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Summary

Billy Budd, an orphaned, illegitimate child suffused with innocence, openness, and natural charisma, has been impressed into service aboard the HMS Bellipotent. He is adored by the crew, but for unexplained reasons arouses the antagonism of the ship's Master-at-Arms John Claggart, who falsely accuses Billy of conspiracy to mutiny.

Set in 1797, Herman Melville's Billy Budd exploits the tension of this period during the war between England and France to create a tale of satanic treachery, tragedy and great pathos that explores human relationships and the inherently ambiguous nature of man-made justice.

Public Domain (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic reviews

" Billy Budd has excited the most admiration and commentary of any work by Melville except Moby-Dick. It has the translucence and the loose weave of last works. A lifetime sifts into it. Whenever Melville ventures onto shipboard, the reader feels the deck beneath his feet." (John Updike)
"In this last of Melville's works, published posthumously, the author dramatized the clash between natural goodness and innocence as personified by Billy Budd, and unprovoked evil as embodied in Claggart." ( Masterpieces of World Literature)

What listeners say about Billy Budd

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  • Overall
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Difficult but rewarding read

Who was your favorite character and why?

Billy Budd, he was so innocent and beautiful.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Enjoy is not a good word, but the scene with Billy, Captain Vere and Claggart was very strange and unsettling.I don't want to give away the plot so I will write no more.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Don't believe what you see.

Any additional comments?

The book is so short but it was somehow a very long read for me. I mean I had a few attempts. The book wasn't easy for me- very long sentences, a lot of unusual or marine vocab, but I finally succeded (with the help of printed book). As it happens with Melville, the book you read is not the whole story, there is a lot of hidden meaning for you to work out, and I must say that immidiately after finishing my listening I went online and found some very interesting essey, which helped me to understand the book. I love what this book has to offer, this is an exceptional read.

2 people found this helpful

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Very good book

I could not suggest any more inappropriate narrator for this book. Not a bad narrator, just inappropriate to the story.

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If you are a fan of Herman Melville...

This is a must listen to.Excellent production and a fascinating story of life at sea for the poor sailor.

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Difficult but worth sticking with

I found the verbose style of the story challenging- but the story itself very thought provoking, and on the whole well read (apart from some shaky ‘British’ accents in the direct speech).

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  • Elmer Sklue
  • 12-03-17

Very good

The narrator is good. His voice is very deep and somewhat brooding.

2 people found this helpful

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  • guy
  • 28-02-21

Beautifully succinct

A dark morality tale lit by gorgeous characters one can't help but love. A master class in realpolitik. A shining achievement by Melville and a wonderful introduction to his work if you've never read any.

1 person found this helpful

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  • D Janszen
  • 18-01-21

Narrator was excellent

The narrator of this story did an excellent job creating the right “feel” for this book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Fr. S.
  • 19-05-22

deservedly a classic

Such a great book ought to be read in the high schools for deep reflection. I fear that modern teachers won't require such a great book. May everyone read it despite the foolish fads of our time.

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  • JustMitch
  • 09-09-21

The story is great; Rudnicki not so much

Melville's novella is a work of quiet power; it is clearly an unfinished work but that quality fits the mood of melancholy that the story is infused with. I enjoyed the story much more than the audio book.

Rudnicki has a very monotone delivery that hampers the story a great deal. His voice is not unpleasant to listen too but the reading is dramatically inert. I think this style of reading is better suited to nonfiction.

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  • BlindEddieWithNF
  • 29-07-21

a great Voyage of a story

a wonderful day all the voyage and a life Billy Budd. another great story by Herman Melville

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 21-07-21

Verbose

It seems the author was fond of using as many syllables as possible when fewer would suffice.

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  • Robert S. Becker
  • 10-06-21

Didactic

The story of Billy Budd is timeless and burns with a gemlike flame but the writing feels instructive and preachy. The performance here is strangely wooden, more recitation than embodiment.

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  • David D.
  • 06-04-21

Fantastic narration

Worth it just for the narration. He really brought the characters to life despite the difficult language.

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  • DM
  • 23-01-21

I didn't know this story, odd

I guess books give us an opportunity to rethink those things that we think are absolute in life.
Nothing is black and white, everything is fluid.
Everything is perspective.