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Summary

The greatest romantic narrative novel of the early 19th century, John Halifax, Gentleman tells the story of an orphan boy whose first words in the story are, 'Sir, I want work; may I earn a penny?'

By hard work, diligent study and an unshakeable faith in his God, John attains wealth and happiness, despite much hardship and heartbreak throughout his life.

The story chronicles the class movement of the time and gives us a remarkable description of social, political and industrial change.

Set in Gloucestershire in the heart of England and told by Phineas, his soul mate and lifelong friend, who observes John through all his glorious moments, self-doubt and resolution, the story is simple, uplifting and heroic. It is a detailed study of a man and his family that also presents the listener with a broad view of Britain during one of its most troubled times.

A genuine classic, most entertaining and certainly a tale which lives up to the appellation, epic in its conception and delivery. John Halifax, Gentleman was first published in 1856. This is the first unabridged recording of Dinah Craik's masterpiece.

Public Domain (P)2007 Assembled Stories

What listeners say about John Halifax, Gentleman

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As relevant now

Although set two hundred years ago, Dinah Craik’s close observation of human nature and her spirituality, make the story as relevant for us today in dealing with life, as it was then. John Halifax, Gentleman is the tale of a poor, orphaned son of a gentleman, making his way in early 19c England, with nothing other than his capacity to work and his moral compass to guide him through life’s dramas and crises. By the end of the story he has become a highly respected and wealthy mill owner.

I first read the book forty-three years ago and remember being moved by it so I thought I’d try the Audible version narrated by Peter Joyce. The depiction of the times, the story, and the narration were as moving as my first encounter. A delight.

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Historical Novel

I read this book as a teenager and still have my old copy, much-loved and read many times. The story is set in the early 19th century in the Industrial Revolution and encompasses the bread riots over transition to steam powered machinery in the mills. The hero is introduced as an orphan looking for work, hungry and homeless. He is given work at a tannery, and eventually prospers, marries the love of his life and has a family. He remains loyal and true to his high sense of honour and integrity through many hardships in business and family troubles. It is a charming story and I enjoyed listening to it.

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Very slow storyline

This book is very well narrated and started off quite interesting but began to drag at the half way point. From then on, I did not really enjoy it as the story just got slower and slower until nothing was happening at all.
The book was first published in 1856 and novels of that period are often slow-paced, but compared to the novels of George Elliot and the Bronte sisters this one is far less interesting. But I guess that if you like the works of Thomas Hardy then you might also like those of Dinah Craik.

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A “must read”.

I half read, half listened to the excellent book. It is of its time, no doubt, but the Audible rendition makes it easily accessible.
Peter Joyce does a first-rate job of narration. I particularly liked the way, imperceptibly, the voices changed as they got older. Phineas, in particular, as narrator, turns into his father, Abel Fletcher.
The story unfolds slowly and evenly. John Halifax is well fleshed out and the crises are dealt with without fuss or hyperbole.
It also, gently, passes through the various ages of the day. From the persecution of Quakers to the abolition of slavery; it’s all there in the narrative.
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

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  • Lisa Ann Robertson
  • 11-08-19

Tedious

Dramatic reading is great, but this narrator is way too dramatic. If you want to read a sweeping Victorian novel, I recommend Middlemarch. This one is tedious.