Sunday, 15 July 2012

Let's Talk About Audio Books

I have an admission – I’ve never really been a fan of audio books. Yes, yes, I love my kindle, but aside from that I am a print and pages kinda gal. A book never seems to have the same impact for me unless I’m reading it and exploring it myself.

This could also have something to do with a youthful encounter with a sample of the ‘Twilight’ audiobook which scarred me for life. Because the accent and the voice were just so wrong when I listened to it. I know the majority of books that I read are American, but I’m a British girl through and through, so on the whole (there are some notable exceptions) characters have a British accent in my head when I’m reading. So it’s such a jolt for me to then go and listen to an audiobook where the main characters don’t sound how I expect them to. Silly but true.

Anyway, I’m digressing. The fact remained that I really wasn’t fussed on audio books. If I listen to one it tends to be when I’m in bed falling asleep, which is not helpful when trying to listen to a book I don’t know, because I either stay awake all night to hear what happens, or the more frequent option, fall asleep part way through and the next morning I have no clue where on earth I got to. Then I end up listening to the same opening section over and over again and inevitably lose interest.

But then something happened. Something magical, in the form of ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern. Because this is a book I have read so many times I can quote most of it. I love it inside and out, and it’s one of my favourite books to dip in and out of. And then I listened to the audiobook, and it didn’t matter if I fell asleep part way through or started somewhere in the middle, because I knew it so well that I could pick up where we were and everything made sense. It was a sense of familiarity and comfort, listening to these words that I’ve read countless times, soothe me to sleep when the insomnia kicks in.

I had gripes with it sure, there were some voices that didn’t sit right with me, the most notable being Poppet and Widget who just weren’t Irish in my head, at any point. Ever. But other than that Jim Dale’s reading of ‘The Night Circus is utterly captivating. It transports me back to the circus, whether I’m in bed trying to get to sleep, or in the office tackling a mountain of paperwork, or suffering from a migraine so bad that I can’t read, or do anything really except lie there and listen to the soft voice of a well loved book.

And it got me thinking, yes ok I’m not a fan of coming to a book first time through the audio version, but what about those books that I know inside out, that are favourites that I read time and time again? Would they cause the same sense of irritation or would they, like ‘The Night Circus’ provide a sense of escapism that I could dip in and out of without having to take to much care where I came in or what happened.

So I started hunting around to see if there had been audiobooks made of some of my favourite books, and there were…
It started with ‘Silent in the Grave’ read by Ellen Archer, who voiced Lady Julia so perfectly that I will admit to giggling with glee when I started to listen to it. My love for this series knows no bounds, so to suddenly be able to listen to it at any time without carting around the book was fantastic. I haven’t managed to catch all of it all the way through yet, so I don’t want to comment on anything much more, but Archer is utterly brilliant as Lady Julia, and even as Brisbane. She captures the mood, the tone, the humour – everything. And it’s so fascinating to hear a story like this come alive for me through someone else’s voice.

And then I hit gold. I wondered idly what ‘The Scorpio Races’ would sound like, who would have read it, whether it would sound how I imagined it. So I tracked it down and it completely blew me away. Read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham they completely capture everything I love about the book. The voices are absolutely perfect, particularly West’s which I’m not ashamed to admit does send shivers down my spine. The story that I love on paper, suddenly came alive in a way that I hadn’t truly anticipated, and swept me away back to Thisby and the races and the island that is as much a character in its own right. I never thought that an audiobook would move me or take me away as effectively as the book, and I’ve been, quite happily proved wrong. 
I’ve listened to this one countless times since I bought it, every night going back and finding new bits and old bits and letting the tale wash over me.

So I’ve been converted, quite thoroughly it seems, to the idea of audiobooks. I still wouldn’t want to listen to a book I don’t know, but in the mean time I have plenty of favourites to come back for over the next few months. Next on my wish list are Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, and read by Emma Powell (the samples sound fantastic.) And Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, read by Mandy Williams and Justine Eyre.

But what about you? Are you a fan of audiobooks or not? And if so what type do you most like to listen to?


  1. I'm listening to The Night Circus right now and ended up on your page, because I was looking into Poppet and Widget being Irish. I've read the book twice now. First in dutch and then last week in english. The english version is much better. I really liked it in dutch, but I absolutely loved it in english.
    For me, I don't really hear accents. English is not my first language and in this book I'd probably have to figure out where everyone comes from. Celia is american, Marco is english and so on. But I think hearing Poppet and Widget with an Irish accent adds a bit of depth to me. It suddenly made the circus so much more international and boundary free. I'm excited to hear the rest. The only other books I've listened to on "tape" are the Harry Potter books. Also read by Jim Dale. He really brings magic to life.

    1. I have to admit that the Irish accent for Poppet and Widget is growing on me the more times I listen to this audiobook. I think what bugged me about it the most was that they were Irish, which I wasn't expecting, and yet Bailey is English, when he should have an American accent. I think if things like that had stayed consistent then the Irishness wouldn't have surprised me so much.
      So glad you're enjoying the book - The Night Circus is one of my favourites both for audio and print. I really recommend The Scorpio Races as well, it's an absolutely fantastic audiobook production!