Friday, April 17, 2009

A few audios...

Reviewing an audiobook is hard! I don’t have the physical book in front of me, there are no quotes flagged or written down in my notebook, and sometimes I don’t even know the correct spelling of a character's name. Although spelling wasn't an issue this time, it proved to be very problematic when I tried to write about China Road! All I have is my personal reaction to the story and the reader. When you add this to the fact that listening to a book is a very different experience from reading it (at least for me), I hesitate to even use the word ‘review’. So instead, here are some thoughts on a few recent audio books.The School of Essential Ingredients
by Erica Bauermeister
Penguin Audiobooks, 2009
Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
6 hours 4 minutes

Publisher’s summary:

Once a month on Monday night, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Over time, the paths of the students mingle and intertwine, and the essence of Lillian's cooking expands beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of their lives, with results that are often unexpected, and always delicious.

I knew I was going to love this book even before I started listening. Molly and Les both raved about it and I've come to trust their judgement. The language was gorgeous; the reader’s voice was as smooth as butter. This was a perfect listening experience! My only complaint was that it was too short. The classes came to an end, but I still wanted more of each of these characters!
My rating: A+

Revolutionary Road
by Richard Yates
Random House Audio, 2008
(originally published in 1961)
Narrated by Mark Bramhall
11 hours 26 minutes

Publisher’s Summary:

From the moment of its publication in 1961, Revolutionary Road was hailed as a masterpiece of realistic fiction and as the most evocative portrayal of the opulent desolation of the American suburbs. It’s the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a bright, beautiful, and talented couple who have lived on the assumption that greatness only just around the corner. With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other but their best selves.

Listening to this book was like a step back in time. New York City and its Connecticut suburbs of the 1950’s came to life. While I didn’t like any of the characters, I could not stop listening. Eleven hours passed very quickly! I missed the movie when it was at the theater, but will definitely watch when it becomes available through Netflix.
My rating: A

The Story of a Marriage: A Novel
by Andrew Sean Greer
Macmillan Audio, 2008
Narrated by: S. Epatha Merkerson
7 hours 23 minutes

Publisher’s summary:
“We think we know the ones we love.” So Pearlie Cook begins her indirect and devastating exploration of the mystery at the heart of every relationship: how we can ever truly know another person.
It is 1953 and Pearlie, a dutiful young housewife, finds herself living in the Sunset District in San Francisco, caring not only for her husband's fragile health but also for her son, who is afflicted with polio. Then, one Saturday morning, a stranger appears on her doorstep and everything changes. All the certainties by which Pearlie has lived and tried to protect her family are thrown into doubt. Does she know her husband at all? And what does the stranger want in return for his offer of a hundred thousand dollars? For six months in 1953 young Pearlie Cook struggles to understand the world around her, and most especially her husband, Holland.
Pearlie's story is a meditation not only on love but also on the effects of war, with one war recently over and another coming to a close. Set in a climate of fear and repression - political, sexual, and racial - The Story of a Marriage portrays three people trapped by the confines of their era, and the desperate measures they are prepared to take to escape it. Lyrical and surprising, The Story of a Marriage looks back at a period that we tend to misremember as one of innocence and simplicity.

The first-person narration, combined with the reader’s plaintive, deliberate voice made Pearlie come alive for me. Again, the 50's came to life...this time in San Francisco.
My rating: B+

My current audiobook is The Help by Kathryn Stockett and, so far, it's a winner!


  1. I don't like using the word "review" for anything I write. Every entry is really just my thoughts on what I read, so I know what you mean.

    Audiobooks are a very different experience than physical reading, but sometimes I get even more out of an audiobook because hearing it read out loud brings out nuances I often miss while reading. And since I listen to them while driving to/from work, I don't have anyone trying to talk to me during it. :-)


  2. I haven't been able to get into audio books, so I hadn't thought of the problems that may arise when it comes time to review the books, but it makes sense. Even when I have dozens of flags in my books, I still end up pretty much just giving my impressions of the book instead of a proper review.

  3. Lezlie -
    I listen when I'm alone in the car, too. It makes me look forward to the drive and lets me fit more books in.

    Lisa -
    I don't usually write much about audiobooks, but they've generated a lot of discussion lately so I thought I'd join in. They do present some challenges though!

  4. OH -- I bet this would be a good book to enjoy in an audio format! I may have to try that after I finish the Harry Potter Series :)

  5. This is my first year listening to audiobooks (I joined a challenge) and have found adjusting to listening to a book ver difficult. It is a very different experience. So far I have only had luck with Paddington the Bear audiobooks:) I will look into Revolutionary Road because I wanted to see the movie but not read the book, so maybe listening is an option. Great reviews.

  6. Molly -
    I think listening to the School of Essential Ingredients would give the book another dimension. You could consider it an audio experiment!

  7. BookPsmith -
    Everybody needs to start somewhere, and there's nothing wrong with Paddington ;-)

    Eventually, you'll find the type of voice that is easiest for you to listen to. I have trouble with documentary-sounding male the ones in those horrible movies from elementary school! One of the great things about (now part of amazon) is that you can listen to a sample before making a decision to buy.

  8. I've only recently started listening to audiobooks; they do bring a whole new dimension to "reading"!

    I was going to ask where you get your audios, these are great titles. It looks like you download from, is that right?

    What are you listening to now? I'm starting THE WHOLE TRUTH when running/walking.

  9. Joanne, I loved The Help (hope you do too) and can't wait to read Revolutionary Road (i have it). Looks like you love audio books --me too!

  10. Dawn -
    I'm listening to The Help by Kathryn Stockett now and it is just great! I wish I had the book, too, so I could read more of it each evening.

    I've had an account with for about 5 years and would highly recommend them.

  11. Diane -
    I am loving The Help! It could end up being one of my favorites of the year. I listen to audiobooks mostly in the car, but may branch out and try listening to them while I walk, too.

  12. Thanks for the wonderful reviews. I didn't get to School of Essential Ingredients on vacation but will get to it very soon! :)

  13. mattviews,
    Welcome back! Hope you had a great vacation. You're in for a treat when you get to The School of Essential Ingredients.


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