Title: The Return of the Native
Author: Thomas Hardy
Audio book narrator: Alan Rickman
First published: 1878
Edition: Audible audio book & paperback, published in 1974 by Macmillan
Tempestuous Eustacia Vye passes her days dreaming of passionate love and the escape it may bring from the small community of Egdon Heath. Hearing that Clym Yeobright is to return from Paris, she sets her heart on marrying him, believing that through him she can leave rural life and find fulfilment elsewhere. But she is to be disappointed, for Clym has dreams of his own, and they have little in common with Eustacia’s.
This is one of those classics I had tried to read the paperback of several times and never got very far. When I noticed there was an audio book narrated by the inimitable Alan Rickman, I knew that was the one for me.
As to this narrative, it is not really for me. I did not like any of the characters. I just felt if any of these characters had stopped to think just for a minute, their world would have made a much better place. Instead, we have a bunch of characters feeling sorry for themselves in a beautifully described landscape. So yes, the descriptions of the heathland were masterful and the portrayal of Eustacia’s depression and Clym’s guilt very human, but the story itself did little for me.
This is not a happy tale. It is filled with sadness, depression and bad choices and although I am glad I finally read it, this is not the kind of book I would return to. I would like to try something else by Thomas Hardy in the future though, because in places his writing was absolutely beautiful.
A note on Alan Rickman’s narration: overall I really liked it and it helped me get through to the book, but he made every woman in the book sound like a whimpering soul. However, if not for his narration I would have given up on this book again before the halfway point.
4 out of 7 stars
Title: How To Train Your Dragon
Author: Cressida Cowell Audio Narrator: David Tennant
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
First published: 2003
Edition: Audio book
Hiccup Haddock Horrendous III was a truly extraordinary Viking hero. The warrior chieftain and awesome sword fighter was known as ‘the Dragon Whisperer’, on account of his power over these terrifying beasts. But it wasn’t always like that, and this is the story of his rise to fame, in his own words.
This was a quick fun time. My daughter adores the movie and series and when I saw the audio book was narrated by David Tennant, I decided to give it a listen. It was a fun story and I enjoyed it, even though it really is very different from the movie. Once I let go of preconceived notions, this story made me smile.
The tone of the book is light and there is a whimsy to it I definitely enjoyed. David Tennant’s narrating style suits the story very well and I think he really helped bring it to life. He especially managed to give the dragon Toothless a lot of amusing sass!
The one thing that I did think was rather odd is the fact that there are hardly any women in this, apart from a rare appearance of main character’s Hiccup’s mother! No women, no girls, nada – just a bunch of boys and men. Oh, there may be a few female dragons, but apart from that, there is mostly a gaping hole! It did not bother me exactly, but I did notice it.
I am not continuing this series, as it is clearly meant for children, but I did have fun with it. It’s a delightful story. My daughter will love it, so I will listen to it again with her.
5 out of 7 stars
Title: How Not To Be A Boy
Author: Robert Webb
Genre/Narrator: Non-Fiction / Autobiography
First published: 2017
Edition: Audio book by Audible Studios
For some reason it took me a long time to listen to this audio book. I thought I would love it, but in the end it was fine, but it was too easy to put aside. Despite that fact, I never thought of not finishing it.
I know Robert Webb mainly as half of comedy duo Mitchell and Webb. I had heard so many good things about this book, I decided I wanted to listen to it. Robert Webb’s story of growing up not being your stereotypical boy is pretty every day. I think many boys/men will identify with the story of his life, which is pretty ordinary but in its ordinariness (word?) manages to be extraordinary. I just never felt I could quite connect to Robert even while I was listening to him, which is a great shame. I am not a big fan of his narration style and I have a feeling I would have read the book a lot quicker if I had just picked up the paperback.
However, I think the message he is trying to get across is very valid and current. Gender roles are a big topic at the moment and this book touches on that subject in a very natural efficient way as something that Robert himself struggled with.
Although I did not love this book, I feel it was worth reading.
4 out of 7 stars
Title: Thérèse Raquin
Author: Émile Zola / Narrator: Kate Winslet
Genre: Fiction / Classic
First published: 1867
Edition: Audio book, published by Audible Inc in 2012
Thérèse Raquin was a classic that was on my TBR, so when I saw it in a ‘best’ Audible list narrated by one of my favourite actresses I just had to listen to it.
This is a very dark tale about a couple, who murder the woman’s husband, and how that murder haunts them in the following years. The characters are truly awful, but well written and Zola manages to portray the changing feelings towards each other very well. The darkness of the tale makes you feel claustrophobic at times and I could never let go of the sense of dread that this tale instilled in me throughout. I knew this was never going to end well.
I do not think this is a classic I will read again and again, but I am glad I finally ‘read’ it. There is brilliance in the way the author brings these nasty characters and their surroundings to life.
Kate Winslet did a wonderful job narrating this tale. She brings just the rights amount of drama to the story. I love her voice and enjoyed listening to her.
5 out of 7 stars
Title: Humble By Nature
Author & Narrator: Kate Humble
Genre: Non-Fiction /Autobiography / Farming
First published: 2014 by Headline
Edition: Audio book
I love it when the author narrates their own story on audio books and this was such an enjoyable listen! Kate’s voice is warm and personable as she tells the listener/reader about her and her husband’s adventures creating a smallholding home in Monmouthsire.
If you do not like animals, there is no point reading this book, as it is saturated with Kate’s love for them and that is what makes it such a great story. She tells her tales of heartbreak and success with warmth and emotion and the passion she has for a life surrounded by animals show through in the casual narrative. Listening to this book made me smile a lot and it simply made me happy.
I would not say it is a must-read, but if you do love animals, I cannot recommend this highly enough.
6 out of 7 stars