Books: Spoken word

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Portrait of a Lady was declared by F R Leavis to be one of the two most brilliant novels in the English language. Henry James builds up his effects as insidiously as an artist in papier mache, and that, many argue, is the whole point of his fiction. For them, the only possible spoken-word version will be Alan Rickman's richly eloquent, unabridged reading for Cover to Cover (24hrs, pounds 49.99).

There are alternatives, however, if you feel the Master went on a bit. In a four-cassette version (BBC, c 4hrs, pounds 12.99) Miriam Margolyes projects a patient Bostonian drawl which works very nicely for Isobel; she's also good as the huskily aristocratic Lord Warburton.

Finally, if you side with Oscar Wilde ("Henry James writes fiction as if it is a painful duty") you can romp through a fast-track two-cassette version read by Gayle Hunnicutt (Hodder, pounds 6.99)