On The Chimes as Narrated by Richard Armitage.

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!

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53 comments

  1. Servetus · February 3, 2016

    I’ve never been in the “I would listen to him read the phone book” category — so his voice has not won me over to something I’d never consume otherwise. I think if it were a performance of a character, I’d try harder (as I did with Hannibal). I’m a little worried that I won’t get past the first hour of DC, but I guess we will see what happens. One thing I really have grown to dislike more and more about Dickens as I get older is his preachiness and DC is *very* moralistic.

    Like

    • jholland · February 3, 2016

      Yes. Sigh. This is going to be the ultimate test of RA’s narrative abilities, I fear. They still haven’t listed the number of hours for this audiobook, but I’m betting upwards of 13hrs. Could be a lot longer, depending on his reading pace. I’ve decided that if the same thing happens to me that happened in “The Chimes”… where I’m getting constantly distracted due to non-compelling storyline… I’ll just take it in installments. I know it was initially published as a serial, and that might work to hold my interest a little better. I could maybe use the 1 hr per week when the kids are at Climbing Club to listen, and leave it at that. Like you said in your recent blog post… that might be enough time for Dickens-related annoyances to fade, and leave me eager for the sound of RA’s voice. We’ll see! My hope is that I’ll be drawn in and just adore it from start to finish… but it IS Dickens.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Guylty · February 3, 2016

    Hello sister! Kudos to you for sitting through that book twice. Good fan! You have described the whole experience just the way I found it, too. And I didn’t even have the patience to listen to the end. Bad fan? No, just not an audiobook fan. I love Richard’s voice, and his ability to create (and consistently remember and apply) unique voices for the different characters really astounds and impresses me. I think he does have a very special and specific gift there, and the fact that the Audible execs also see that, shows that he really is a great reader. However, the silkiest voice and the most original characterisations can not keep my attention when the story is too convoluted and too moralistic, and the characters – frankly – pastiche. Some passages were simply too long, I thought. Well, for my short attention span, that is.
    I have listened to other audio work by Richard, and I *loved* the Georgette Heyers and “Lord of the North”. It may also have to do with the admittedly easier language of those books, and the lighter subject matter. FWIW – I am not planning to buy David Copperfield – unless I have another multi-hour root canal session on the horizon where I need ear-candy to tide me over…

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · February 3, 2016

      Well, I am a huge audiobibliophile (is that even a word?!?) and audiobooks are an integral part of my every day life. 6 hours of listening to Richard narrating even a so-so story was still a treat, in its way. But yeah, I’d LOVE if he’d read something I actually would read on my own steam. Ditto on the Georgette Heyer and especially LOTN… I’d die and go to heaven if he’d read the rest of the Uhtred series. =)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Guylty · February 3, 2016

        LOTN sequels would be fantastic, I second that. Hehe, and I am wondering how RA would do at something slightly more risqué than that…

        Like

        • jholland · February 3, 2016

          Imagine… a hot love scene, read by RA? Deliberately seductive tones, throaty noises, moans? We can dream…

          Liked by 1 person

        • Guylty · February 3, 2016

          *coughs* You’ve said it all. No further comment. *big grin*

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Helen · February 3, 2016

    I found my attention wandering just as yours did… But I’m not sure I want to listen to it again! I do think DC will be better, at least from the story point of view, and more variety of characters…

    Like

    • jholland · February 3, 2016

      Yes, I look forward to all the new voices. He’s an incredible narrator. (Coming from one who listens to on average 15-20 hrs of audiobook narration per week!)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Buffy Brinkley · February 3, 2016

    The Chimes was one of a few (I think the article I read said “3”) stories Dickens had been commissioned to write along the same themes. While A Christmas Carol is his most famous (and albeit most light-hearted) of the trio, I thoroughly enjoyed The Chimes. I think Dickens loses a lot of readers because he is so very full of detail, sometimes painfully and unwarrantedly so, and doesn’t leave much to the imagination, if anything. This is a distraction unto itself and might be why you had such a hard time delving into the story. I know I get much more into a story and enjoy it more when I am able to use my imagination while reading.

    Richard’s ability as a narrator always blows me away. His smooth transition from one character to the next, the emotional inflections in his voice, and his brilliant use of accents serve to make each tale he reads a rich and beautiful symphony. I could go on, but I know I’m preaching to the choir.

    Like you, I am looking forward to David Copperfield mainly for the perfection that is Richard’s voice. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · February 3, 2016

      Oh, for sure. The man is a genius! It’s a weird feeling for me, simultaneously hoping that it’s an enormous number of hours, and dreading the same. LOL! I hope Audible will treat us to some video footage of RA in narrator mode as a promotional tool!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Buffy Brinkley · February 3, 2016

        I hope they do, too. I would purchase a vid of Richard reading anything. LOL

        Like

  5. Mimi Cruz · February 3, 2016

    I didn’t even know anything new was out yet! Yay!

