This post is part of In Your Ear, a series of audio book reviews by guest blogger Gia Batty, Nobles Director of Academic Support. For more information about In Your Ear, click here.
The Children Act
by Ian McEwan
Narrated by Lindsay Duncan
The Children Act by Ian McEwan is this month’s choice for the Nobles faculty book club, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should definitely consider listening to it! If you’re new to audiobooks, this is a great one to start with because a) it’s short (just over six hours) and b) the narrator, Lindsay Duncan, will pull you in immediately as the beautifully haunting voice of the protagonist–British High Court judge, Fiona Maye. Duncan is an award-winning Scottish actress who has narrated several audiobooks, including Pride and Prejudice and Tess of D’Urbervilles, and she’s perfect for Fiona.
The Children Act is the story of a well-respected judge, her intense, often sad work in the family court system, her failing marriage to a Geology professor, and her unlikely relationship with Adam Henry, a young boy from one of her cases. Adam is a Jehovah’s Witness who refuses medical treatment for his leukemia, and Fiona must decide what is best for him. It is the story of what becomes of Adam that holds this novel together and it is what made me take several extra long walks with my dog in order to find out what happened to him (and Fiona) in the end.
Whether it’s Fiona delivering her judgements in the courtroom, watching her husband leave her through the rainy window of her London flat, or singing the lines of a Yeats poem while Adam plays along on his violin in a hospital bed, narrator Lindsay Duncan is believable, confident and simply mesmerizing.
This is definitely a book to listen to–if only to hear Duncan say “chaise longue” and “Goethe” with her proper British accent. More than that though, Duncan’s steady voice, her interpretation of dialogue, and her ability to capture the feeling and emotion wrapped up in this little story was brilliant (please read with a British accent). In other words, download it today.
This post is part of In Your Ear, a series of audio book reviews by guest blogger Gia Batty, Nobles Director of Academic Support. For more information about In Your Ear, click here. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak Narrated by Allan Corduner 13 hours, 57 minutes Funny thing about this book is that I tried to actually read it a bunch of times over the last five years and I could never get past the first few chapters. I think the farthest I got was page 35 (of 550), and yet this was a book I wanted to read–a book about the power of words and how books could actually save your life. The Book Thief has been on Nobles’ required summer reading list for incoming seventh graders for many years. I wanted to read it for that reason too. I also liked the actual shape of the book–it’s kind of squat and chunky– and it has a great cover, not the new one with the girl from the movie on it, the original cover with the dominos. Sometimes I just know which books are good for listening to and which ones aren’t. I assumed this was a book to read, not to listen to–mostly because it was a book about books. I thought I needed to actually turn the pages of this book as the characters did, to appreciate the drawings I knew were in there, but I was wrong. The Book Thief is a book to listen to, especially when Allan Corduner is reading it to you. You probably already know that the novel is narrated by Death, which is weird at first, but Corduner is good at putting the listener at ease and making this concept believable (or believable while listening, which is what we do when we read–we must suspend our disbelief). He’s also good with the German, which I think was part of my issue when I tried to read it on my own. Corduner speaks German. His mother was German. Also interesting is that his mother escaped Nazi Germany with her family in 1938, which, I think, just adds to why he is so good at reading this book as it is essentially about a young girl’s experience of living in Germany at that time. I’ll give you some plot–but not too much, because I want you to listen to this book. Liesel Meminger, “The Book Thief”, is taken in by foster parents Rosa and Hans Hubermann. Hans is awesome. He plays the accordion; he teaches Liesel to read; he comforts her when she can’t sleep; he’s gentle and brave. Rosa is feisty and foul-mouthed, and, we find out later, is “a good woman for a crisis,” which is key because there are many of those in this book. My favorite character is Liesel’s friend, Rudy Steiner, who, among other things, has deep love for both Liesel Meminger and the track star, Jesse Owens. Those are Rudy’s dominos on the cover of the book, by the way. And last, there is Max Vandenburg, a Jew who hides from the Nazis in the Hubermann’s basement. Max is a fighter, a writer, and a friend to Liesel. And there are books, lots of books, in this book. Lots of books and lots of words and they are all important. Liesel voraciously reads books to understand the world, she steals books, Max Vandenburg writes books for her, and ultimately, she writes her own book. Back to Allan Corduner, the narrator, and the reason why you should listen to this beautifully written story. His voice is deep and rich and raspy. His is the voice of Death in this book, but, in the end, it is a voice of hope and wonder that tells the story of an incredible life. Gia’s Tip: If you do listen, do yourself a favor and keep a copy of the real book close by.
I’m an avid reader and audiobook listener. I have always loved listening to books–from storytime in preschool and Reading Rainbow in my living room to the books on cassette tapes in my Walkman and the many, many audiobooks I have downloaded to my various devices over the last decade. I listen to books when I walk my dog, when I exercise, and while doing laundry. Sometimes I listen on my way to school, and my family always listens to books together on our annual cross-country road trips. I love a good story and I love listening to them even more. Some of my all-time favorite audiobooks include The Great Gatsby, the one narrated by Tim Robbins, which concludes with the reading of a collection of letters written by F. Scott Fitzgerald that relate to the novel. I also love Pride and Prejudice narrated by Flo Gibson, which I listened to on my Walkman while on a trip to Italy with my family in 1994 and Bossypants, in which Tina Fey made me laugh out loud every 7 minutes. I also need to include here the monthly New Yorker: Fiction podcast where Deborah Treisman, the fiction editor at the magazine, invites writers to choose a short story from the archives to read aloud and discuss. In other words, subscribe immediately.