Three Aussie Audios

I’m at a bit of a loss when it comes to reviewing audiobooks – without being able to easily note favourite passages, I get to the end of the book with little ‘evidence’ of what I liked (or didn’t like).

I guess it’s worth mentioning narrators – in the case of these three, Perlman and Gilmore read their own work (I like hearing an author read their own work), and the Jordan is read by Caroline Lee, whose narration is always enjoyable.

Any thoughts on reviewing audiobooks?

Maybe the Horse Will Talk by Elliot Perlman

I have family and friends in the legal profession and know for a fact that much of this story is far-fetched… but equally, much of it isn’t, which is why it’s such a good yarn. And I say yarn because Perlmann tells such big stories, with huge, robust characters.

In this book – a satirical look at the legal profession – the snappy dialogue and snarky humour had me laughing out loud. However, like all good satire, the book highlights the darker side of life, and sexual harassment in the workplace; success at any cost; and mental health are the focus. Perlman, an ex-corporate lawyer, is well qualified to take shots. Extra points for the Melbourne setting, and the name of the law firm (Freely Savage Carter Blanche).


Fixed It by Jane Gilmore

Are you familiar with Jane Gilmore’s ‘fixes’ to news headlines? It’s not surprising that she continues to have regular material to work with, but that doesn’t make it any less astounding and depressing. Her book examines gendered violence, and in particular the language used to describe that violence. Gilmore provides a thorough analysis of the media industry (newsrooms drastically cutting resources, and business models driven by the relentless 24-hour news cycle) which provides important context for discussion about victim blaming and over-identification with abusers.

Gilmore intersperses parts of her own experience with journalistic reporting. I found the ‘reporting’ sections occasionally got bogged down with facts and figures, which I suspect would have been better read than listened to.

This is unquestionably an important book but as I listened, I had the uncomfortable feeling that Gilmore is preaching to the converted – the people who ‘should’ read this book, won’t (and although we might expect that changes in reporting are driven by editors and journalists, as Gilmore describes, the move to online news puts the consumer in a powerful position).


Nine Days by Toni Jordan

A beautifully constructed story that gently weaves together the lives of nine characters, over three generations of neighbouring families in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond.

I generally prefer Jordan’s writing in a modern setting – her humour seems better suited to the contemporary – but in this case, the tight focus on Richmond, and the slow-reveal of the links between the characters was enough to carry me through what otherwise might have seemed contrived historical detail. The shift through the generations requires the reader to fill in some gaps but Jordon supplies enough clues to keep you reading, as well as adding a few surprising twists.



20 responses

  1. Yup, it’s hard to review audiobooks not just because you can’t quote excerpts’ to showcase the author’s style, but also because it’s a pain to check things that you’re not quite sure of, so you end up leaving them out.

    • I think I’ll stick with what I’ve done here (which isn’t really much). Like you, I find it painful going back through a book to find particular passages.

  2. I don’t mark passages when I’m reading (it’s too much like studying) so that’s not a disadvantage for me with audiobooks. Generally, although not always, I will get hold of the book in paper or e- form to finish a review, or, don’t tell anyone, the wikipedia summary. So I can be sure of spelling and so on. My problem is that it might be some days after listening before I can sit down and write, and by then my head is often occupied with something else.

    • Your wiki secret is safe with me.

      Most of the time I have a hard copy of the books I listen to (simply because I see audios available of books I’ve had sitting on my shelf for ages) but every so often a new release catches my eye.

      • But how do you make time to listen? It takes me say 40 hours to drive Perth Melb and I have a book running for 11 or 12 hours/day – 1Q84 was perfect, 18 hours!

      • I listen on my drive to and from work (30-40 mins a day) and when I go to the gym (another 40mins). As well as that, I sometimes listen while I cook, or do housework (not much listening time there to be honest!).
        My library has the audio of 1Q84 (and I have the book) but I haven’t tackled it yet – maybe I need a road trip?!

      • I love it. Others don’t. I’m reading Murakami’s Wild Sheep Chase at the moment. (Actually I’m doing my accounts which is why I’m spending so much time blogging).

  3. I like to use the Amazon Inside feature if there are key things that I want to reference when reviewing audiobooks. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same with additional comments on th e quality of the audiobook

  4. I’ve definitely said this to you before, but I really must catch up with Perlman, I loved Three Dollars and then I never read him again – I think the chunkster size put me off. Maybe an audio version would be less intimidating.

  5. I haven’t found a good answer to this. I’m always listening to the audio in the car or on the treadmill which makes it impossible to make any note of the time code for a passage that particularly interested me. So then it becomes a nightmare trying to find it again. I do check the spellings of names etc on the site of the book publisher but never thought about using Amazon inside for help with passages….

  6. One of my favorite books last year was the audio of The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. The brothers were so fascinating to me I made my book group read it so I would have friends to discuss it with, and McCullough’s narrative made me feel I was with a beloved teacher.

  7. This is a really interesting discussion about Audiobooks. As a reader who is blind, I use audiobooks or speech software all the time, so I suppose I have just got used to it. I think listening with such intensity and focus is a skill like anything else which needs constant repetition in order to be developed. The right narrator for a book is a crucial indreedient in my over all enjoyment however. There are certain narrators I know I like, so would probably listen to anything they read, but I have taken to sampling a couple of minutes of a book before purchacing it, because if I don’t like the narrator, then it would greatly hinder my experience of engaging with the content of the book.

    • I agree about the narration- I also have some favourites and have listened to some audiobooks just for them. I really enjoy hearing authors read their own books.

      My biggest challenge with audiobooks is trying not to multitask – I often listen while doing something else (like washing dishes!) when what I should do is focus wholly on listening!

  8. Pingback: Non-Fiction (General) Round Up: Jan 2020 | Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

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