    Like

    • jholland · February 3, 2016

      Hi Mimi! I don’t know when or if The Chimes will be for sale- it was a free holiday gift for Audible users in December. David Copperfield will be out next week, though!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mimi Cruz · February 3, 2016

        So I probably missed it? Darn. Guess that is what I get for being a workaholic. 👿 grr

        Like

      • jholland · February 3, 2016

        Well, the free version you missed, but I just checked- it’s now for sale for 1 credit or $10.46 at Audible.com!

        Like

  6. linnetmoss · February 4, 2016

    Haha! I was waiting for one of you to mention “Ear-Candy Armitage.” The Long Suffering Husband is actually a big Audible customer, and he drew my attention to that quote, saying he was going to buy DC for himself!
    As for me, I want more Georgette Heyer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · February 4, 2016

      And preferably, unabridged. I second that motion! You’ll have to let me know what the LSH thinks of DC… an unbiased review is something I fear I am incapable of delivering. =)

      Liked by 2 people

      • linnetmoss · February 5, 2016

        Yes, and he’ll probably finish it in record time. He plows through audiobooks much faster than I do. And he’s a discerning critic of the readers!

        Like

        • jholland · February 5, 2016

          Normally, so do I! No promises on record time for THIS book, though. Dickens just frightens me and now I’ve learned it’s to be 30+ hours… hoping that’s a blessing and not a curse! LOL

          Liked by 1 person

        • linnetmoss · February 5, 2016

          30 + hours? Good heavens. I am confident that Mr. A.’s dramatic skills will draw you in!

          Like

    • Hariclea · February 4, 2016

      me too!!! i find it hard to decided if he makes better rakes or damsels LOL

      Liked by 2 people

      • linnetmoss · February 5, 2016

        I like his damsels. That’s something he has in common with Mr. H.–both are very good with the female characters!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hariclea · February 5, 2016

          wonder if this says they understand females well 🙂 funny also that men with such deep voices should portray females so successfully

          Liked by 1 person

        • linnetmoss · February 5, 2016

          I think it’s their gentle side 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • jholland · February 5, 2016

          Has CH narrated?

          Liked by 1 person

        • linnetmoss · February 5, 2016

          Yes, he does a fair amount of voice work, though not always audio books. He’s done an abridged “Ivanhoe” which I loved despite the abridgment. And Joseph O’Connor’s “The Thrill of it All”–fantastic! Other odds and ends, including a story from Joyce’s “Dubliners.”

          Like

        • jholland · February 8, 2016

          I’ll have to check these out!

          Liked by 1 person

  7. i.f. · February 4, 2016

    As for “love scene, read by RA”…
    May I recommend Clarissa? There is at least one very indecent scene. Very. As a normal listener I guess I would despise the character of Robert Lovelace. But as a devoted fan of Mr. A. I have a slightly different point of view (uhh, what does that tell about me? Lunatic?). TBH I was rather irritated that the heroine was so devastated by his approach – especially after she was more than willing to elope with him in the beginning. Probably something you have to consider within the context of the Victorian periode. But I was too distracted by the voice of Mr. A. to worry about Ms Clarissa.

    Like

    • jholland · February 4, 2016

      Oh, I’ve tried and tried to track down the Clarissa narration and can’t ever find it! Now I want it even more! I think there are excerpts on YouTube but I’ve avoided them, hoping for the full experience.

      Like

      • i.f. · February 5, 2016

        http://richardarmitagecentral.co.uk/media/audiobookexcerpts/ – please help yourself to some ear-candy. 🙂
        I think this still works. If not, please let me know. I’m sure we could find a way for me sending you my files I have neatly stored in my very own strictly confidental laptop, where no one ever will have access, to to witness the folly of a lady just slightly beyond here best years craving for a man she never will meet in person. But hey – as long as it’s fun….:-))

        Like

        • i.f. · February 5, 2016

          OT: I am a bit surprised TBH. As I haven’t been to the site of RAcentral in ages, I find it today in a very different shape than I recall it. I thought it was a place that was no longer updated, as the admin went a different path in life, and just let the page as a document and collection of facts about the career of Mr. A. But obviously this place had been taken over and is now up to date. The tone on the site strikes me very different and reminds me of a blog, I used to follow a while.

          Like

        • Servetus · February 5, 2016

          I think you’re confusing Richard Armitage Online and Richard Armitage Central.

          Liked by 1 person

        • jholland · February 5, 2016

          I love RAC… I used to be pretty active on the forum (especially the limericks game… go figure!) but recently I’ve not had a lot of time on my hands. But yes, Serv is right, the RAC site I believe is the longest running site of its kind after the RAO site shut down.

          Like

        • jholland · February 5, 2016

          Oh, thanks! An alert friend already offered and now I’m all set! (I love this fandom!)

