Top critical review
A dramatic reading that might not satisfy commuters learning French
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on June 2, 2017
This review is specifically in reference to the French audio version, which I bought to listen to in the car while commuting to help with learning the sounds of French (or reviewing the sounds I started learning several decades ago in college). As much as I enjoy the story, I am disappointed with this recording. Perhaps it would be fine if I were watching the book while listening with headphones...but that's not what I intended for this CD. The problem is that much of the expression used by the narrator is essentially whispering, and the expressive voices for the various characters are generally softly voiced or quite inflected, to the point that it can be quite challenging to understand the text, especially without the benefit of the printed text. For example in the first chapter when Dumbledore is introduced as Harry is being deposited on the Dursley's doorstep, it's very hard to hear what he's saying when listening in the car because he's voiced like an old man of poor health you might find in a nursing home. It might be dramatic, and maybe it's even a helpful indication of how to express things in an authentically French way, but it's hard even to hear that voice in anything but a silent acoustic, let alone understand what it is saying.
So part of me realizes that this is probably a good exercise in trying to understand 'real' spoken French, but I was hoping for text more clearly and sonorously pronounced for listening in the car. But this is the one French audio version there is (at least currently), and it certainly will work, especially when I can listen while reading the book in French at the same time, an opportunity I have not yet made time to enjoy.
Right here I'm imagining a professor of French or some otherwise advanced student of French shaking their head and disagreeing even with the concept of my evaluation, and they're probably right. If I knew the language better, if I had practiced more first, if I read the hard copy first, I might recognize this recording as a wonderful dramatic reading of the Harry Potter story. But that's not my situation, at least not yet, and I'm just trying to help others who might be interested in this recording, like I was and am, more for the language than for the particular story.
For reasons I can't really explain here I also bought the German versions of the book and the CD a few years ago and did a similar thing while learning some elements of German, and _that_ recording seemed great in the car, with clear enunciation and sonorous tone almost always present. A strong voice seems much more appropriate to me for Dumbledore, for example, given the strength of his character. Listening to German Hagrid ask Harry "Du weist nicht was du bist?" in a stunned and searching voice was definitely more satisfying, as another example, than straining to hear incredulous French Hagrid rasp out a mostly whispered "Tu ne sais même pas qui tu es?" Listening to the German recording, that moment was clear the first time I heard it, but with the French recording I had to go back and search for it even to figure out where it happened. Again, maybe it says more about my own weak preparation before attempting this exercise, but I was hoping for more clarity.
So I'd say get this CD if you're interested in hearing a fluent speaker narrate this story, but don't expect it to be easy to distinguish all the elements of the language.