31 Jul The Joy of Audiobooks
How do you prefer reading? I don’t mind if my book is hardback, paperback or Kindle – I do usually like to have one Kindle book on the go so that I can read in bed without disturbing my husband –who can sleep in a chair with the lights on and the TV blaring, but strangely needs darkness when he goes to bed!
But in the past year, I’ve also discovered the joy of Audiobooks, thanks to one of my friends in the walking group who introduced me to Libby, the library app which allows you to borrow digital and audiobooks, along with newspapers, magazines and music.
What a revelation! All I had to do was sign up with my library card, and I have access to thousands of free audiobooks!
I had resisted this format, thinking it would be hard to follow without actually scanning the pages, but in fact it is just as satisfying, if not more so. The fact that you can’t skim means you take in every word of the story, to get the most out of the book.
Of course, it means a book takes longer to get through, but you can adjust the reading speed. I find 125 per cent works well with most books.
You can listen anywhere
I’ve been listening to audio books, in the car, out walking, or when I’m doing housework or knitting.
I try listening at night, too, but invariably fall asleep and have to go back to catch up!
One thing I’ve discovered is that I can’t just sit and listen to a book. My eyes need to be doing something.
Another thing I’ve found is that the narrator matters. He or she – or they if there are multiple narrators – sets the tone for the story, and their delivery can make or break the book for me.
So far, I’ve returned just one or two books because I haven’t enjoyed listening to the narrator, but on the whole, my experience of audiobooks has been positive, and I’m going to keep reading this way.
Here are a few of the books I’ve enjoyed in audio format recently – hope you enjoy them, too.
Gone Tonight by Sarah Pekkanen, narrated by Kate Mara (Macmillan Audiobooks)
I really enjoyed this story – it begins with the heartstopping news of a dementia diagnosis of 40-something year old Ruth Sterling, and its effects on her grown-up daughter Ruth, but swiftly becomes even more compelling with the mystery surrounding Ruth’s background.
What is she keeping from her daughter, that they have to move from place to place, and that she doesn’t trust Catherine to leave her side?
When Catherine’s determination to solve the mystery of her mother’s past leads them into danger, a mother’s love comes in to play – Ruth will do anything to save her daughter. And Catherine will do anything to save her mother …
I raced through this one. The plot is compelling, and the characters of both Ruth and Catherine are both interesting and complex. The narrative keeps the focus firmly on them as they unpeel their true selves to the reader, and to each other.
This was a great book to listen to on Audio. Told from the alternate points of view of mother and daughter, it is narrated by Kate Mara whose nuanced, subtle alterations in tone leave you in no doubt who is speaking, and whose light US accent is perfect for us UK readers.
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, various narrators (Penguin)
I’d already watched Daisy Jones and the Six television series so knew the story of the 70s rock band joined by singer Daisy Jones, whose presence altered its dynamics and threatened the family life of lead singer Billy Dunne. Theirs is a love-hate relationship, and their story is told through the eyes of the various band members, associates, friends and family.
There is lots of drug and sex and rock ‘n’roll in the story, along with tensions in the band – the author’s inspiration was Fleetwood Mac – but it’s also a very emotional, raw and honest story with strong characters.
Each is given their own narrator in the audio book, which makes for a lot of voices, but Billy and Daisy’s tones soon become distinguishable from the others, who thankfully identify themselves every time they speak.
I found it easy to follow, and felt it offered more depth than the TV series – Billy’s wife Camilla especially emerged as a stronger person, and Billy was a more sympathetic character in the book than in the series.
I love this author’s work, so I was always going to enjoy this audiobook. I highly recommend Malibu Rising and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, too.
Meanwhile, Carrie Soto Is Back is on my wishlist – hopefully Libby will deliver it soon!
Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin, narrated by Emily Tremaine
Meet Gilda, a neurotic 27-year-old fixated on death. Jobless and adrift, she falls into employment as a receptionist at a local Catholic church, despite being non-Catholic and gay. In her efforts to conceal her background, she falls into all sorts of hilarious situations, including keeping the amorous Giuseppe at bay.
Meanwhile, she’s intrigued by what happened to her predecessor, Grace, who may or may not have been murdered!
Dealing with life while thinking constantly about death is not easy, but somehow Gilda navigates relationships with her family, brother, girlfriend and colleagues.
But something soon has to break.
This is a book that can be listened to (or read) on two levels. On the one hand, it’s laugh out loud funny, with witty insights into modern life. But it has a deeper, dark subtext. Just why are we here? From Gilda’s experiences, it’s obvious religion is not the answer, but she has to find some way of coping with her existential dread.
Exploring the meaning of life through Gilda’s eyes is a fun and emotive way of taking that journey,, and this was brilliantly narrated by Emily Tremain, who captures Gilda’s vulnerability and loveability perfectly.
My Husband’s Wife by Amanda Prowse, narrated by the author
I wanted to mention this one, as I think it is quite unusual to have an audiobook narrated by the author, and I didn’t really think it would work. However, I really like Amanda Prowse’s books and I hadn’t read this one, so I decided to give it a go. I’m so glad I did.
In rich, west country tones, Amanda Prowse captures the character of her heroine Rosie brilliantly, as she faces up to her husband’s infidelity and life a single mother of two charming but challenging little girls.
Rosie has so many difficulties to deal with – a motherless girl herself, she has always been determined to be the best mother possible to her daughters, but now she is in danger of losing them to her husband’s rich new girlfriend.
Family and friends won’t acknowledge her fears, and Rosie has to find the strength to carry on with life where she’s already lost so much that she loved, and is in danger of losing it all.
She’s a lovely character, very caring, good fun, a loving mum and wife, and a loyal friend, and she drives the story on and keeps the reader engrossed by the sheer force of her character.
Amanda Prowse is great at dramatizing everyday family life into an enthralling story, and this book is no exception.