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Hariclea · February 4, 2016

    I am sort of mid way through, i made myself a trapped audience, ie on bus commute to work and back, with no distractions. And still i drifted… each chapter beginning is littered with waffle waffle waffle waffle where i lost track of the phrase and what the went on and on and ooooooon about 🙂 My mind kept saying: never realised the English language had so many ‘t’s.. to read this meaningfully must be bloody hard … oh how i wish he was reading Shakespeare and iambic, it would sound so much more melodious, etc
    Once i made it through the endless descriptions and stuff things got much better, especially when we dealt the people. Suddenly, i wasn’t thinking about RA’s voice, his pronunciation, the generic accent as a narrator etc and people came to life in an instant. Within seconds almost i forgot it was him and just saw the characters (however annoying and unrewarding they are to know). He a fantastic reader!
    I’ll soldier on til the end, DC will be better than this.. i just wish i could fast forward through some things but it takes more effort almost than to just let it pass by ones ears.
    It’s still interesting to listen and the ability of his voice and mind to create people is amazing, the material is bleeeeeh.

    I kept thinking – oh how i wish he’d read some spy novels, thrillers, stuff… or of the classics do some more Shakespeare …
    Don’t think i will listen to this particular one again simply because i get the same pleasure of his characterizations by going back to any of his others, including that fabulous Hamlet , which changed my view of the story forever 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · February 4, 2016

      Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed Hamlet, too! If classics, I’d vote for a Jane Austin! I truly hope DC will be a bit more compelling- I know he’ll nail it, but it’s still no guarantee I’ll fully enjoy it. =)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hariclea · February 4, 2016

        i know Dickens does prattle on way too much sometimes, he’s sort of trying to show off how masterful he is, in his own eyes i think 😉 and end up boring one to death! Oh yes… this may be our only chance to get some Austen out of him 🙂 I’ll keep my hopes up, maybe maybe 🙂

        Like

        • jholland · February 4, 2016

          Wouldn’t it just be wonderful if WE could somehow have some imput for his next audiobook? Come on, Audible. Put up some various options in several genres, and let us vote! (I can dream, right? LOL)

          Liked by 2 people

        • Hariclea · February 5, 2016

          fan minds think alike! i won’t dream about picking one we like generally but picking among a choice would be great because i guess he will do more? 🙂

          Like

        • jholland · February 5, 2016

          Yes, yes, YES! Would be pretty impossible to reach a consensus any other way than voting from pre-selected choices. But what a fun thing, and probably a great way for Audible to attract new readers…

          Liked by 2 people

        • Hariclea · February 5, 2016

          can we add.. erm no, don’t think he’d do anything particularly mushy or steamy.. we’re more likely to get some dark, bleak thing if he were to choose by himself 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • jholland · February 5, 2016

          LOL at “some dark, bleak thing”… I fear you’re exactly right. Although, if were dark, bleak and erotic, that might be ok. =)

          Liked by 1 person

        • Hariclea · February 5, 2016

          mhm, nods she in approval.. but not horror, seeing is bad enough, i couldn’t take one sound alone! not my cup of tea 🙂

          Like

        • Elanor · February 5, 2016

          Maybe someone could give a hint to Audible 😉

          Liked by 1 person

        • Hariclea · February 5, 2016

          good idea 🙂 i guess the more hints the better!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Elanor · February 5, 2016

          It’s up to you, English-speaking fangilrs. Therefore my English is not good enough. It takes me minutes to write even one sentence.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Elanor · February 4, 2016

      I’m just listening to Hamlet and it’s really wonderful. I never understood the story like that (although it’s in english and that is not my language at all).

      Liked by 1 person

      • jholland · February 4, 2016

        Welcome, Elanor! Yes, RA did an exceptional narration of Hamlet, but I thought the authors also did a really good job making Shakespeare’s story more accessible to the modern reader. Also I believe they wrote it specifically for the audio format, which most authors don’t do!

        Like

  9. Pingback: “Barkis is Willin’,” and, sigh, so is Perry ( or what she does for love) | Armitage Agonistes
  10. Mezz · February 5, 2016

    I’ve only just gotten around to transferring The Chimes from laptop to iPad (better for curling up on the couch with my headphones and tea. 🙂 ) so it’s been interesting to read your thoughts and those of others. I often play my Heyer and LOTN audiobooks in the car (I adore them) but The Chimes sounds a little too snooze inducing, so that may not be a safe option while I’m driving! I think I read David Copperfield when I was much younger, but generally my Dickens experience has been via BBC productions and movies. Not a fan at all, and I get the feeling not even RA’s honeyed tones will convert me, but I’m one of those who would listen to him read anything, just to hear his voice.
    I would love him to narrate the rest of the Saxon chronicles – lots of listening there, as I have just read book number nine (uhmm, I think) and Uhtred’s story still isn’t finished. If he did narrate more Heyer, would it be for Audible or Naxos I wonder.

    Like

    • jholland · February 8, 2016

      LOL! I often listen while driving, too, or at the sewing machine… but until now I never considered the dangers of falling asleep presented by a Dickens narration… Now what will I do?

      Like

  11. Pingback: Richard Armitage in Clarissa. Just… Wow. | preoccupiedwitharmitage

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