliance.” — Doug (Audible Editor)
“Ear-Candy” is right. Stepping into Dickens’ catalogue as “a daunting task” is also right. For me, at least. And that’s why I haven’t had the motivation to blog about The Chimes. Can I recommend it to Armitage lovers? Absolutely. I think it’s safe to say that 3 hours of listening to Richard’s voice, in all it’s many nuances, bringing to life such a wide variety of characters and such a scale of emotions, through peaks of happiness and joy to valleys of loss and desolation, will appeal to most of the fandom. Can I recommend it to friends and family? I doubt it. I loved the performance, but the story, for me, was a bit of a struggle.
I listened to it primarily at the sewing machine. I tried to listen to it at other times, (packing for vacation, on the airplane, etc.,) but I just kept getting distracted and losing the thread of the storyline. I needed to be a captive audience in order to stay focused, and the sewing machine provided that. Even so, I would find my mind wandering, and have to back-track. Or I’d get caught up appreciating the voice Richard was doing, picturing his facial expressions or hand gestures as he sat in the studio, and have to back-track. I had to back-track so many times that by the end, I wasn’t even certain exactly where the story had gone. I had a vague notion that an alternate universe had been entered, in which the lead character, Trotty Veck, had died, and the supporting characters had gone down unfortunate paths into ever-more-impoverished circumstances, but I don’t think I had even completely grasped certain details, like the little girl (Lilian) had ended up as a prostitute.
Therefore, I decided to listen again, and that time I was able to stay more focused on the story itself, and recognize the cautionary themes therein. I think what I took away from the actual story was something along the lines of “it is best to trust in the goodness of humanity, the importance of loving relationships, and the hope for a better future, or that better future will be lost” … and this theme was very so-so for me. Not that I disagree necessarily, I just had trouble navigating and wasn’t entirely compelled.
I did love a few parts, entirely due to Armitage’s narrative capabilities. The scene where Trotty Veck’s daughter, Meg, brings him a surprise- a warm meal on a cold winter afternoon- and wishes him to guess the contents of the covered basket on smell alone. Lots of smiles and warm-fuzzies on my part- just a heartwarming scene, and Richard’s ability to bring the scene to life, the deep inhales, Trotty’s eager guesses, Meg’s giggles- it was lovely! Another stand-out scene for me was later in the story, in the alternate universe, when Meg’s former fiancé (Richard), now a broken wreck of a man, comes to visit her on behalf of Lillian, who has evidently fallen from grace but wishes to give Meg some of her earnings. RA’s portrayal of the middle-aged, alcoholic version of Richard, imbued with disappointment and broken dreams, but with a husky undertone of tenderness still reserved for his former love, was just brilliant.
All in all, it was a wonderful performance of a somewhat lackluster story. The fact that I listened to it twice, basically just to relive the joy of Richard performing in all his many voices, bodes well for the upcoming rendition of David Copperfield. Whether I love the story or not, I’m sure to appreciate Richard giving his best to his craft.
So bring it on!