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Publisher's Summary

After the jealous tyrant Don Rodrigo foils their wedding, young Lombardian peasants Lucia and Lorenzo must separate and flee for their safety. Their difficult path to matrimony takes place against the turbulent backdrop of the Thirty Years War, where lawlessness and exploitation are at their height. Lucia takes refuge in a convent, where she is later abducted and taken on a nightmarish journey to a sinister castle, while Lorenzo goes to Milan, where he witnesses famine, riots, and plague - all evoked through meticulous description and with stunning immediacy. The Betrothed is a masterful example of historical fiction and remains one of the most famous novels in Italian literature. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.  

Public Domain (P)2019 Naxos Audiobooks

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  • Pia Crosby
  • 25-03-19

Fantastic reading of a great work of literature

This was not my first reading of this great work of world literature, but in the present rendition it comes alive in a completely new way. The moving and exciting plot as lived out in the wonderful variety of characters of this story becomes almost like a play, as the Nicholas Boulton is able to enter into them, and adapt his tone and even dialect to the person speaking. I find him one of the best performers on Audible yet, and that is after many years of being a member.
I had hoped for a long time that Audible would make this book available, and with this recent publication my hopes were fulfilled, and my expectations greatly exceeded.

29 people found this helpful

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  • Adeliese Baumann
  • 27-11-19

Addio ai Monti 🇮🇹

Having this treasure in audio in English is a dream come true. I’m head over heels in love with Lombardy for sentimental reasons, so I cannot but cherish this story and its settings.

It’s possibly the most widely read novel in Italian, yet I find too few Americans have heard of it. If you find yourself among them, I recommend it to you!

So many extraordinary characters, good and evil, people the scenes. Who could forget Renzo the silk weaver, the Nun of Monza, or the diabolical L’Innomiato, Nibbio, and Griso, or the ingeniously named crooked lawyer, Dr Azzeccagarbugli? You must meet them all!

The impact of this book on Italian literature, language, and education is inestimable. Even colloquial speech uses phrases from this book as proverbs, and names of characters as shorthand for personality description, much as we do with Shakespeare.

Truly this is a novel not to be missed, in an enjoyable translation, beautifully performed.

9 people found this helpful

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  • John L. Murphy
  • 19-09-19

Reader makes this lively

I wish Nicholas Boulton performed more classics available at Audible. His jocular tone enlivened this tale of Milan under foreign rule in the early 1600s. Written by Manzoni as the first notable Italian novel, it's charm in this old-fashioned translation survives due to Boulton 's unflattering cheer. His timing delivers Manzoni's earnest swashbuckling tale full of parted lovers, scheming lords, and valiant clergy well. While the plot is suitably rather melodramatic, the moral lessons get a lighter than expected emphasis, thanks to the author's deft air and the reader's fluid narration of this meandering saga.

6 people found this helpful

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  • John
  • 20-10-20

Amazing. And it’s even better if you’re Catholic

They say you need to be Russian to fully grasp Dostoyevsky, and I think they’re right. While you needn’t be Catholic to enjoy The Betrothed, sharing that mindset means you find not only enjoyment in the book, but a 25-hour reminder of the transcendent beauty and day-to-day utility of the Faith.

Here we have the wealth of vivid characters, the rambling, detouring plot, and the moral outlook of Dickens. But where Dickens appeals to a highly personal sense of religious rectitude, Manzoni’s characters—the good, the bad and the indifferent—all share the common background of Catholicism. Thus, appeals to right conduct aren’t made out of an abstract, sentimental sense of the right, but from an objective, almost tangible, shared understanding of what is right. That’s why, every time we indulge our all-too-human reactions to characters and events (hatred, envy, despair) we are recalled to the proper perspective (forgiveness, charity, hope)—as often as not by Lucia or her mother Agnese as by Father Cristoforo or Cardinal Borromeo.

Nicholas Boulton turns in his usual, superb performance. He doesn’t just read books; he has a way of putting them on, like clothes, and living out the story from within it.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Jennifer
  • 07-07-20

Incredibly current


Even though I finished this book last week, I had to wait until I had time to sit down to write a review that would do “The Betrothed” some justice. I came across the title quite by accident, and saw that it was touted as one of Italy’s most revered classics. It occurred to me that I have not read a singe Italian book, and that this situation needed to be remedied. This suggestion ended up being incredibly fortunate for me! Written two hundred years ago, but set four hundred years ago, it is amazingly current.

The quote that made me literally bolt up straight was a reflection by the author, Alessandro Manzoni, that equated victim-blaming with cowardice. The young couple face a series of tragedies: sexual harassment, abuse of power, social unrest, famine, and the plague. Manzoni’s characterization of Lucia, the young bride-to-be, and her mother, stands out in that he paints them as realistic, independent characters. The mother’s wisdom is emphasized in her role of counseling her daughter and future son-in-law. A handful of side female characters also enjoy an individualized depth of portrayal.

