Audio Book Reviews February 2018


Image from 1833 edition of Northanger AbbeyImage source link.

This blog was originally aimed primarily at people with VI but I am delighted to have received a positive response from sighted people who enjoy audio books.
One of the advantages of audio, is that you can listen while doing other things so get through several hours of listening per month. The books I review are as varied as I can make them and, I believe, represent the most interesting of my listening. If you think otherwise please let me know.  As usual all books are downloaded from

The Dry by Jane Harper narrated by Stephen Shanahan

Chosen by our book group as our February read.

Federal Agent Aaron Falk grew up in a small town in Australia. As a teenager, following the drowning of a young woman, he and his father are more or less driven out of town. Now a successful Agent Falk is called back by the father of his friend Luke following an incident in which Luke is found to have murdered his wife and son before killing himself.
Jane Harper draws a vivid picture of a small town during a burning heatwave and consequent drought when flies abound, tempers are frayed and suspicions past and present create a tense atmosphere which impedes Falk’s unofficial investigation.
I like the way Harper portrays macho men and small town women even though some critics have found this aspect of her writing uncomfortable. I hope I’m not buying in to a stereotype.
I very much enjoy novels set in Australia and this one goes to the top of my list and is highly recommended for its style, characterisation and originality.
…and if there are any Australian readers out there I am always interested in recommendations.

Nagasaki by Éric Faye, narrated by David Timson and Anna Bentinck

I don’t know what genre to call this book so I will settle by describing it as a long short story. The plot is based on a true incident where a homeless woman lived in a house side by side with the owners without them being aware of her presence.
Nagasaki, set in Japan, is the story of a solitary and unsociable man living alone who gradually becomes aware of subtle changes in his house. Slightly less juice than he thought he had, a jug just at the wrong angle. With no specific evidence he slowly becomes suspicious. To write more would spoil the book for the reader. What I will say is that it is more investigative than alarming.
The basic premise is simple but, as the story unfolds, it becomes cleverly metaphorical using technology and isolation to illustrate the dilemmas facing modern day Japan. The subtle changes in the house reflect the sense of violation in Japanese society with the intrusion of the modern world.
Beautifully written and read with humour and perception. A curious and wonderful find.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea by Alyssa Mastromonaco read by the author

Mastromonaco worked with Barack Obama in various capacities ending up as his Deputy Chief of Staff when he became President. At the end of his term of office she decided to take time out to write her memoirs. It didn’t happen and I can understand why. She is a woman of many parts and multiple skills and combining them to form a coherent narrative is a hard call.
Eventually she called on Lauren Oyler to help with the writing. The narrative turned into a sort of self-help book aimed at aspiring young women. I found the format awkward and some of the content difficult to comprehend. I don’t know why she included so much about her ailments for instance.
But, having said that, I found her humour, energy and anecdotes fascinating. She ranges from the tension of the climate talks to the difficulty of nipping out from the White House to buy tampons.
I would have liked more about Obama and her own political views. Evidently the title comes from Obama’s typical response when things go wrong. Clearly she and Obama worked well together with no recriminations.
I loved the anecdote when Mastromonaco had organised the return to the US after the state visit to England. Bags packed, papers boxed, cars despatched to take them to Heathrow. In jeans and tee shirt she mops her brow only to get a text from Obama saying to get on over to Buckingham Palace. All her clothes were packed so she managed to acquire a jacket and spent her time there hiding behind chairs so that no one would see her jeans. Thoughtful and thoughtless of Obama! And she did manage to come away with one of the Queen’s copies of Tatler.

Interesting as far as it goes and a good listen. Maybe one for a long journey.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, narrated by Juliet Stevenson

If Jane Austen could have chosen the perfect narrator for this novel of wit and wisdom she would certainly have chosen Juliet Stevenson… superb interpretation.
Northanger Abbey was Jane Austen’s first completed novel in 1803 but it was not published until 1817 after her death. As with all her novels the main themes are money, status and growing awareness. Serious themes clothed in a coat of humour and irony.
This was a re-read for me and I loved it.

17 year old Catherine Morland, Gothic novel reader, is taken to Bath by Mr & Mrs Allen, friends and neighbours of Catherine’s parents. Catherine is chaperoned through the pump room, balls and excursions by the vague Mrs Allen. When the Tilney family invite her to Northanger Abbey her Gothic imagination goes into overdrive.

Brilliant spoof. Comforting to know there are still teenage Goths around.

If you have read or listened or plan to read and listen to any of these books I would love to have your comments.  Any suggestions for audio books you have enjoyed would be very welcome.



The Dry


Who Thought This Was a Good Idea

Tatler Magazine

Northanger Abbey

This entry was posted in Audio books, Australian fiction, books, Communication, Gothic, Japan, Literature, Reviews, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Audio Book Reviews February 2018

  1. Liz Dexter says:

    A great variety of books there. I do sadly find audio books make me fall asleep, but I know I’m missing out on a huge dimension, especially demonstrated when Matthew and I read a book together, me on paper, him on audio.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Liz. Audio isn’t for everyone. I seldom fall asleep but I do like to be doing something else while I’m listening…chopping vegetables for soup is a favourite! Maybe one day you could read a book while I listen, probably something Natthew doesn’t want to listen to. It would be interesting to see what a difference it makes.

    • Liz Dexter says:

      Yes, indeed. If you’re able to see the photos of what’s coming up on my TBR, then we can pick one to do from that – or an Iris Murdoch? I think there’s an audiobook of A Severed Head and that would make a very interesting comparison for next month’s Murdoch Readlong post …

  3. A Severed Head is a good choice because it is only 7 hours and, best of all, narrated by Derek Jacobi. Only one caveat is that it is a long time since I read any Iris Murdoch and was nev,er a fan. Should be interesting to see if a reread has changed my mind and if I’m up to any kind of literary analysis but I’d love to give it a go. Thanks Liz, looking forward to it.

    • Liz Dexter says:

      Oh, great! What I am doing with the project is putting up my own review part way through the month for people to comment on, but you can comment with a link to your review or I will find it anyway. Then I round up all the reviews for a particular book at the end of the month. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it!

  4. Okay. I’m not sure when I shall write mine but wonder if we should do it together to see the differences in our reading/listening experiences I.e. Large cast of characters is quite difficult to follow when listening. But I suppose that is a general point so may not need to be coordinated with your review. the Severed Head will be my reread for the next review of four books so I can wait for you.

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