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Publisher's Summary

Pudd'nhead Wilson, like many other Mark Twain books, was read aloud by the author to his wife and daughters, chapter by chapter, as it was being written.

This humorous, dramatic, and sometimes shocking novel, set in the pre-war south, is the tale of Roxy, a beautiful and intelligent slave woman who contrives to save her own light-skinned child from being "sold down the river". She successfully switches her baby with the master's own child, starting a chain of events that lead to surprising and tragic results.

This book is considered by many to be Mark Twain's best book dealing with the cruelty, horror, and inhumanity of slavery in 19th century America. Pudd'nhead, the title character, not only provides humorous aphorisms and wry observations on the little river town, he also proves to be the catalyst that solves the mystery, radically changing the lives of all of those involved.

Interestingly, Mark Twain's use of fingerprints as evidence in a fictional criminal trial predated the official acceptance of such evidence in actual U.S. courts by two years.

This recording is a recreation of Mark Twain's own reading, just as his family might have heard the story for the first time in the family library.

(P)2003 Richard Henzel

Critic Reviews

"Superb...one of the best readings of a Mark Twain book to which I've ever listened, and I've listened to almost all of them. An energetic and remarkably impassioned narration that brings out the powerful emotions and ironies of one of Mark Twain's complex works and adds new dimensions." (R. Kent Rasmussen, author of Mark Twain A to Z and audiobook reviewer for Library Journal)

What listeners say about Pudd'nhead Wilson

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

great reader, great tale

I just loved this recording. I wish i could find more of Twains works with this narrator. He does an outstanding job. I would recommend this book to anyone; and in this case, with such an excellent reader, i would rather listen to it than read it off a page--he adds so much.

13 people found this helpful

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Phenomenal Read

This was an extremely well-performed, adapted reading of the book. I felt the differences in the character and narrative voices were distinct and added flare to the overall auditory experience.

This book is gripping from beginning to end as Mark Twain developed a thick and interesting plot that laces thought provoking questions and self-reflection throughout.

I would recommend this book for any writer and/or reader.

4 people found this helpful

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A Tale of Babies Switched in the Cradle

I’ve had the good fortune to examine an 1894 first edition of “Pudd’nhead Wilson,” festooned with line drawings in the margins, and it’s a reminder of how far ahead of his time Mark Twain could be. He saw the cruelty of slavery and discrimination, and wisely employed warmth and humor to chide Americans into a degree of enlightenment just 30 years after the Civil War. He was prescient about the use of fingerprints, before they were admitted as evidence in the courts, in this case making for high and highly entertaining courtroom drama that makes a hero of the forlorn title character.

And his legendary mastery of storytelling is nowhere more on display than in this lineup of characters, from small-town Missouri busybodies to a pair of aristocratic Italian twins (see “Those Extraordinary Twins” for a kind of first draft of this book, included in the 1894 edition).

Richard Henzel, who for many years has performed the one-man show, “Mark Twain in Person,” delivers a robust multi-character reading, while Twain delivers a work of the imagination that offers surprises right up to the closing paragraph.

3 people found this helpful

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!!!

The story and narration were exceptional. I was originally acquainted with the novel when I bought the Classics Illustrated comic book of that title in 1969 while on a ferry crossing Lake Michigan. Modern sensibilities might balk at the extensive use of the N word throughout this work, but it is consistent with the method of discourse of the time.

2 people found this helpful

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first rate

Wow, the publisher's summary got it right when they called "Pudd'nhead Wilson" "humorous, dramatic, and sometimes shocking."

Even apart from the commentary on slavery, this is an excellent detective story in its own right. For the interested, in the second paragraph of chapter 25 of "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," Twain writes a little more about his thoughts on the institution of slavery.

Well worth the listen, disturbing parts and all. In fact, one of the roles of great literature may be to bother us in some way, forcing us to ask questions, jolting us into thought.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Terrific performance

I really enjoyed this. The reader does a fabulous job bringing Twain's language and irony to life.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Good Plot

too often this has happened in the slavery days. unfortunately her motherly love worked against her.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Very Enjoyable

I knew nothing of the storyline before purchasing this book, I just knew that I like Mark Twain and that I could expect to have a good--and thoughtful--time reading it. I wasn't disappointed. Puddn'head Wilson is your basic Prince and the Pauper story centering on race rather than royalty--oh, I guess that should come as no surprise, since Twain wrote the Prince and the Pauper too! I find it amazing that Twain was so progressive in his views in his day, yet in some areas dates himself (as can only be expected) with the views he expresses of "The Slave" in America . . . as a former 8th grade public school teacher, I find myself wondering what offences I might commit if I were to have my students study this novel. Twain is, of course, a master with dialogue and character. A pleasure to spend these several hours listening.

1 person found this helpful

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A really interesting book

A great book that is intriguing and worthwhile to get through. I recommend this book.

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Fantastic story telling

Listener be informed, there will language of an offensive tone or matter of speak in regards to pre-Civil War black culture. It is not meant to be racist as per many historical documents, this was the recorded dialect of the impoverished slaves. It is terrible in its own right because the nature of speech was another effect of the oppression from slavery. Education was withheld from slaves. Mark Twain grew up with slaves and he was very familiar with the dialect. Dialect writing was his specialty and it not only applied to black society in the south. He was careful in his dialect representation of many societies and cultures around the world in his writings. I wanted to get that out in the open because, there are parts of the book that are uncomfortable to hear but, it was written in keeping with historic accuracy and not to stereotype or ridicule… which is how it is now delivered in modern culture with obvious racist intent.
Mark Twain was very keen on learning the nuances of slavery and its horrors throughout his lifetime. You can tell his concern in this book and the descriptions of events and activities in a slave’s life. The narration is amazing. The dynamic range of narration would make one suspect there are more than one narrators yet, there is only one.