Looking for audiobooks that pack a punch in a relatively short period of time, I came across this by Natasha Brown Assembly (Penguin Audio, 1h58min), read by actor Pippa Bennett-Warner, who was most recently seen on television in the David Hare film Roadkill and in the sky London gangs.
It is an extraordinary book and fascinating read that not only grabbed me, but immediately determined me to listen again; and, in its primary mode, a painstaking display of a woman’s consciousness. It made me think of one of the longest and best audiobooks I have ever seen, that of Lucy Ellmann Ducks, Newburyport.
We don’t know what AssemblyThe narrator of – a young black woman who works in high finance – is called in, but we know how she feels as she contemplates her life. In a sparse and powerful series of episodes in which she attends company meetings, prepares for a party at her wealthy boyfriend’s parents’ house, and is diagnosed with cancer, the extent of her alienation from the life she created becomes more and more evident.
“I wasn’t sure I was ready for any of these things,” she said, responding to a friend urging her to embrace ambition. “I knew these were the things to want, the right things to achieve, but I was sick of reaching, enduring, going up.”
Key to Bennett-Warner’s formidable storytelling is the feeling of anger, fear, exhaustion swirling beneath an understated, elegant surface. There is also the carefully deployed feeling that the fracture is near; that the narrator, who has played the game that has been asked of her for so long, is ready to speak out against an unholy mess of class, race and culture.
Particularly impressive is the way Brown and Bennett-Warner create a work that both takes place in a character’s head, but is also so firmly anchored in that character’s body; and the action of the novel, as it is, always seems concrete rather than abstract. Highly recommended.
Elsewhere, I really enjoyed reading Charlotte Wood’s book The weekend (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 8h 24min) in print, and was curious how that would translate to audio: the story of three Australian friends, all in their seventies, who come together to clean up the coastal home of Sylvie, now deceased , in some ways resembled a play.
Brigid Lohrey’s storytelling accentuates that theatrical vibe, bringing to life tense restaurateur Jude, academically rigorous but emotionally chaotic Wendy, and larger-than-life actress Adele, as they navigate their loose bonds. The novel’s climax is ushered in with the arrival of a horrific and great rival of Guignol d’Adèle and an ambitious theater director, and Lohrey deftly goes into full melodrama mode, capturing Wood’s ability to act comedy the painful tragedies of later life.
Tragicomedy is also the order of the day in a series of new classic novel releases by Irish writer Molly Keane, narrated by Aoife McMahon, the voice behind dozens of audiobooks, including that of Sally Rooney. Conversations with friends and Normal people.
Alongside Keane’s most famous novel, Good behavior (8h 32min), Hachette Audio brings us The rising tide (9h 10min), Love and give (7h 27min), Dedicated ladies (7h 21min) and Time after time (8h 26m) – a perfect fan if you find yourself drawn into the crumbling grandeur of Keane’s world.
His books are essentially gothic comedies – vast country estates in which families at silent war find themselves locked up for generations, their isolation sometimes interrupted by a mischievous newcomer – and require a delicate touch. Witty to the point of absurdity, they are also poignant explorations of miscommunication and frustration.
McMahon has a mixture of privilege and pathos: aristocratic good humor mixed with bubbling resentment – an ideal combination. Start with Good behavior, in which McMahon becomes the voice of Aroon St Charles, the disgraceful and unloved daughter of the household, in the service of her demanding mother, and you risk becoming addicted soon.
Finally, a note on You are a champion by Manchester United and English footballer Marcus Rashford (2:45). Rashford published this children’s book, written with journalist Carl Anka, in May, and in the aftermath of the Euro it hit the headlines again, with many initiatives to ensure that its empowerment message and inclusion reaches as many children as possible. possible.
Don’t forget the audio version for all the children around you who find it easier to listen than to read, especially during long periods and during school holidays.
Actor Kenton Thomas narrates in a friendly and energetic style, moving between snippets of Rashford’s life and encouraging pointers to help listeners develop their interests, skills and abilities.
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