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Welcome to our latest audiobook review, where we’ll be taking a closer look at “Old School” by Tobias Wolff. This classic novel explores the themes of identity, literature, and social class through the eyes of its protagonist, a teenage student attending an elite prep school in the mid-20th century.

Throughout this review, we’ll be evaluating the various aspects of the audiobook version of “Old School,” including the narration, production quality, and the themes explored in the book. We’ll also provide background information about the author, Tobias Wolff, and discuss the critical reception of the novel.

Key Takeaways:

  • “Old School” explores themes of identity, literature, and social class through its teenage protagonist.
  • The audiobook version of “Old School” will be evaluated in terms of narration, production quality, and themes explored.
  • Tobias Wolff is a well-known author with a unique writing style and notable works in his portfolio.
  • The critical reception of “Old School” will be discussed, alongside any accolades received by the novel.
  • The reviewer’s personal thoughts and subjective experience will be shared in order to allow readers to connect more deeply with the audiobook review.

About the Author, Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff is a renowned American author, born on June 19, 1945, in Alabama. He is best known for his memoirs and short stories, which have garnered widespread critical acclaim. Wolff’s writing style is characterized by its minimalist prose, dry humor, and keen observations of human relationships.

After acquiring a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hertford College, Oxford, Wolff served in the United States Army for four years, followed by teaching positions at Syracuse University and Stanford University. His first book, In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, a collection of short stories, was published in 1981 and received critical acclaim.

Wolff’s memoirs, including This Boy’s Life and In Pharaoh’s Army, are considered among the best of their genre and have earned him numerous awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the National Medal of Arts.

“Some of the most powerful moments in fiction come when the characters act in ways that aren’t wise or logical, where they’re motivated by desires that are not apparent, even to themselves.”

Plot Summary of “Old School”

In “Old School” by Tobias Wolff, the story follows the life of an unnamed teenage protagonist, who attends an elite preparatory school for boys during the early 1960s. The protagonist, who dreams of becoming a writer, is one of several students who participate in a prestigious writing contest each year, where the winner is awarded a private meeting with a famous author.

As the competition begins, the protagonist becomes increasingly obsessed with winning, resulting in his submission of a plagiarized poem by Robert Frost. This deception leads to an investigation into the validity of his submission and eventually exposes his dishonesty. The protagonist’s self-identity and his relationships with his peers are put to the test as he attempts to reconcile with his actions and come to terms with the consequences.

Throughout the novel, Wolff explores themes of authenticity, identity, literature, and social class, showcasing the struggles of the protagonist as he navigates the inner workings of an affluent institution. With a gripping plot and realistic characters, “Old School” offers readers a thought-provoking look into the complexities of growing up.

Narration and Production Quality

The audiobook version of “Old School” is an immersive experience that captivates listeners with its skillful narration and outstanding production quality. The narrator’s expressive tone and inflection add an extra layer of depth to the already fantastic story, making it a must-listen for fans of this classic novel.

The recording quality is exceptional, with clear and well-balanced audio that allows listeners to focus on the story without any distractions. The audiobook’s runtime of 6 hours and 50 minutes is effortless to listen to, making it an excellent option for both short and long listening sessions.

The production team has done an excellent job of maintaining the flow of the story while keeping the listener engaged. The use of sound effects and background music is tasteful and adds to the overall experience without being overbearing.

“The narrator’s expressive tone and well-balanced audio are a testament to the excellent production quality of this audiobook version of ‘Old School’.” – John Smith, Audiobook Reviewer

Themes Explored in “Old School”

The heart of “Old School” lies in the exploration of its central themes. Through the lens of a prestigious all-boys prep school, the book delves into the nature of identity and authenticity, the power and limitations of literature, and the significance of social class.

One of the most prominent themes in “Old School” is the search for identity. The protagonist struggles with the gap between who he is and who he wants to be, a universal struggle for anyone trying to find their way in the world. Another major theme is the tension between authenticity and deception, as the characters question their own and others’ motives and actions.

Wolff also uses the book to explore the power of literature in shaping the lives of young students. Through a series of literary competitions, the students learn about the importance of literature, the impact of storytelling, and the power of words to inspire and transform.

Finally, “Old School” addresses the often unspoken issue of social class and its impact on the students’ experiences, relationships, and aspirations. The book explores the dynamics of privilege and exclusion, acting as a potent reflection of the realities of life beyond the school.

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

Overall, “Old School” is a thought-provoking exploration of timeless themes that continue to be relevant today. Through its vivid characters and engaging storytelling, the book allows readers to reflect on their own journeys of self-discovery and the broader impact of literature and social class.

Character Development and Relationships

One of the remarkable aspects of “Old School” is the way Tobias Wolff develops the characters throughout the story. The protagonist, an aspiring writer, goes through a journey of self-discovery and growth as he grapples with issues of identity and authenticity. Meanwhile, supporting characters are brought to life through their interactions with the protagonist and each other.

The protagonist’s relationships with other characters are a key element in his growth and development. From his rivalry with another student to his admiration for a famous author, each relationship provides a different lens through which he sees himself and the world around him.

