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Audible Editor Reviews

Editors Select, December 2016 - Just as Shakespeare borrowed from Arthur Brooke's The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet as a means to invent a unique dramatization of his own, author David Hewson uses this audio adaptation to explore and expand the various backstories of its characters - their grudges, fears, and motives - allowing previously minor characters to flourish and the stakes to reach an all new high. Actor Richard Armitage makes exhilarating choices in his narration: Juliet becomes a fierce heroine in the throes of an existential crisis; Romeo a soft-spoken emo poet; Mercutio a swaggering bad boy who'd be quite at home in a Guy Ritchie film; and Tybalt a slithering, blood-hungry goon. Taking Hewson's lead, Armitage is more than game to follow these characters to new and unexpected places. And, indeed, this story does not end quite like you'd expect.

Publisher's Summary

Exclusively written for Audible, only available in audio

"I think Romeo and Juliet is the greatest, most tragic love story ever told. What David Hewson did with this script is so exciting to me. I really love the fact that he followed avenues that Shakespeare suggested but didn't necessarily detail in depth. If you want to immerse yourself in a warm bath of Garganega and the heat of Verona and hear a brilliant story about a young woman who is challenging the restraints of her time, listen to this audiobook, which has romance, poetry, politics, and humor to spare." (Narrator Richard Armitage)

It's a story you think you know: the age-old tale of "star-cross'd lovers"; two families at war; a romance, so pure and absolute, fated for a tragic end. It's a story so thoroughly embedded in our culture, and so frequently retold. Yet, nothing captures the spark, the possibility, and the surprise of Shakespeare's work quite like this....

In Romeo and Juliet: A Novel, author David Hewson reworks and expands on the classic story so that it becomes something richer, something new and entirely its own. Much more than a simple love story, it is a brilliant examination of young versus old, hope against despair, and, for Juliet, the search for individual identity at a time when women were regarded as little more than chattel.

An original production commissioned by Audible, Romeo and Juliet: A Novel marks the second pairing of David Hewson and actor Richard Armitage, whose previous partnership resulted in Audible's 2014 Audiobook of the Year, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel. Hewson's talent for writing for audio is undeniable, and he finds his perfect vocal foil in Armitage, an actor of immense range and absorbing intensity. Together, they bring you a familiar story told in a surprising way - with an ending you might not expect.

Bonus: Audiobook includes an afterword written and narrated by David Hewson.

©2016 David Hewson (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

What the critics say

"Consummate actor Richard Armitage narrates this dynamic reimagining of Romeo and Juliet. It's an ideal construct for those reluctant to pursue Shakespeare. In addition to using contemporary slang, the author gives the followers of the Montague and Capulet families street cred: They wear red or blue feathers in their hats. Armitage makes even secondary characters unique, with Romeo's and Juliet's fathers sounding like the bitter old men they are. The standout is Juliet's nurse, who provides comic relief. Chapter transitions are faultless, and descriptions of people and places are stellar. Juliet's social conscience, specifically her desire to teach the peasants to read, adds further depth. Hewson boldly alters the story's conclusion. In an author's note, Hewson explains that Shakespeare was inspired by an Italian play similar to Romeo and Juliet. Hewson adds that to him the story is about the contrast between older and younger generations as they react to change." ( AudioFile Magazine)

What listeners say about Romeo and Juliet: A Novel

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Outstanding!

Beautifully written; rich description and believable narrative. Richard Armitage’s smooth baritone voice brings each character to life. Thank you gentlemen for an enjoyable experience to be remembered and recommended.

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Great narration and addition to the story line

To be honest this was a daily deal and my expectations were not high. It turned out to be a great listen - very good narration and skillful fleshing out of the characters in the play(with some new ones). It made me want to visit Verona (and Italy in general). Don’t think of it as Just Shakespeare s play in novel form - there’s a lot more going on here!

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More then the story you remember

This version of Juliet was refreshing and a more modern version. Her thoughts are more fleshed out. I could listen to Richard Armitage indefinitely. Great actor and fabulous voice. He is the ideal narrator for this tale.

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shakespeare with a twist

The performance by Armitage is fantastic. Having an actor read this book was just the ticket. It pretty much is romeo and Juliet....but with slightly more modern language (but still with a hint of shakespeare) and it has (spoiler!!) a cool twist at the end. Very modern in an ancient way.

4 people found this helpful

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I love this version.

I got this book as I wanted to hear Richard Armitage read my first audible book. I loved this version even though I went got it fearing it was just like the Shakespeare version. I cried and laughed with the characters as they were brought to life by Richard Armitage. My heart ached and I had to take a break when Romeo was arrested. Can I say, I was hoping that they both would have been spared. I also wondered, could Juliet be carrying a part of Romeo to be born in the future. Since she survived, that will be my ending. I was able to see and feel so much more than the version that I read in school and quite frankly hated. This is the version I'll allow my friends and children read and listen to. A wonderful job Mr. David Hewson. Wonderful job Mr Armitage on bringing these characters to life.

