Two-fer – A Double Review of Two Audio Books

Due to a Christmas and New Year break – in which I did virtually no blogging, but was still reading, I’m now a little behind with reviews so the next couple of weeks will be a little more active as I try to catch up.

Today, I’m posting mini reviews for two audiobooks that I listened to during the last few days of December – one of these was a festive story that strictly speaking I would have liked to have posted pre-Xmas (but the best laid plans, etc, etc) – regardless of timing, I enjoyed both.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, narrated by Hugh Grant.

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This is a story that I have reread many times over the years.  A well known tale of one man’s redemption and overall a story of hope.

I won’t elaborate greatly upon the plot as I’m sure most people are well aware of the basics of this well loved classic.  Ebenezer Scrooge is a selfish man – in fact over the years his very name has become synonymous with anything miserly or avaricious.  He works long hours, constantly striving for success yet taking no pleasure in his wealth.  He is penny pinching and mean spirited, not just to others but also to himself. His path is one of misery, not only in this life, but if he doesn’t change for the better, in the afterlife as well.  On Christmas Eve, he is paid an unusual visit by Jacob Marley.  Jacob was Ebeneezer’s business partner, dead these last seven years and paying the price of his pernicious greed in life by wearing a heavy and burdensome chain in death.  He seeks to save Ebeneezer such a fate and plans an intervention from three ghosts.  The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.  These visits reveal much.  Scrooge wasn’t always such a bitter and twisted individual and but for the hand of fate could have found himself on a very different path.

This is a story than never fails to work it’s charm on me and once again I found myself spirited away to Victorian London as it prepares for another Christmas Day.  Carols are being sung, turkeys are being prepared, children are skating on the icy streets and one cold office remains open to the bitter last.  Dimly lit and poorly heated, it’s occupants won’t go home until the close of day.  Ebenezer Scrooge and his uncomplaining clerk, Bob Cratchit, are where our story begins.  My full review of a previous reread can be found here.

I thoroughly enjoyed this audio version.  It’s told by Hugh Grant who is a superb narrator and whilst I can’t compare it to other readings (this being my first (but definitely not my last) for this particular novel) I would definitely recommend it.  Of course, I set the scene well, listening to this as I was undertaking my own Christmas preparations and being very much in the mood for everything and anything seasonal.

I found this every bit as enjoyable as my past rereads, it truly is a wonderful story to listen to written in simpler times when people would gather round to tell stories to each other.  In fact Dickens writing style really lends itself to this form of storytelling.  This has a great balance between the bleak and the sensational and given the seasonal feel is a lovely tale of hope and redemption.

I have no hesitation in recommending this audio version and in fact I picked up a copy for free on Audible and understand that the offer remains valid for members until the end of the current month.  So, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy – then you’ll be prepared, well in advance, for next Christmas.

Rating 7.5/8 out of 10

 

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham, Dina Gregory narrated by Cush Jumbo, Harriet Walter, Aimee Lou Wood, Susan Wokoma, Jennifer Saunders, Raj Gatak, Clare Corbett, Gerard McDermott, Stephanie Racine

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‘This is an all female retelling of a classic.’

Okay, first things first.  This was another free audible book for members – a holiday gift in fact.  And, in my excitement at finding a present available for download (yes, I am still just as excited in adulthood at the thought of a prezzie as I ever was as a child) I failed to notice the ‘all female retelling’ element and grabbed a copy with positively indecent haste – my expectations were for a a new audio version of a classic tale – for goodness sake, if I’d taken one moment it’s fairly obvious from the cover that Toad is female and this is a different kettle of critters.  Ah well, something about fools rushing in. 

Now, firstly, I’m not averse to an all female cast, I’m also not averse to a retelling of a story and in fact have enjoyed many retellings of well known stories over the years, and, in fairness, I can see what the author was hoping to achieve in some respects, but, this one didn’t really work it’s magic on me.

To be fair, this is an excellent cast of narrators but in spite of some impressive narration I felt like there was something stopping me from truly enjoying this.  One thing that immediately springs to mind is the drawn out pace of reading.  Obviously, as an audio book, the pace can be increased and in this particular case I would say that it’s essential to do so, but this pacing issue detracted a little from the overall enjoyment – like the charm of the story somehow became lost in the need to slowly enunciate every word.

On top of this, and in spite of my enjoying retellings, I can’t help but feel a bit puzzled by this one because it follows the original story almost to the letter – simply replacing the ‘he’s’ with ‘she’s’ and calling the characters Mrs Mole and Lady Toad, etc.  It feels, for me, a little like a lost opportunity somehow, if you’re going to take a story and retell it then make it your own. Instead of telling the same story why not create a new adventure set on the river bank and the wild woods but with some of the female inhabitants of those places taking the lead roles with a whole new adventure to explore?

I think overall, perhaps if you haven’t read the original story then this might work better for you than it did for me and if you fancy giving it a shot I understand it is available for free on Audible until the 31st January.

Mr rating 4 out of 10