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Saturday, December 20, 2003

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

By Mark Twain

Read by Patrick Fraley

Audio Partners

6 CDs, 7.5 hours

The unabridged audiobook of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer recently released by Audio Partners Publishing Corp. does exactly what a good audio book should do: It brings the text to life.

Admittedly, it would be tough to make as entertaining a writer as Mark Twain seem dull without doing a complete hatchet job, but voice actor Patrick Fraley makes the classic tale of 19th-century American boyhood gleam like the gem it is.

While Tom Sawyer is the poorer literary predecessor to Twain's masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it is still more than worthwhile reading and listening. Using tales of Tom's comic mischief and imagination to illustrate the human foibles of conformity, pride, superstition, greed, jealousy and prejudice, the author offers his own ironic comments in a wry manner well captured by the reader.

Fraley, who has put his talents to use in numerous audiobooks, radio programs and cartoons, has clearly studied actor Hal Holbrook's practiced interpretation in cultivating his own. Fraley evokes Twain's Missouri drawl ably, though his take on the various character voices edges on the cartoonish at times, leaving the adult listener wondering if he has picked up something from the juvenile section.

While Tom Sawyer is suitable for children, Twain wrote it more with adults in mind. Fraley manages to capture the dry sarcasm of Twain's observations on human nature without milking it, and his leisurely pacing makes the entire 7-1/2-hour package a relaxing experience eminently recommendable as commuter listening.

--Kevin Wood

Copyright 2003 The Yomiuri Shimbun

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