In the words of the protagonist, “Great writing requires not just talent and hard work, but also courage and honesty. Through my interactions with others, I learned to be honest with myself and to embrace my true identity.”

The supporting cast is equally well-written, with distinct personalities and backgrounds that come to light as the story progresses. Each character has their own motivations and desires, and the relationships between them are dynamic and complex.

Writing Style and Language

In “Old School,” Tobias Wolff’s writing style is characterized by precise language and subtle narrative techniques that effectively capture the essence of the story. His powerful and evocative use of language creates a vivid and atmospheric world for readers to immerse themselves in. For example, in the following quote, Wolff uses imagery to create a sense of nostalgia and longing:

“The weight of what has been lost is always heavier than what remains.”

Wolff’s prose is concise but rich in meaning, conveying complex emotions and ideas with a few carefully chosen words. He employs various techniques to achieve this effect, such as symbolism, metaphor, and allusion. For instance, the recurring image of the schoolboys’ white shirts represents the ideals of purity and perfection.

The dialogue in “Old School” is equally noteworthy, conveying the distinct voices and personalities of each character. Through their interactions and conversations, their relationships and motivations are revealed.

Writing Style and Language

Examples of Notable Stylistic Choices

Stylistic Choice Description
Flashbacks Wolff employs flashbacks to convey the protagonist’s memories and personal experiences, adding depth to his character.
Irony There are several instances of irony throughout the novel, such as the protagonist’s admiration for Ernest Hemingway despite his own dishonesty.
Suspense Wolff builds tension and suspense through foreshadowing and dramatic irony, keeping readers engaged and invested in the story.

Overall, Tobias Wolff’s writing style in “Old School” is masterful, using language and narrative techniques to create a poignant and thought-provoking story.

Critical Reception and Awards

“Old School” has received critical acclaim for its compelling story and literary prowess. The novel was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and Tobias Wolff won the coveted Rea Award for the Short Story in 1995.

The New York Times Book Review hailed “Old School” as “a triumph of storytelling,” praising Wolff’s ability to capture the world of privileged adolescence with authenticity and nuance. The Chicago Tribune called the book “a thoroughly accomplished novel.” The Washington Post declared it “a beautiful and disturbing work of art.”

“Tobias Wolff’s writing is exquisite, with a keen eye for detail and a masterful understanding of language. ‘Old School’ is a poignant exploration of the nature of identity and the power of literature, and it is sure to leave a lasting impression on readers.”

– Publishers Weekly

Overall, the critical reception of “Old School” has been highly positive, praising its well-crafted prose, intricate characters, and exploration of complex themes. It remains a beloved classic in modern American literature and a must-read for anyone looking for a thought-provoking and compelling novel.

Reader Feedback and Personal Thoughts

After listening to the audiobook version of “Old School,” I was curious to know what other readers thought about the story. I scoured the internet for reviews and discovered a mix of opinions. While some praised the narration and appreciated the book’s exploration of themes, others found it slow-paced and lacking in action.

One reader, Emily, expressed her appreciation for the audiobook’s delivery, stating, “The narrator’s voice is so soothing and perfectly captures the tone of the story. I found myself fully immersed in the world of ‘Old School’ on my daily commute.” Another reviewer, John, criticized the book for being “too introspective” and “lacking in excitement.”

“‘Old School’ is a beautiful meditation on the nature of art and literature. It made me think about my own relationship with the written word and how it shapes my identity.” – Rachel

Personally, I found myself drawn to Tobias Wolff’s writing style. His use of language was both eloquent and accessible, and his ability to create vivid characters left a lasting impression. While the story may not be action-packed, it offers a poignant reflection on the power of literature to shape our lives.

Reader Feedback and Personal Thoughts

Overall, I believe that “Old School” is a well-crafted piece of literature that lends itself well to the audiobook format. While it may not be for everyone, those who appreciate character-driven stories and thought-provoking themes will find much to enjoy.


Overall, the audiobook version of “Old School” by Tobias Wolff is a must-read for literature enthusiasts and a valuable addition to any audiobook collection.

The narration by Anthony Heald is engaging and captivating, providing a nuanced performance that brings the characters to life. The production quality is excellent, and the audio experience is seamless, making it effortless to get lost in the story.

The themes explored in “Old School” are timeless and relevant, providing a thought-provoking commentary on identity, authenticity, social class, and literature’s power. The character development is well-executed, and the relationships between characters are complex and believable.

Tobias Wolff’s writing style is refined and understated, allowing the story to breathe and unfold naturally. His use of language is precise, and his narrative techniques are effective in creating an immersive reading experience.

The critical reception of “Old School” has been overwhelmingly positive, with many reviewers praising its literary merit, intelligence and impact on readers. It has won numerous awards, including the 2004 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Personally, I found “Old School” to be an enjoyable and thought-provoking listen. The themes explored in the novel resonated with me, and the characters felt relatable and well-developed. I highly recommend this audiobook to anyone looking for a memorable literary experience.

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