Especially striking is the initial conflict when the local Don Rodrigo notices Lucia as he walks by her with his wealthy friends and tries to catch her interest. When she attempts to ignore him, and then dissuade him, he is humiliated that his friends witnessed a “peasant girl” decline his attraction. From there on out, he makes a vulgar bet with them that he will “remind her of her place.” In British literature of the early 1800’s, this sort of pursuit would have almost certainly been presented as a man driven mad by his love, and hardly responsible for his actions given the woman’s beauty and wiles. In Manzoni’s narrative, he creates no ambiguity about this being a matter of pride and abuse of power.

As Renzo and Lucia plot to circumvent Don Rodrigo’s meddling harassment, their journey takes us through Manzoni’s reflections on politics. A famine highlights the pre-existing social unrest, and rulers try to address this with varied rules and edicts. Much like today, they do this without much research or knowledge about the real-life consequences. Renzo ends up getting caught up in a riot about the bread shortage. The description of law enforcement and ruling parties trying to quell the disquiet is startlingly familiar. Quite a few observations fly around about “This it not the right way to do this!” and “If you’ll just wait a little, this will work out! Patience!” Among the crowd, there are varied groups who try to bring about change in their own ways. Some of course, are just there to cause havoc and snatch a few spoils. Renzo, being a stranger in town, gets mischaracterized as a leader in the riot. “It’s not our own folk who started this unrest! It’s those from out of town stirring up trouble!” Sound familiar?

By the skin of his teeth, Renzo flees as the country churns from famine to war to the plague. When the first signs of the plague pop up, deniers work overtime to say that it’s not the plague, it’s just bad air, or weakness from the famine, etc. The politicians solidly obstruct any plans to prepare for the spreading disease. Towns near the areas with growing contagion act as if they are immune. The king is more interested in a public celebration that will make him look good to Spain than in discouraging large gatherings. Conspiracy theories spread that “poisoners” are responsible for people getting sick, not the disease; that doctors are behind the poisoners to create wealth for themselves; that politicians just want to control the masses. The author mocks the backwards people who reject that social distancing is key to eliminating the outbreak. He creates a few especially foolish characters who don’t even understand that they should avoid touching the belongings of the infected, but who spread fear and conspiracy theories instead. He describes the great fortune of the few who do get the disease but recover, as they are unlikely to get the disease twice.

A classic with such relevance and wit is a true gem. “The Betrothed” adds a great deal of wisdom as well, with reflections about human nature that are fresh and thought-provoking. I would humbly beg of any serious reader to add this to their list of must-reads.

2 people found this helpful

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  • G. Butera
  • 04-05-20

A masterpiece

Italy’s great epic novel, The Betrothed has the warmth of a Dickens novel and the wisdom of a Shakespearean play. The narration is fantastic. Can’t recommend this audiobook highly enough.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Lana T
  • 04-03-20

Fascinating read during the Corona Virus

I purchased this book in the paper version more than a year ago but I could not get past page 130. Then, I gave Audible a try and the reading by Nicholas Boulton brought it to life. I actually took it with me on my daily walks as it was so fascinating. The story follows a couple betrothed who encounter numerous obstacles, not the least of which is the plague in Milan. There is even a moral to the story but that is not divulged until the last page.

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  • Elizabeth Crouse
  • 08-02-21

wonderful!

I really loved this book. I had never heard of it before Anothony Esolen mentioned it in a lecture. It was highly recommended by him and I'm so glad he did! A beautiful story. The writing is wonderful and the reader is brilliant. get it!

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  • Patricia Morrissey
  • 24-05-20

A Masterpiece

I can’t believe I didn’t know about this book! My former exchange student who is Italian and now lives in Milan recommended to me because of the parts about the plague. The story, the eloquent descriptions, the timeless lessons about human nature ... this book was such a delight that I didn’t want it to end ! A real treasure for the ages.

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  • David J Nelson
  • 27-04-20

The Betrothed

Great literature is timeless, that is why this story has endured for 200 years. Bravo!

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  • Liam Foley
  • 03-05-19

Outstanding story disappointing translation.

This is one of the great classics of European literature. Manzoni is in the first division of 19th Century writers and The Betrothed is on any top 10 list of works. That said this particular translation is weak and shows little understanding of Catholicism, a subject which is crucial to the story. Two obvious examples are the use of 'temple' instead of 'church' as a translation of the Italian 'templo.' No one who speaks English calls a church a temple. The same goes for 'curato'. The English word, curate, which is used, is an assistant priest but in Italian the word means a senior priest, a parish priest and the assistant is a vicario.
Both these obvious mistakes aren't made in the Penman translation used by Penguin.

9 people found this helpful