Download The Spectator Bird Audiobook

The Spectator Bird Audiobook, by Wallace Stegner Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Wallace Stegner Narrator: Edward Herrmann Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2009 ISBN: 9781481569354
3.83 out of 53.83 out of 53.83 out of 53.83 out of 53.83 out of 5 3.83 (12 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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Joe Allston is a retired literary agent who is, in his own words, "killing time before time gets around to killing me." His parents and his only son are long dead, leaving him with neither ancestors nor descendants, tradition nor ties. His job, trafficking the talent of others, had not been his choice. He passes through life as a spectator.

A postcard from a friend causes him to return to the journals of a trip he had taken with his wife twenty years before, a journey to his mother's birthplace, where he'd sought a link with the past. The memories of that trip, both grotesque and poignant, read aloud to his wife so she too can reminisce, move through layers of time and meaning and reveal that Joe Allston isn't quite spectator enough.

This portrait of a husband and wife's marriage and a son's pursuit of his mother's memory is a literary masterpiece.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Books like The Spectator Bird, especially in this fine reading by Edward Herrmann, offer the reward of ideas that will resonate for a long time and characters whose sometimes-epic sorrows resolve on a human scale. Herrmann's vocal characterizations are subtle but distinct—from the ‘Bryn Mawr’ accent of the narrator's wife to the accents of the Danish women (including Karen Blixen, better known as Isak Dinesen) whom the narrator meets on a recuperative vacation. As Joseph Alston, a dutiful man whose passions are not easily engaged, Herrmann moves from resignation to frustration to love and self-knowledge. Herrmann gives a mature and complex performance of a mature and complex novel.”


  • “Edward Herrmann is perhaps best known to younger audiences as kindly, patrician Richard Gilmore on the television series Gilmore Girls. Here, Herrmann uses his same elegant persona to amplify and underscore the bittersweet nuance of Stegner’s novel…There are hidden reserves of frustration and displeasure in Stegner’s tale, and Herrmann aptly conveys these emotions with short, sharp bursts of dialogue matched with longer, more drawn-out ellipses of exposition. He even manages a serviceable Danish accent to top off his flawless performance.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred audio review)

  • The Spectator Bird won the National Book Award when it was first published in 1976, and the story is no less intriguing now; Joe’s gripes with the modern world still resonate. Reader Edward Herrmann sounds just like the doleful old man whose story he narrates. His famous voice…brings a grace to this telling of a classic story…The Spectator Bird, and Mr. Herrmann’s reading, is recommended to anyone with a taste for both adventure and quiet reflection—which many describe every reader.” (starred review)

  • A Publishers Weekly Best Audiobook of 2010 for Classics
  • Winner of the National Book Award

Listener Reviews

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  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dean | 4/25/2011

    " My first Stegner book but certainly not my last. Great story of a elderly couple looking aback over their life together. Lots of resonance for me at age 64. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Steve | 3/22/2011

    " Interesting book but not for those uncomfortable about growing old. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susie | 3/6/2011

    " I love Wallace Stegner, but this wasn't my favorite book. In fact, I liked my eighth grade english text book he wrote better than this. Oh well. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sandy | 1/29/2011

    " Wallace Stegner is a great writer who can really handle character and narrative. This reminiscence by Joe Alston on his life and his choices is nicely written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Darius | 12/20/2010

    " Wonderful human story. Classic Stegner. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ricky | 12/14/2010

    " This book was about an aging literary agent Joe and his relationship with his wife Ruth. The book alternates from the present to the past as Ruth insists that Joe read a diary he kept on a trip to Denmark twenty years past. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cynthiamicken | 12/4/2010

    " This book is one of the best books I've read recently. The characters were authentic and the story switched back and forth between the past and the present flawlessly. The writing was superb and it brought out some interesting ideas to think about. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Julie | 10/14/2010

    " I love reading Wallace Stegner. This is another story of retrospection with great description. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bobbie57 | 10/5/2010

    " While I enjoyed reading this book, I am not sure that it would appeal to a broad audience. I think it helps if you are older and have a sense of humor about it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jorge | 9/14/2010

    " I Really liked the book, both the story and the writing style. For me it was one of those books that I fell right into and bonded with the characters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeanette | 8/1/2010

    " Sniff, sniff, blubber, blubber...You did it to me again, Wally. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sandra | 7/14/2010

    " It as been a while since I have read Wallace Stegner. His descriptive talents are amazing! This book explores a couple in their late 60's living with their memories and their everyday life. So great! I am going back to the library to get more Stegner! "

About the Author

Wallace Stegner (1909–1993) wrote many books of fiction and nonfiction, including Crossing to Safety and the National Book Award–winning The Spectator BirdAngle of Repose won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. An American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist, Stegner was often called the “dean of Western writers” and has left a lasting legacy in the literary community.

About the Narrator

Edward Herrmann (1943–2014) was one of America’s top audiobook narrators. He won multiple Audie Awards and twenty-two Earphones Awards, and his narration of the King James version of the Bible remains a benchmark in the industry.