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Publisher's Summary

In 1904, Great Britain was at the height of its prosperity; but G. K. Chesterton saw the drudgery of capitalism and bureaucracy eating away at the eccentricity and spontaneity of the human spirit. In The Napoleon of Notting Hill, his first novel, Chesterton creates a witty satire of staid government, set in a London of the future. Auberon Quinn, a common clerk who looks like a cross between a baby and an owl and is often seen standing on his head, is one day told that he has been randomly selected to be His Majesty the King. He decides to turn London into a medieval carnival for his own amusement - with delightful results.

Public Domain (P)1988 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about The Napoleon of Notting Hill

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Competent but over-stylized reading of great book

The story:
The Napoleon of Notting Hill is one of my favorite books; I highly recommend it to everyone. Chesterton was friends with many authors we still know today, but is criminally under known in our era. While his fiction can stretch the bounds of story, this, his first novel, is a triumph, and deserves the sometimes-bestowed title of best first novel of a 20th century novelist.

Chesterton pokes a gentle fun at all of us, and often himself; the book begins with a humorous accounting of various ideologies he predicts will have happened 80 years hence. However, unlike his friend, HG Wells, GKC wasn't much into technology, so I generally find it better to think of The Napoleon of Notting Hill as an alternative past rather than a possible future. When the action starts, England is full of somber, efficient people, largely apathetic to governance—they even pick the king out of a hat. But what happens when the king they pick is the silliest civil servant in London, a man so bored he'll do a headstand in a frock coat on the lawn for a laugh? The King treats everything as a sort of joke, inventing ridiculous customs on a whim, but the inertia of business and government continue on.. until one day he is inspired to craft his greatest joke yet. And then the unexpected happens: someone takes it seriously. What follows is both hilarious and genuinely moving.

The performance:

There was no sample preview on this ("Unfortunately, we are unable to release a sample prior to the publication release of this book"—note that the book has been released, both for Kindle and Audible, more than a year ago, and was published in 1904). That might have changed my mind about getting it as a Kindle add-on, not because the narrator isn't skillful, but because of how two major characters are voiced. Sadly starting where I'd left off reading put me right at a conversation between two characters I disliked his choices for.

The narrator has a good range of voices and accents. He reads clearly and at a good pace. His voice has a nice tone to it; overall he is good at his job. But unfortunately I find his choice of voice for the titular character vexing. It would be a perfect voice for Jacob Marley (in fact, various actors and narrators have performed that role similarly); it has a stretched, airy, perhaps reedy quality to it. But it doesn't make sense for a 19 year old boy, not in his passionate, misguided patriotism nor his nervousness (he hilariously tries to recruit shopkeepers to his cause and mostly ends up talking nonsense and buying a lot of stuff off them). I also feel he is missing the humor in both this character and Auberon the jokester king. There's a bit too much reverence-for-victoriana on those two characters; it works for Barker et al., but not for the jokester and the madman. Hopefully future listeners will be able to hear a sample and decide if they can live with Adam Wayne's distractingly odd voice in an otherwise decent if over-serious narration.

4 people found this helpful

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Good ol' Chesterton

Don't forget to read/listen to Chesterton with a good sense of humor. Narrator is a bit shrill at times but does a good job differentiating the various characters.

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  • BC
  • 12-20-21

Interesting

To say the least. A tangled web and definitely a piece of the times. GK has quite the way with words and spinning of tales. Who or what are the two different sides in this tale? An allegory for life or maybe mankind or something else? What you make of it is what it probably is.

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Ruined by the reader

G.K. Chesterton is a master of words, plans, plots, and ideas. There is not one of his stories and essays that does not provoke the listener to profound consideration or serious self-examination.

What a pity it is when the reader or narrator decides to give to one of the main characters, a young man nineteen years of age, the cracking voice of a pubescent child or of a consumptive castrato.

If it was a minor character, one with three lines or less, the momentary irritation could be quickly forgotten and soon forgiven.

But the ridiculous thing proceeds throughout the book, until the listener winces whenever the character appears. After a time, one starts to wonder whether one will even finish it.

If the narrator learns to avoid this error, he will have a happy future, since his voice is otherwise excellent. But as it is, he is a reader I will henceforth be avoiding.

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Pretty good

It was a fun story, full of interesting ideas and lovable characters. It got a little philosophical, but overall it is just a good story. Also the narrator was great.

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  • DM
  • 02-05-21

absolutely awesome!

Too much here to tell. Everyone should read and study what this book is trying to tell us.
What we say and do has consequences.
Wonderful message to the world.

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Shocker

I defy anyone to discern Chesterton's meaning and, post listen, have checked other reviews and sites to try to do so. An allegory without meaning is 7 hours of one's life lost, especially when the humour is occasionally whimsical at best.