Hardy’s mirth, patriotism, and melodrama are especially enjoyable in spoken form.
Actor Nicholas Rowe engagingly narrates Naxos’ audiobook The Trumpet Major, an unabridged version of the Thomas Hardy novel centered on two brothers, the woman they love, and the dreaded invasion of England by Napoleon’s armies.
First published in 1880, The Trumpet Major is set during the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century. Anne Garland and her mother, Martha, live in the quiet English town of Overcombe. Anne is a winsome and principled young woman, while widowed Martha contemplates remarriage to the local miller. Miller Loveday’s sons are military men, Bob enlisted in the Navy and John in the cavalry as the titled Trumpet Major. John is more serious in nature, while Bob is charming and impulsive. Both are in love with Anne, and she in her own way loves each back.
Hardy novels are often known for their detail and gradual pacing, and for their use of regional language. His longer dialogue passages can be a challenge to muddle through as text, but as part of an audiobook, these same pages are a delight. In particular, Rowe takes the character of miserly old squire Benjy Derriman and gives him a dimension of addled yet poignant humor. And while there are a wide range of other personalities in The Trumpet Major—including a cameo by King George III—Rowe keeps all distinct while maintaining the ever-shifting love triangle between John, Bob, and Anne.
As a romance, the slow twists and turns of The Trumpet Major intrigue, exasperate, and come to a bittersweet end. As a historically military tale, the novel captures England’s intense fear of Napoleon, the “Corsican ogre,” while also spotlighting the power and pageantry of the British royal forces. The Trumpet Major combines quirky moments and gestures with mirth, patriotism, and melodrama, and is especially enjoyable in this spoken form.
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