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Beautiful and entertaining

What a beautiful twist to this beloved classic tale. Not the ending I believe most of us have always wished for but lovely nevertheless. (Sorry if that’s a spoiler!)

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A wonderful rewrite

I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation, with an end twist of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy. The narration by Richard Armitage is superb. Very well done Messrs. Hewson and Armitage.

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The Magic of Richarad Armitage

The human voice is a glorious instrument. In this reading, British actor, Richard Armitage, makes use of his 'glorious instrument' to tell a story. And, what a story he tells. It is not simply telling a story, it is the way in which he 'tells' that story. His voice weaves its magic and creates a time and place for the listener to enter. We are there. We have been transported. There are very few such fine voices in the world today. Richard Armitage has one of the finest.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Abiwim
  • 2016-12-14

The Story and The Voice

A masterful retelling of a classic tale, this adaptation astounds. The fleshing out of a character such as Juliet results in a story which is relatable to this modern generation. The struggles of girls the world over - for autonomy, individuality and freedom - is captured in this one intelligent, headstrong girl.

The pacing of the story ensures that ones imagination is free to soar. Descriptives are kept to a minimum, while being sufficient to act as a spring board.

Narration...well, what can one say?...the rich chocolate voice of Richard Armitage, and the vocal characterizations he presents are a joy to the ear.

Congratulations Mr. Hewson, this is indeed a triumph!

52 people found this helpful

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 2017-05-08

Hewson & Armitage - Romeo & Juliet

What made the experience of listening to Romeo and Juliet: A Novel the most enjoyable?

Richard Armitage's amazing voice, of course!

Which character – as performed by Richard Armitage – was your favorite?

No surprise, probably the nurse. Richard Armitage does such a great job with character voices, and especially quirky older ones!

Any additional comments?

Hewson is an amazing writer, and his Hamlet collaboration with Armitage is one of my very favorite audiobooks. Somehow I was not quite satisfied with the ending, perhaps because the original story is almost archetypal to me - it's probably just me, though as it's quite well written. Knowing it's switched up a bit keeps you on your toes while listening, in a way. I like the way Hewson fleshed out the personalities of Romeo and Juliet, and "modernized" them, if you will. Richard Armitage doesn't "read" audiobooks, he "portrays" them! I can read much faster than I can listen to audiobooks, but the way Armitage performs them makes it an experience! (And I could never speed up his reading, that's heresy!) I highly recommend Romeo and Juliet to you!

23 people found this helpful

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  • DPM
  • 2016-12-13

Wonderful, Imaginative

This is so very, very good.

A million years ago, when I was a young teenager, I was captivated by the 1968 Zeffirelli film/interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, and very seldom does any production come close to that initial charm. This does. A different forum, I agree, but the combination of Mr. Hewson's interpretation of Shakespeare [he does not follow of the play completely] and Mr. Armitage's superb, wonderful, wonderful narration makes this a five star rating for me.

I've been an Audible customer for almost a decade now, many many books, and more and more I choose the narrator first, the subject second; British narrators first, everybody else second. Add in Shakespearean acting experience for the narrator, and everything comes together.

Highly recommended.

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  • Anna Castiglioni Voiceover
  • 2018-06-20

Beautiful Adaptation!

Many of us know the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet, and when I saw this new adaptation, I immediately pre-ordered it. One thing that makes this novel stand out for me is the great amount of detail and historic research that must have gone into it: the politics, description of the towns of Verona, Venice, and Mantua, current state of politics and world events taking place at the time, down to the recipes of food served at the banquet. Since I have read the play in English and Italian, and recently visited many of the places mentioned, it was very easy to go back there in my mind. The author even skillfully lifts a key phrase or oft-quoted line right from the play and weaves it seamlessly into the story. The only problem I had was that since this is an Italian story, on reflection, I thought there should have been a few expressions or phrases in Italian, such as idioms, or at least some greetings when the characters speak to each other. Instead, there is actually some Cockney slang among some servants, which is working-class London! This felt particularly out of place for an Italian setting. I often found myself pausing the audio to think because the Cockney was jolting simply because it's the wrong place, momentarily putting me out of the story. For the most part, Richard Armitage's narration was simply spell-binding. I have noticed he narrates many classic English stories, such as by Charles Dickens, and is a great choice for a mostly-male cast of characters, and my God, can this man read poetry! That said, his choice of voicing for some of the characters was a bit jolting and out of place. This probably has something to do with the writing, as noted above. For example, Count Paris is from Florence, and at one point it specifically says he and his guards have "thick Florentine accents," yet they are read with the same British as the rest, and the guards speak with Cockney slang! Again, since this is an Italian story, I feel the characters ought to have Italian accents, though since the play adaptation was by Shakespeare, who (rumors aside) was British, perhaps that's not so out-of-place. The story has a twist ending, which I at the same time liked, and didn't like (how dare he change Shakespeare? lol).

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  • Jess
  • 2018-03-26

Read to me Richard Armitage...

