Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Audiobook Week: Multiple Narrators

It's day two of Audiobook Week and Jen's topic for today is sound effects. Since all I have to say is "I hate them", I'll share some thoughts on the alternate prompt, single vs. multiple narrators, instead.

Let me say right up front, I adore audiobooks with multiple narrators. Books that lend themselves to this format usually make for an outstanding listening experience. Novels told from multiple points-of-view and some epistolary novels just beg for multiple narrators.

The first book I ever listened to featured two narrators and totally hooked me on the audio format. I loved everything about Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright, an epistolary novel that won the Giller Prize in 2001, but it doesn't seem to be very well-known. I'm not good at summarizing, so here's a little blurb from the publisher:

Two sisters, small-town Ontario, 1934. Canadian author Richard Wright tells their story, from the ordinary to the extraordinary, with an eye for the commonplace and poignant sense of the larger undercurrents that change people's lives.
Letters and journal entries form a portal into the desires and passions of two very different women, underscoring the larger tableau of an era stirring with great events (the Depression, rumblings of another world war, and the infancy of radio and show business entertainment). Love and betrayal, friendship and family, hope and deception are the forces that temper the lives of Clara, the spinster schoolteacher, and her sister Nora, "whose entire life is a performance."
Wright, a master of revealing the drama of seemingly unremarkable lives, constructs a powerful, mesmerizing narrative. Clara Callan is a deeply moving portrait of two women and of an age heralding seismic changes that will alter the fabric of their inner lives and the world as they once knew it.
Clara Callan may have predisposed me to love multiple narrators but, looking back over the years, many of my most memorable listening experiences have involved more than one reader. Listen to a sample of Clara Callan at audible.com.

Other Memorable Multiple-Narrator Audiobooks:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

All titles are linked to audible.com. Click over and listen to a sample.
Visit Devourer of Books for more posts on this topic.


  1. I am loving the multiple narrators in The Help. I'll have to check out some of your other suggestions.

  2. I enjoy multiple narrators as well. I think I missed out on reading a couple of books instead of listening (The Help and Water for Elephants). My most recent multiple narrator audiobook was These Things Hidden.

  3. I've been hearing a lot about how awesome The History of Love is in audio, maybe I need to check it out.

  4. My favorite multiple narrated book so far that I've listened to is House Rules by Jodi Picoult. I haven't listened to any of the ones you've listed, but do have The Help on my list (even though I already read it, I've heard the audio was awesome!)

    My answer to today's questions can be found here.

  5. I had forgotten all about Clara Callan. I remember when it came out in 2001 and my Yahoo group book club was raving over it. I never did read it. I'm glad to hear the audio is good; I'll have to check it out!

    I had no idea Water for Elephants used multiple narrators. I've been meaning to read that one for years too. I'll have to check it out as well. And I totally agree with you about The Help. That was a fantastic use of multiple narrators.

  6. Teresa - If you're enjoying The Help, I think you'll like the others listed here.

    Nise' - I'll have to check into These Things Hidden, thanks!

    Jen - Even if you've read it before, it's worth listening to The History of Love audio.

    Kristin - Multiple narrators really add to the experience of Jodi Picoult's books. I'm not familiar with House Rules, but I'll look it up.

    Heather - I'd love to know what you think of Clara Callan. I first heard about it from a Yahoo group, too!

  7. I'm going to have to check out some of those books you suggested out to see if I change my viewpoint!

  8. I've never heard of the book that you posted about...I don't think I've listened to a book with multiple narrators but I do know how annoyed I've been in the past when an author just changes their voice!!

  9. Clearly, The Help is very popular! It seems like half of the posters today (including me!) talked about it. However, I thought they did such an amazing job on that book that I think any non-audiobook believer would enjoy it. I mean, I've listened to it twice, which at 20 hours is a pretty significant investment!

  10. Clara Callan is new to me but sounds good....

  11. You know I said I didn't care for multiple narrators but looking at some of the titles you liked (The Help in particular) I can see where it might be good. Especially in a book like that where the viewpoint changes - not so much in the book I had in mind where the narrator went back and forth during dialogue. You've given me somethign to think about! Thanks for stopping by My Round File!

  12. Amused - Let me know what you think!

    Staci - Some readers are definitely more talented than others. I just finished a book where the narrator (a man) had the most false, annoying woman's voice ever.

    Sarah - Oh, I agree! I'm sure The Help has created quite a few new audiobook fans.

    Sheila - Clara Callan was a great book. I'm sorry more people don't know about it.

    Just Mom - I'll be curious to see if you find some multiple narrator audio books you like...


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