Sunday 15 August 1999
Mr Punch Audio Books pounds 14.99
The British abroad are often imperious: that chap's just a tripper, we say, and you are merely a tourist but I am a traveller. These tapes offer episodes from the writings of that third group of intrepid explorers, and a formidable bunch they are. Take Isabel Burton: she was dismayed by the first Central American cockroach, but she hitched up her skirts and swatted dozens before bedtime. Or Sir John Franklin, urging his men to eat up their old shoes - and any other bits of leather they could find - for sustenance in the Arctic.
It is a highly enjoyable collection. Some pieces are just dazzling, like a 16th-century sighting of the Tower of Babel, still standing high above the desert outside Baghdad; or Dr Livingstone's first impressions of the majesty of Victoria Falls. Light relief comes in the person of Kenneth Williams, wallowing in self-disgust and a surfeit of apricots and creme de menthe, in Crete in the 1950s. And the women are marvellous.
Generally well-performed, and linked by witty musical frolics, all this Gazette lacks is a list of contents. Still, that stops us from being tempted to skip Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, thus missing a magnificent envoi: "I should go on, but I have to send for my midwife."
First Love by Ivan Turgenev
Cover to Cover pounds 9.99
Vladimir is 16 when he spends a summer with his parents in the country and experiences a holiday romance. But this is Turgenev, so what might have been a mild flirtation becomes a grand, heart-rending romance, with a 21-year- old princess whose bosom seems tender and untroubled. The story is slight, though there is a nasty twist. Unfortunately, the publishers have chosen to give the secret away on the sleeve of the tape.
David Troughton reads with exceptional clarity and languid melancholy, but you can only really enjoy this if you throw away the sleeve immediately and resign yourself to a translation that, though it might be faithful to the Russian original, often strays from the embrace of English. I did try "shutting my eyes to what I foreboded before me ..." and not noticing that "overhead the sun was radiantly blue", but such behaviour risks "a sense of blissfulness that verges on imbecility".
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michelle Rodriguez: Fast & Furious actor apologises after telling 'minorities' to stop taking on 'white' roles
- 2 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face the death penalty
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for 'obscene' 91st birthday party
- 5 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Eurovision 2015: Finnish punk band with learning disabilities applies to raise awareness
Drake matches The Beatles' record with 14 singles in top 100 chart at the same time
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Broadchurch finale: Erin Kelly's short stories will help with any withdrawal symptoms
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'