Try our newest plan – access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks, and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Plus plan is $7.95 a month after 30 day trial. Upgrade or cancel anytime.
Buy for $17.47

Buy for $17.47

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

Written at the start of the Great War, when his son Borys was at the Western Front, The Shadow-Line is Conrad's supreme effort to open man's eyes to the meaning of war through the stimulus of art. In many ways an autobiographical narrative, this masterpiece of his final period relates the story of a young and inexperienced sea captain whose first command finds him with a ship becalmed in tropical seas and a crew smitten with fever. As he wrestles with his conscience and with the sense of isolation that his position imposes, the captain crosses the "shadow-line" between youth and adulthood.

It is the qualities, both individual and collective, needed to confront the ship's crisis that symbolize the qualities needed by humanity, not only to face evil and destruction but also to come to terms with life.

©1923 Joseph Conrad (P)2000 Blackstone Audiobooks

What listeners say about The Shadow-Line

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    46
  • 4 Stars
    31
  • 3 Stars
    18
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    1
Performance
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    39
  • 4 Stars
    25
  • 3 Stars
    11
  • 2 Stars
    7
  • 1 Stars
    3
Story
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    43
  • 4 Stars
    20
  • 3 Stars
    16
  • 2 Stars
    4
  • 1 Stars
    2

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A Reflexion on Maturity

"a man should stand up to his bad luck, to his mistakes, to his conscience and all that sort of thing Why--what else would you have to fight against?"
-- Joseph Conrad, The Shadow-Line

One of Conrad's later novels. This one was published in 1917. The story is pretty straight forward, the plot direct. It isn't an elaborate story, but one that explores that moment, that shadow-line between youth and adulthood. The basic story involves a young officer, suddenly thrust into command. During his first voyage he is tested and learns about strength, duty, obligation, etc. It is a story about maturity, wisdom, experience.

I'm not sure if my love of sea stories is directly tied to Conrad, or if my love of Conrad comes from my love of sea stories. The genre and the writer are both so closely mixed in my brain. What I do know is I love the morality of Conrad. I love his affection for men, for work, for duty, for the sea. I also love his modernist bent toward psychology and the untidy unknown. Mostly, I love the clean, tight precision of his prose (which often conflicts with his ambiguous narratives). This isn't top-shelf Conrad, but shouldn't be ignored by his devoted fans.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Disappointed

I'm a fan of Joseph Conrad, but this isn't his best work. It's windy and over-written, and seems dated, unlike most of his work. It's not helped by the narrator, who sounds like an old fogey sitting in an armchair with a plaid rug over his legs, and who often seems to get the rhythm or emphasis wrong.

The story is of a young man on his first real command, and though it's told in retrospect at the end of his career the narration was out of sync with the story, which needed to be told more vigorously, and by a person you could imagine once was a man of action. I was disappointed - though clearly others thought different - and might have given it an extra star had it been read as it should have been.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A simpler, lighter novel by Conrad

Like "Lord Jim," this is a story about a young man and his behavior when in a position of responsibility. Unlike "Lord Jim," the protagonist is a very straightforward young man without a neurotic or narcissistic bone in his healthy, young body. There's plenty of adventure and menace to keep you entertained, and a lot less "Naval-gazing" (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) than there was in "Lord Jim." I like "arty" classical literature, but I like a plain, good story even better! I also enjoyed the gentle pace of the telling. That works well for me as my imagination conjures up the image to match the author's words. I don't like to be rushed when the writing is this good.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Old-fashioned seafaring tale. Superb narration.

Conrad was originally going to call this novella “First Command.” Although it’s a work of fiction, his introduction makes clear that it’s somewhat autobiographical, drawing upon Conrad’s own youthful experience when he was made the captain of a troubled sailing ship. And although the introduction denies any supernatural element, readers are bound to think, at times, that the vessel has been put under a curse by its previous captain, a mysterious malevolent despot now deceased. They’re also likely to think of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

The writing is at times magnificent – impeccably phrased, filled with wisdom – and yet also at times wearyingly wordy. Every line of conversation, for example, every turn of a man’s head or change of expression, is minutely described and overanalyzed in a way no modern writer would dare. Conrad takes paragraphs to say things that nowadays would take a sentence or two, and his philosophical asides can sometimes be hard to follow.

Another problem is that the story is oddly shapeless, in that the first quarter or so is concerned with incidents on shore, at a private hostelry for seamen, that lead in a roundabout way to the young narrator’s taking command of the ship. We learn a lot more than we need to about this establishment and the various characters who reside there. And yet, maybe because of its exotic Asian setting, I found this seemingly extraneous portion quite fascinating and enjoyable – easily as enjoyable, in fact, as the adventure at sea.

What made the book so enjoyable, I think, was the really superb reading by Fred Williams. He has the perfect voice and delivery for it, to the point where I actually searched Audible for other things he’s narrated. A couple of commenters have criticized his reading; I’m baffled by this, and agree with something I came across in an audiobook review: “Fred Williams’s mature, gravelly voice carries all the weight of age and experience as surely as if the graying Conrad himself were, years later, telling the tale of his own first command. It is a harrowing but heartwarming story read with the wizened dignity that only an older reader can create. Let’s hear more from Fred Williams.”

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Monotone delivery

Great story delivered in monotone. the narrator read the story... It was no performance. Disappointing!

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for M
  • M
  • 06-24-21

A gripping yarn, read by a pro

Fred Williams has the most perfect, measured, sonorous voice for this salty tale of coming of age, captaincy and a desperate struggle against both natural foes and the malignant influence of supernatural rumour.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for serena
  • serena
  • 08-23-21

bad recording quality

Very bad recording quality. You should have used a de-esser and a pop filter at least to make the sound better and clearer. In my opinion, such products, even if "included in the subscription", should not be on Audible.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Tallulahbelle
  • Tallulahbelle
  • 07-20-22

Conrad

As always Conrad uses three words rather than one “wonderful. This has been an absolute pleasure for me.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 06-08-22

Here come the cavalry

I loved the phrasing, strange pronunciation and all. A worthy ending, a reason to persevere although my attention may have slipped a few times.