Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Blog Tour & Review: Gutenberg's Apprentice by Alix Christie (audio)

Title: Gutenberg's Apprentice   
Author: Alix Christie   
Narrator: Robert Petkoff  
Published: September 2014, Harper Audio   
Length: 14 hours, 14 minutes  
Source: Personal copy via Audible  

An enthralling literary debut that evokes one of the most momentous events in history, the birth of printing in medieval Germany - a story of invention, intrigue, and betrayal.

Youthful, ambitious Peter Schoeffer is on the verge of professional success as a scribe in Paris when his foster father, the wealthy merchant and bookseller Johann Fust, summons him home to corruption- riddled, feud-plagued Mainz to meet "a most amazing man."

Johann Gutenberg, a driven and caustic inventor, has devised a revolutionary - and, to some, blasphemous - method of bookmaking: a machine he calls a printing press. Fust is financing Gutenberg's workshop, and he orders Peter to become Gutenberg's apprentice. Resentful at having to abandon a prestigious career as a scribe, Peter begins his education in the "darkest art."

As his skill grows, so too does his admiration for Gutenberg and his dedication to their daring venture: printing copies of the Holy Bible. But when outside forces align against them, Peter finds himself torn between two father figures - the generous Fust and the brilliant, mercurial Gutenberg, who inspires Peter to achieve his own mastery.

Caught between the genius and the merchant, the old ways and the new, Peter and the men he admires must work together to prevail against overwhelming obstacles in a battle that will change history - and irrevocably transform them all.

My thoughts: I first heard about this book at BEA this past Spring during HarperCollin's Fall Preview event. As an avid reader, I knew when they were highlighting this book - a book about the first printing press - that I had to read it. I was fortunate to get an advanced copy and then, when TLC Tours sent out the fall tour list, I jumped to be part of the tour for this book. Despite having a print copy of the book, I chose to listen to it due to time constraints and found it to be a rather enjoyable listening experience.

I admit that I had little knowledge of how the printing press came to be. I had heard of Gutenberg's name before and that he was associated with the press but did not know that he was not in it alone. This book shows that it was really the work of three remarkable men - Gutenberg, Johan Fust, who was the financial backer of the project, and Peter Schoeffer, Fust's foster son, who becomes Gutenberg's apprentice. The story is told from Peter's point of view and spans the four years it takes to print what later becomes known as the Gutenberg Bible.

I was fascinated by the details of the printing process. Finding out that Christie herself is a letterpress is even more impressive. She painstakingly gives us the trials and errors that Peter and the men went through to get the pages to look just right. No wonder it took so long to print just 180 copies of one book!

I think this is the type of book that I plan to hang on to and possible reread. Since I listened to it the first time around, I think I might read it next time, just to enjoy the beautiful layout if nothing else. And, I would definitely love to see a copy of the Gutenberg Bible - 48 copies still exist! This is what I love about reading historical fiction - it makes me want to either read more about a certain topic, or in this case, it has me wanting to search out a piece of history.

Audio Thoughts: This is the first time I've listened to Robert Petkoff narrate a book. I thought he did a great job telling the story and giving the characters unique voices. He kept me engaged in the story and I would definitely consider listening to him narrate again.

About the author: Alix Christie was born in California, spent her childhood summers in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, and has lived in Paris, San Francisco, and Berlin. She has been a widely published journalist for thirty years, with work featured in the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, The Guardian, Salon, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Her short fiction has been published by Southwest Review and Other Voices. A letterpress printer since her youth, Alix Christie currently lives in London, where she reviews books and the arts for The Economist.

Authors Links: 
Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook

To see who else is participating in Alix Christie's Gutenberg's Apprentice tour, click here



  1. I love when a personal buy ends up on the reread shelf. Isn't that the best feeling ever?

  2. I saw the Gutenberg Bible in the Library of Congress. It's quite impressive. I've been curious about this book. I'm so glad it's good.

    1. Oh...next time I'm in DC, I'm heading there! Thanks for the heads up!!!

  3. Sounds like an interesting read. Unfortunately not available on Audible for our part of the world, so looks like will need to read it in print.

    1. Oh, that's too bad about the audio. I quite enjoyed listening to it, though I do think reading it would be good, too!

  4. I'm a huge audio book fan but I haven't listened to that particular narrator before. I'm glad to hear that he did a great job! I'll probably pick up the audio version of this book soon!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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