Fludd – Hilary Mantel (Audiobook)

Hilary Mantel is one of those authors whose work I keep feeling like I should read, but then being too overwhelmed by the degree of seriousness to start. So I went for the audiobook solution, listening as I commuted for a fortnight.

Fludd is set in 1950s Lancashire, up in the Pennines. For those who don’t live in this area, it might be surprising that these are several villages and small towns that are very much Catholic, here in the cradle of methodism and in a country that has been officially protestant since the turn of the 17th Century. So the idea of this insular community, with an equal distrust of Yorkshiremen and Protestants seems very lifelike to me. Then we have the named characters, from a priest who has lost his faith, a nun who isn’t quite sure what she is doing and a bishop who wan’t to modernise this parish.

This novel is about the changing of times, faith and human nature. As a new arrival, Fludd challenges the existing community, sowing new thoughts and ideas. And then there are the small miracles that occur in his presence.

However despite all this, I couldn’t enjoy the climax the book finished at. It could so easily have gone somewhere else in those last couple of chapters, and made a larger point. Of course it is possible that the whole point was the individuality of the divine, and that deeper meaning needs another reading to solidify.

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The Sleeper and the Spindle – Neil Gaiman – Audiobook

This was a treasure found on the library’s eAudiobook collection: a full cast recording of a Gaiman short story. I hadn’t read this before, and it is a good twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairy story.

We don’t have a Prince Charming, and there are a couple more twists that make this particularly delicious. I also appreciated the decision to make the spell into a “plague” that spreads throughout a kingdom, turning the sleeping spell into something much more menacing. This combines with Gaiman’s usually dark imaginings as the story develops to create a compelling story which had me clinging to every word.

The cast did a good job, I always knew who was speaking and they set the tone well as we journeyed.

The Sleeper and the Spindle

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami, read by Ray Porter

I am a casual runner, doing only 5km a couple of times a week. But I enjoy reading about running, especially thoughtful pieces where people challenge their own motivations and consider what motivates them, as well as just diet and training regime.

Murakami is a wonderful balance of introspective and motivated. He delves deeply into his past as he racks up the miles and plans for the impending marathon. He struggles occasionally, and remembers times when his running motivation abandoned him entirely. More than that, he reflecst on what running brings to his life, an an everyday and a long term basis.

It did however seem wrong to me to be listening to this in a noticable American accent. Even though Murakami spends nearly all his time in English-speaking countries in America, the accent made it harder for me to picture the narrator. The narrating was clear though, and well-executed, so I can’t really complain!

Wool – Hugh Howey, read by Susannah Harker

I picked out Wool as a knitter, but instead it scratched my dystopian future needs. There is wool, and knitting, mentioned in the text, but neither to the extent that it is what I associate with the story.

Instead I think of cleaning and silos, and law and politics. A detective story is interwoven with this dystopia, making this into a deeply compelling listen.

I enjoyed how Howey choose to reveal the truths of this place, and change viewpoints to good effect to unwrap the twisting story beautifully. And then how he tied everything together to a satisfying ending was not in a way I expected, having accepted that all the remaining “good” characters were doomed. I did find that after part 1 I was just expecting everyone to die as soon as I decided I liked them.

Harker is a good reader for this, and the pacing of her descriptions allowed me to absorb far more than I often do when reading from a paper book.

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This was a “playaway” audiobook from the library, essentially a preloaded MP3 player to borrow. It worked better than I expected, although I did find myself wishing for a record of total chapters/overall time listened, as I had no feel for how far through the story I was.

Have you listened to an Audiobook recently?

The Perils of Morning Coffee – Alexander McCall Smith, read by Karlyn Stephen

This is another case of the library service’s initiatives doing what they aimed to – the little lad is doing the summer reading scheme at the library, and one “stamp” is to borrow an audiobook. So we went on the library’s audiobook download site, to find him a story, and I found an Isabel Dalhousie novella on the front page.

I was very impressed with how easy it was to borrow, download, and move to my music player (in MP3 format). This left me to listen at my own pace during train journeys.

This is just a novella, coming in at under 2 hours, so even shorter than the usual Alexander McCall Smith fare. But Isabel still undergoes some character development, and it places a new lens on her, as she confronts her own expectations, and considers how to handle friendships. She is required to confront her own nature, with and without Jamie’s support.

Resolutions were aspirational, Isabel knew, honesty required one to acknowledge that.

And of course, some poetry is interwoven throughout, and the neatness of the opening and ending being tied together with the same metaphor is one I appreciated.

Having enjoyed this, I have another McCall Smith novella, along with another audiobook reserved through the library service.