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Nine Lives

In Search of the Sacred in Modern India
Written by: William Dalrymple
Narrated by: Daniel Philpott
Length: 10 hrs and 15 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (20 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Shortlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize 2010. Winner of the 2010 Asia House Award for Asian Literature.

A Buddhist monk takes up arms to resist the Chinese invasion of Tibet - then spends the rest of his life trying to atone for the violence by hand printing the best prayer flags in India. A Jain nun tests her powers of detachment as she watches her best friend ritually starve herself to death. Nine people, nine lives; each one taking a different religious path, each one an unforgettable story. William Dalrymple delves deep into the heart of a nation torn between the relentless onslaught of modernity and the ancient traditions that endure to this day.

©2009 William Dalrymple (P)2011 Audible Ltd

Critic Reviews

"An absolutely beautiful book, clean and honest and edifying and moving. I love so much about it: a delight." (Elizabeth Gilbert)
"Dalrymple's study of people and beliefs in India ranks with the very finest travel writing.... A series of biographies which unpick the rich religious heritage of the subcontinent, it makes its political points more powerfully than any newspaper article and displays deep knowledge of the culture." ( Observer)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
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  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent book except for the mispronunciations

Excellent book by Darlymple covering intersting, heartwrenching stories across the subcontinent. The narration while does justice to the emotions the author is trying to evoke, was full of unacceptable mispronunciations of some of the poular l ocal words which makes you feel a bit frustrated, when you hear it..for eg. Ramanaya instead of Ramayana. Should've spent some.extra effort to get the narration right.

1 person found this helpful

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Great stories, Superb narration.

I absolutely loved it. William Dalrymple knows India the way only a few men do. a must read for anyone interested in India and mystical/spiritual ways. Highly recommended. The narration too was excellent. the voice modulation from the narrator makes one feel invariably at the centre of all the happenings in the story. Will be on a lookout for more such titles.

2 people found this helpful

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Horrible narration. Returning it

Apparently someone have the book to someone who can’t read, let him record it and published it. Expected better from audible. This man seems to deliberately pronounce every Indian word wrong. He can’t get even one word right. That bad. I wanted to throw up when he said Ramanaya. There is no equivalent for proofreading in audio books? Where did you find him? Nothing has ever disappointed me more. Please withdraw this and release a better narration. The author deserves it.
Don’t know about the story. Could get to it due to the horrible narration. Just clicked the average to be able to submit a review

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Content defeated by the narrator

Needless to say, Dalrymple's work is simply splendid. However, I cannot emphasise enough the need for a narrator proficient in the Indian lilt and accent. The only and huge put off.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Arvind
  • 18-05-18

Good Book Rendered Awfully

The author tries to bring out the contrast of the perceived India and the real India. Many of the stories narrated here are known to educated Indians or observant Indians, bringing the same to a global audience is welcome. The sad part though is the narrator has no clue about Indian culture and was often mispronounced the Indian nouns. I wish the author had at least reviewed the narration.

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  • Trent
  • 02-04-12

Interesting stories, distracting naration

Where does Nine Lives rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Ranks in the middle

Would you be willing to try another book from William Dalrymple? Why or why not?

Yes, interesting writing style and great insights into India, though can get a little bogged down.

What didn’t you like about Daniel Philpott’s performance?

Several recording errors were left in the recording, which was pretty annoying.
I found the narrators Indian accents a little distracting at times, especially as at times they were a little over the top. Some of the quoted dialogue came across as a little unnatural, which I would attribute to the narrator 'over performing' the lines.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, not a 'page turner' as such.

Any additional comments?

A book to be in the right mood for, but some really interesting material. Unfortunately, the narration probably detracted more than it added.

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Nakul
  • 28-03-13

Pathetic

Dalrymple's book is perfectly decent – sympathetic and informative, though he does rather make all his nine characters sound very like each other. Comes of having to work through interpreters, I suppose, but a good enough job, attentive and respectful. The audio performance, however, is *unforgivably* bad. The generic 'Indian' accents, owing more to Peter Sellers than to any kind of speech actually to be heard in India, were embarrassing enough. But that was a relatively mild problem. Almost no research seemed to have gone into getting the pronunciations of Indian words and place names right: after the first couple of hours, it became almost comic anticipating the next mangling of an Indian name. Rather it would have been comic if weren't so offensive. I don't mean that there were a few mispronunciations here and there – virtually *every* Indian word is mispronounced, the stress inexplicably put on the final syllable (something which almost never happens in Indian languages). Sometimes the reader couldn't even get the consonants in the right order (Ramayana? Ramanaya?) Sometimes he mangled even *English* words (toddy, jaggery) with Indian etymologies. And in the final story, the producers seem to have gone to sleep – failing to cut out his false starts and stammering. A pathetic excuse for an audiobook. Listeners, and the book, deserve better. I'd ask for my money back if I could.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Medhavi_Patel
  • 13-07-12

Amazing India!

I loved listening to this book, full of amazing detail and educational in so many ways.
Depicts many things that need to change and also which need to be preserved.
I would recommend this to anyone passionate about India!

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Amit
  • 04-01-20

Good stories & Analogy, accent used is gloomy.

Good stories, which are true, very few may actually understand the way they are.
The accent used was bad, there was over exaggeration of accent, which was sometimes offensive.
There was some errors during the read which were kept, please rectify it before publishing.
Overall good read, takes you through the journey how different life can present.

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  • Azathoth
  • 26-12-19

Dalrymple is a gateway to India

Nine lives was excellent. I've read many books by Dalrymple before and really appreciate his writing.
The narrator tries to imitate accents while reading. since this book is so heavy on quotes, the greatest part of the book is read by what is a fakeish Indian accent. I must admit I found that quite distracting.

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  • S_Kam
  • 01-09-19

Fantastic story but very poor narration

The author has done a great deal of research and presented the book in a brilliant way. He is very sympathetic to the characters. He also comments how the Indian society is changing and how will it impacts the lives of rural Indians.

However, sadly, the narrator seems to have done very little research on the pronouncing the Indian names. Also he fails to mimics a fake Indian accent.

My advice - if possible read the real book.

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  • Sangeeth
  • 10-07-17

Good Read

Varied stories. Varied lives. Definitely a cultural induction for an Indian looking at exploring this wonderful land of diversities.

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  • Steve_Morris
  • 02-06-15

Interesting perspective on Indian religious people

This book is rather long to keep listening to. But the people's life stories and beliefs are fascinating. Modern India seems a long way away - these people remind me of religious orders from Medieval times in Europe.