Sounds like a review or three…

I’m still not convinced by the audiobook thing. Yes, I enjoy them while I’m listening (as I walk, drive, cook) but I don’t immerse myself in the words the way I do when I read. I don’t notice lovely sentences or, if I do, I have no time to ponder. Obviously I can replay bits but… Just. Not. The. Same.

After listening to the three books I’ve reviewed (very briefly) below, I’ve come to some conclusions. Until now, I’ve only been listening to books that I also have a hard copy of – in case I want to switch to reading – it’s a clumsy system and I think I have to go one way or the other.

After listening to the three below and starting Salt Creek by Lucy Trelor, I decided that I should stick to audio-fluff – books that I don’t have to concentrate on; books that I’m unlikely to mark paragraphs in; books that are reading-junk-food. I abandoned Salt Creek (I’ll read it some day) and downloaded the first in the Gossip Girl series. Unsurprisingly, it was ridiculous, ace nonsense. Perfect.


Bush Oranges by Kay Donovan

Bush Oranges is a story about the relationship between mothers, daughters and sisters. Donovan has used a sugar town in northern Queensland as her backdrop and although this was nicely done, the characters lacked distinctive voices – problematic given that it’s a relatively short book and the major plot points are revealed as facts of the past, leaving the reader little active evidence for characters’ motivations. 2/5

Piano Lessons by Anna Goldsworthy

I’m probably not the right audience for Goldsworthy’s memoir – readers who spent hours dedicated to music practice or dreamed of becoming a professional musician would no doubt enjoy this account of a life geared toward becoming a concert pianist. It’s really a story about Anna’s piano teacher, Eleanora Sivan, a Russian émigré and world-class pianist who taught Anna for over a decade. As well as Bach and Mozart, Sivan taught Anna about the philosophical meaning of music, and this is where the book came a little unstuck for me because so much of the story is dialogue. Sivan’s opinions and phrasing dominate and were no doubt precise (they had to be given the context of what she was talking about) – how accurate is Anna’s memory? Does it matter? 2/5

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

I ended up reading large sections of this amazing book because Wlyd’s words are some of the most disconcerting and sinister that I’ve come across in a very long time. The language stopped me dead – rough, raw, frightening, and I was scared. Equally astounding is the structure of the story – it’s actually two stories told together – the past tense story moves forward, with regular chronology, but the present tense story moves backwards in time. It’s not confusing once you’re in it and each story is revealed, bit-by-bit, until you come to the end (which is also the start) and it’s all very clever but not in a show-off kind of way but in a take-your-breath-away kind of way. I’ll be revisiting this one in hard copy.



13 responses

  1. Pingback: 20 Books of Summer (except that it’s winter) | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

  2. I loved All the Birds, Singing. I can’t imagine listening to it, but maybe that’s just because I always read in hard copy. Wyld’s writing is just astonishing, isn’t it? You got it exactly right – rough, raw and frightening!

    • I had no complaints with the narrator and had no trouble following the story structure but if I had been reading I would have lingered over certain sections.

  3. All THe BIrds Singing is such a GREAT BOOK. I totally need to reread it, as it was one of my favorites from last year, and still comes back to me from time to time.

    Figuring out which audiobooks work is definitely a personal adventure… I love them for memoirs, nonfiction as long as it’s not too footnotes heavy or dense, and straightforward narrative fiction. Anything that supposedly has “beautiful writing” or a “fluid timeline” I would prefer to read the regular way so I can savor it and/or focus on what’s going on. I also like using audio to revisit old favorites, like recently with the Harry Potter books.

    I’m so interested in other people’s reading habits and preferences, so thanks for sharing your audio woes/likes/dislikes 🙂

    • I think I’ll be sticking to straightforward narrative fiction.

      I thought that when I started down the audio-book path the greatest challenge would be liking the narrator – as it’s turned out, they’ve all been fine with the exception of a Margaret Atwood book that was read by two narrators and made my ears bleed (not quite but you know what I mean). I guess I wasn’t thinking so much about the types of books/ genres that suit the audio format.

  4. I’ve really had to learn what works for me and what doesn’t when it comes to audiobooks. I do a lot of re-reads that way, which is really wonderful, since I can revisit a favorite book without feeling like I should be spending my time on something new. Funny, lighter books have been great via audio, and some mysteries too. I also ended up doing a couple of book group books this way — books I was halfhearted about, but felt obliged to get through. Anyway, I’d definitely agree that books with beautiful writing or unusual styles are probably worth reading in hard copy format.

    • I think I’ll also do some re-reads (and have in fact started listening to a ‘re-read’ now) – for the reasons that you’ve mentioned. I have also had the most success with books that are really long – somehow, 25 hours of listening time doesn’t seem as taxing as 800 pages!

  5. I loved All the Birds, Singing. And I don’t do audiobooks, not sure why, if I did lots of driving I would. If I did, I know which two I would start with. Ulysses and Moby-Dick (read by varying name people including Tilda Swinton, Cumberbatch and others.) Link here, but you probably already know about it:!

    • Oh my goodness – didn’t know about that Moby Dick project. I’ll give it a go and report back (I’ve never read MD – audio version far less daunting). I listen to audiobooks when I walk (I do lots of walking).

  6. Some books simply dont lend themselves to audio versions I’ve found. If I a, driving and listening then I can’t deal with anything that is too descriptive for example but crime works really well. If I am listening while doing the ironing then the more reflective works are good,

  7. Pingback: Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

  8. Pingback: July Rewind | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

  9. I’m pretty much with you about audiobooks, but I did like Piano lessons (and wished I’d read not heard it). As I’ve just posted I’m not a musician either, but I live with musical people and go to concerts so I loved what she had to say. Re the dialogue, I wondered a bit about that, but I think that in the author’s acknowledgement (which we audiobook people do’t get because why would WE be interested in that) she says that her father, who attended many of her lessons wrote down what she said in a journal. I gather his book Maestro was partly inspired by that teacher, which even more makes me want to read Meastro.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.