by Charles Dickens (read by Alex Jennings)
Penguin Books (Audiobook)
Given that 2012 is the bicentenary of Charles Dickens' birth, I thought I would keep an eye out for new editions of his work on e- and audiobook. Alex Jennings' superlative reading of Oliver Twist has just been released on downloadable audiobook and livened up Christmas round my home. Jennings, who excels as a stage actor, is a go-to-guy for classic audiobooks: his credits include works by Bronte, Shakespeare, Nietzsche and, er, horror master James Herbert. Oliver Twist has attracted such heavyweight readers as Paul Scofield and Martin Jarvis. Jennings' forte is doing the police in different voices. Here, he slips effortlessly between Dickens' cool-headed narrator, Oliver's wide-eyed innocence, Fagin's deceptive charms, Bill Sykes' mercurial moodiness and Nancy's enduring warmth. You laugh easily, but rarely for long. The tears, as so often in Dickens, will come. My biggest criticism is the abridged length: a mere five hours and 46 minutes as opposed to Jennings' heroic 34-hour Nicholas Nickleby. It really does raise the question: 'Please, sir, can I have some more?'