“Anne of the Island” by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1915)
Narrated by Susan O’Malley
This is the third book in the Anne of Green Gables series. Each book has been as lovely to listen to as the last. There really is something beautifully simple and innocent about the Anne books. This one sees Anne finally head off to Redmond College to complete her BA. Despite everything seeming to have pointed towards a romantic union between Anne and Gilbert Blythe, when he proposes in their second year, Anne turns him down flat, telling him she can never love him. She then spends two years being courted by Roy Gardiner, the tall, dark and handsome stranger who rescued her in a rain shower. This seems to be destiny in Anne’s eyes, as it is the dream beginning to the romance she’s been waiting for.
I had a terrible moment early on when I mentioned to a stranger in passing conversation that I was listening to this book. She said, “oh, you must be sad about Gilbert, then” which sent me into a steep decline as I was still, at that stage, assuming a lovely romance. A quick text to my Anne-expert, Laura, clarified that the stranger was making reference to the recent passing of the actor who played Gilbert in the movies. Seriously… movies??? I don’t need to have read all the books to know that the books are better.
I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only people I know who hadn’t previously read the Anne books. But if you happen to be as odd as me, sort yourself out. The Anne of Green Gables books are beautiful.
‘Piglet Meets a Heffalump and other stories’ a dramatization of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and ‘Tigger Comes to the Forest and other stories’ a dramatization of ‘The House at Pooh Corner’ by A A Milne (1997)
Stephen Fry as Pooh
Jane Horrocks as Piglet
Geoffrey Palmer as Eeyore
Judi Dench as Kanga
Finty Williams as Roo
Robert Daws as Rabbit
Michael Williams as Owl
Steven Webb as Christopher Robin
I previously blogged about ‘Winnie the Pooh’ when I listened to an audio book late last year. These dramatisations are from CDs lent to me by Dion. There isn’t much to say. Stephen Fry? Judi Dench? Jane Horrocks? The CDs were, of course, magnificent.
But Dion’s readings will always be better.
“Mr Golightly’s Holiday” by Salley Vickers (2003)
Audio book narrated by Derek Jacobi
As I have mentioned previously, Dion gave me a collection of CDs to listen to and this was the most recent one I fed into the car’s CD player. On the surface, a sweet little English village story of a man on a holiday and the comings and goings of village life. But, unfortunately very obviously, it is actually a parable exploring the notion of God taking a holiday to try to work out how to reconnect with humanity in the twentieth century.
To be honest, Derek Jacobi narrating could make the dictionary interesting to listen to, but this twee, contrived, caricature-riddled little story was plodding to start and painful once the penny dropped. Nevertheless, I persevered for the pleasure of Jacobi’s diction.
My advice? Don’t bother.
“The bones would do” by Lee Morgan (2015)
Book 2 in the Christopher Penrose series, by my friend Lee, is every bit as good as the first one, “Wooing the echo”, which was published in 2013. In the first book, we meet Christopher, Sophia, Seth and Millicent and we are taken on an erotic journey into the world of the supernatural. Exploring the world of vampires, faeries and witches, we get an inkling of what is to come…
In “The bones will do” the world beyond our own becomes more clear, and the complexity of the interplay between desire and action, between good and evil, between life and death, is brought to the fore through the development of an unexpected coven and the goal to rid the world of someone from Seth’s past who is, undoubtedly, pure evil.
I was trying to explain to someone recently what sort of books these are. I settled on erotic horror. Definitely not a genre of which I have a detailed understanding or knowledge before reading these two books. I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy this series anywhere near as much as I am. I just wish I didn’t have to wait maybe another two years before the next one…
Everyone, please go and buy both of these books, as ebooks or the real thing, because the more it sells, the faster Lee will get to publish the next one!
“Under Milk Wood” by Dylan Thomas (1954)
A recording of the 2003 radio production starring Richard Burton and Sian Phillips
My first exposure to “Under Milk Wood” was a Sydney Theatre Company production starring Jack Thompson as First Voice in 2012. There was much concern at the time that an Australian audience couldn’t possible give Dylan Thomas’ work the Welsh justice it deserved. Personally, I thought it was a wonderful, engaging and beautiful production and Thompson was spellbinding.
“Under Milk Wood” is a ‘play for voices’. Richard Burton narrated as First Voice for the BBC in 1963, and this 2003 production included Burton’s original performance digitally remastered and added to an all-Welsh cast that was absolutely magnificent.
Touching, eerie, and very funny, the play tells the story of a day in the life of the inhabitants of a small Welsh town by the seaside. The play explores their dreams and routines, their loves and regrets, their hopes and fears. To be honest, this is one of the most beautiful recordings of any text that I have ever listened to. So lyrical, so magical, an absolute delight.
Just like “Alice in Wonderland” I am left trying to come up with a reason to teach this text. Maybe Dion will never get his CDs back!!!
“Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll (1865)
Audio book narrated by Alan Bennett
As a result of my foray into the wonderful world of audio books, my lovely uncle Dion rummaged through his CDs and lent me several that he thought I would enjoy. How right he was. Sadly, “Alice in Wonderland” didn’t go for nearly long enough, so I actually listened to it twice, to make sure it was as delightful as I had first suspected.
In case you don’t know the plot (can that even be possible?), Alice is busy living a normal life, lying on the lawn with her head in her sister’s lap, when she decides to chase a rabbit down a hole and embark on a series of adventures with some of the most weird and wonderful characters anyone has ever encountered! She soon discovers that nothing is ordinary in Wonderland – least of the all the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the Cheshire Cat, the Duchess or the Mock Turtle.
Yet again, actually listening to a classic has shown me that a lot of the things we think belong in these beautiful texts are actually add-ons or embellishments from Disney et al and not a part of the original story at all.
I am now trying to think of ways to incorporate this text into one of my units of work at school. The language is so effective and the story is so cleverly told that I think it could be a lot of fun to teach it and maybe, at least in my current educational context, introduce it to a whole new generation of readers.
“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn (2012)
Audio book narrated by Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne
When this book first came out, one of my former students read it and recommended it to me. I had it on my recommendations list for all this time without getting around to it.
Then my family all read it for their book club. I asked Mum what she thought of it and she said she found it really ‘nasty’ and hadn’t really enjoyed it. My curiosity was piqued. My mother happily reads all sorts of gruesome murder mysteries. Chop your wife up and put her in a tub of acid? Mum has no problem with that. Collect women and stuff them in your basement? That’s fine. Set out to rid society of all the prostitutes, slashing their throats one after another? Go right ahead. But this book was too nasty for her… I needed to read it.
I have to say, “Gone Girl” turned out to be nothing like what I was expecting. I haven’t seen the movie, I didn’t have any preconceived ideas. Heck, with an audio book, you don’t even have a blurb to read!
The premise of “Gone Girl” is that Nick Dunne gets home on his fifth wedding anniversary and his wife, Amy, has gone missing. He narrates his experiences, reporting the disappearance and his fairly rapid progression to becoming the prime suspect. Now, I hated him from about 5 minutes in, but I was wary, knowing that Mum’s reaction was influencing my response. And then he said, after explaining an answer he had given to the police, “and that was the fifth lie I had told to the police…” which made me realise I was probably supposed to dislike the man.
I’m not going to tell you anything more about the plot, as there are several twists that any further discussion would reveal. But I can totally understand what Mum means when she describes this book as nasty. It is nasty. Very nasty indeed. And I don’t think I recommend it, although for me that is more about the disappointing ending than the distasteful characters and plot.