Pleasantly surprised! I did not realize what I was getting myself into when I downloaded this story. It gave some characters I thought I knew so much more depth. I loved that there was historical value thrown in there also. Oh, and most importantly, I could listen to Richard Armitage read about anything...sigh.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Rahni
  • 2017-01-12

A 5-star listen

Another wonderful retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story. I heartily applaud the author's decision to raise Juliet's age to 16 (the same age as previous-to-Shakespeare versions of the story), instead of Shakespeare's absurdly youngyoungyoung 13 years. Setting the story in 1499 really added a wonderful historical depth to the issues of the day as well. Hewson used a deft hand to help immerse the reader back into the high hopes, dizzy passions, and the optimistic and ambitious social pursuits of the teenage mind. I enjoyed the ride.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Fan
  • 2016-12-13

Loved it!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I'm always a little skeptical of actors narrating a book. But, Mr. Armitage does an EXCELLENT job in his narration. Really liked the book, as well. It's a retelling of Romeo & Juliet, more in depth giving backgrounds on other characters. Written w/ a 3rd party voice, which I really enjoyed. It's also written in "simple" English, not old English (The's and Thow's). Much easier to listen to. Thank you David Hewson for the rewrite and Richard Armitage for fantastic narration.

24 people found this helpful

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  • marguerite allred-crawford
  • 2018-02-25

And Shakespeare ... ?

There are many I am certain who have and who will enjoy this very modernist retelling of one of the great bard's most famous tragedies. I must admit I looked forward to a fleshing out of the characters myself and was interested especially as to whether the author would lean toward the romantic, or the failure-of-child-to-be-obedient moral. It seems he took a middle road and leaned to neither, bringing forward the bitter feud of the families as his main object of interest. His characters were all excellently brought to life, except his Juliet, I think; who was far more fit to be a young woman of the late twentieth century than the late fifteenth where he 'set[s his] scene'. She is the only character I find out of place. Indeed I am not certain Shakespeare would have recognized her, nor would he have appreciated the almost without exception negative view of God and the Christian Church the author sometimes subliminally, sometimes openly inserts whenever possible. In the end, and regardless of the author's excellent ability to give the time, place, and each character full telling, I am happy to recall the original will be that version remembered.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Caitlyn
  • 2018-07-08

Oh be some other name!

I got this book for two reasons: 1) Richard Armitage’s narration, which I greatly enjoyed and was thankful for; 2) Because it’s Romeo and Juliet and I have been reading/watching many version to see how I would play with the story. This version was not one I enjoyed. The author said he wanted to go back to some of the original source material and try to be more accurate to the times, but I didn’t enjoy some of the changes that were made. It felt too much of a departure from Shakespeare for my liking, but I received it as I would a director’s retelling of any of Shakespeare’s work - enjoyed what I could, and will leave it at the curtain call.

6 people found this helpful

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  • AV
  • 2018-02-13

A Real Love Story

A retelling of arguably the most famous love story in the world, but one that is grounded in the lived truth of its primary actors: adolescents trying to make sense of their own lives in the midst of the swiftly changing world of the early Renaissance. I thought I knew this story, but its fresh and contextual perspective was like a brand new story. It had my full attention from the first few minutes through to its completion, which I found as satisfying as any of my most favorite tales. Equally compelling was the narrator's brilliant performance: Armitage Is masterful at every point. The combination of story and performance was so compelling that I began this book late on a Friday afternoon and finished it on the Monday morning commute. This was a joy.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Pierre Gauthier
  • 2020-10-26

Disappointing!

In this work, the author transposes Shakespeare’s most famous work in novel form and in contemporary prose. The play’s structure is essentially maintained but, of course, many contextual details are added. For example, the author chooses to set the story in 1499 and speaks of Botticelli, Masaccio and the discovery of the New World. He also includes several discussions on religious relativism … which appear surprisingly modern for 15th century Italy. The author does not try to resolve the issue in the play that a brother, like a nun, is not ordained and may not in the Catholic Church perform sacraments such as confession and marriage. Also, he does not seem to find it ironic that Juliet repeatedly tells her parents that she cannot wed Count Paris as she barely knows him, whereas she marries Romeo less than 24 hours after their first encounter. Moreover, some may find questionable that the author brings about changes to the storyline, some minor, some major. These include, for instance: • aging the two main characters by two years, to 16 and 18, no doubt to avoid hurting modern sensibilities; • placing the beginning of the feud between the Capulet and Montague families to Juliet’s and Romeo’s fathers rather than many generations back; • describing Juliet as a down to earth feminist, eager for knowledge and somewhat irritated by Romeo’s poetic outbursts; • downright changing the ending. In the audio version, the narrator does an adequate if not masterful job. It is surprising that he gives an Italian accent to one character, and not all the others. Overall, this offering is not devoid of interest but in no way matches in mastery the transposition in novel form of “Hamlet” by the same author.

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  • Adele C
  • 2017-08-16

Great!

Romeo and Juliet was the first audiobook I have ever listened and I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical. It was only for a very short time. I spent lovely hours listening Romeo and Juliet. David Hewson gave a new shape and life at this timeless story.
Juliet is a contemporary and a strong woman that I'd like to know!
Richard Armitage's voice and interpretation was perfect. I strongly recommend!