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An Audiobook Review Round-up

September 27, 2012

I’ve been horribly neglecting my blog lately and for this I apologise! However, work has been manic and I’ve been working all kinds of odd times so it’s been a very tiring few weeks. I thought rather than post numerous individual reviews, I would post a round-up of all the audiobooks I’ve listened to recently. So here goes…

 

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Simon Mawer

Marian Sutro is an outsider: the daughter of a diplomat, brought up on the shores of Lake Geneva and in England, half French, half British, naive yet too clever for her own good. But when she is recruited from her desk job by SOE to go undercover in wartime France, it seems her hybrid status – and fluent French – will be of service to a greater, more dangerous cause.

Trained in sabotage, dead-drops, how to perform under interrogation and how to kill, Marian parachutes into south-west France, her official mission to act as a Resistance courier. But her real destination is Paris, where she must seek out family friend Clément Pelletier, once the focus of her adolescent desires. A nuclear physicist engaged in the race for a new and terrifying weapon, he is of urgent significance to her superiors. As she struggles through the strange, lethal landscape of the Occupation towards this reunion, what completes her training is the understanding that war changes everything, and neither love nor fatherland may be trusted.

 

Despite hearing countless wonderful things about Simon Mawer’s previous novels, particularly The Glass Room, I’d never actually read any of his work until now. When I saw his latest novel available on Audible I thought it was about time I did! The novel started off very promising and I quickly became intrigued by this female undercover agent who inevitably feels torn between France where she spent most of her childhood, and England for whom she is fighting for. Although Marian’s life becomes very exciting, and sometimes you can’t help but get caught up in the fascination of it all, but Mawer also depicts the sheer life-threatening danger of what it meant to be a female spy during World War II, and how it is a life spent constantly looking over one’s shoulder. However, for me, where the novel falls flat is within the rather tedious relationships she holds with two different men. Usually when it comes to relationships in novel, I feel I should be rooting for them all the way, but here I felt very indifferent towards both men and felt them rather unexciting compared to the life she was leading. The other place the novel fails to deliver is when Marian reaches France, and the whole thing just seems to take too long to get going and then leads to a disappointing climax. I think Mawer is a good writer, there’s no doubt about that. But I think I haven’t quite read the best he has to offer, and judging from other reviews online it seems fair to say that his earlier novels are much better received. Admittedly I don’t read audiobooks particularly quickly, so this may have been a factor in enjoying it less than I could have.

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is out now, published by Little, Brown.

Rating 

 

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

On a summer’s day in 1922 Cora Carlisle boards a train from Wichita, Kansas, to New York City, leaving behind a marriage that’s not as perfect as it seems and a past that she buried long ago. She is charged with the care of a stunning young girl with a jet-black fringe and eyes wild and wise beyond her fifteen years. This girl is hungry for stardom and Cora for something she doesn’t yet know. Cora will be many things in her lifetime – an orphan, a mother, a wife, a mistress – but in New York she is a chaperone and her life is about to change.

It is here under the bright lights of Broadway, in a time when prohibition reigns and speakeasies with their forbidden whispers behind closed doors thrive, that Cora finds what she has been searching for. It is here, in a time when illicit thrills and daring glamour sizzle beneath the laws of propriety that her life truly begins. It is here that Cora and her charge, Louise Brooks, take their first steps towards their dreams.

 

I did finish this one quite some time ago now, but have just kept forgetting to review it; for which I apologise! Seeing this in a bookshop, I have to admit with its current cover I would not have picked it up. The only thing that persuaded me to give the audiobook a go was the comparison to Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife which I enjoyed immensely. What I wanted out of this novel was to be transported to 1920s America and delve into the life of silent film star Louise Brooks, who I knew virtually nothing about. However, this wasn’t what I got. Instead, I read a story about a middle-aged woman named Cora who becomes Louise’s chaperone in New York, only to go in search of her birth parents and the orphanage in which she grew up. Although this novel is well written and Cora lives through some rather interesting moments in history from the KKK to prohibition, we never actually go into the life of Louise Brooks, at least not nearly as much as I had wanted. Louise felt like a famous actor in a rather ordinary film, cast only to bring in more viewers. She’s very much a side-plot when really, the blurb made it sound like she was the plot. The Chaperone is a well written and entertaining read, but if you’re going to read it make sure not to expect too much from Miss Brooks.

The Chaperone is out now, published by Michael Joseph.

Rating 

 

Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick

The collapse of her brief marriage has stalled Bea Nightingale’s life, leaving her middle-aged and alone, teaching in an impoverished borough of 1950s New York. A plea from her estranged brother gives Bea the excuse to escape lassitude by leaving for Paris to retrieve a nephew she barely knows; but the siren call of Europe threatens to deafen Bea to the dangers of entangling herself in the lives of her brother’s family. Travelling from America to France, Bea leaves the stigma of divorce on the far side of the Atlantic; newly liberated, she chooses to defend her nephew and his girlfriend Lili by waging a war of letters on the brother she has promised to help. But Bea’s generosity is a mixed blessing: those she tries to help seem to be harmed, and as Bea’s family unravel from around her, she finds herself once again drawn to the husband she thought she had left in the past…

 

Again, I normally wouldn’t have picked this up but a colleague said she had really enjoyed it, and I thought I’d give the audio version a go. I think it was partly the narrator’s voice, and partly Ozick’s writing that made me give up less than half way through. I tried very hard to get into it but soon realised that this just wasn’t for me. Normally I would find it very hard to give up on a book, but with an audiobook it seemed much easier. Life just seems far too short to waste time on something I’m not enjoying, and I have no regrets in giving up. My colleague did say after that Ozick is somewhat of an acquired taste, so bare that in mind if you do decide to pick this up.

Foreign Bodies is out now, published by Atlantic Books.

Rating DNF.

 

After recently being put in charge of the SF and Fantasy section at work, I decided it was high-time I read some more SF, so the audiobook I’m currently reading is The Chrysalids by John Wyndham so expect a review soon!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 27, 2012 23:20

    I enjoyed The Girl Who Fell from the Sky a lot – even more than The Glass Room – which is a much more literary novel, but doesn’t have the enaging characters. I can’t imagine it being the sort of book that works on audio – perhaps that was your problem?

    I also abandoned Foreign Bodies – not my sort of thing either.

    • September 28, 2012 17:37

      Wow this is interesting! I’ve known people who really loved The Glass Room, so that is intriguing. I did enjoy The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, but it hasn’t left an overwhelming impression on me. Maybe his writing just isn’t for me then? Glad to see I wasn’t alone with Foreign Bodies too!!

  2. September 28, 2012 12:06

    I didn’t get on with The Glass Room at all. Took too long to get going and when it did, it was a disappointment; all the characters seemed cut from the same mould; there were at least 2 endings, might even have been 3, with neat but completely unbelievable coincidences; and every time Mawer pushed that metaphor on me after the first few times I wanted to scream, ‘I get it, OK!’ So, you’d have to have given The Girl Who Fell… 5 stars for me to give it a chance!

    • September 28, 2012 17:38

      Wow, two comments now on not liking The Glass Room! I thought it was the one everyone loved?! Who knows…. maybe Simon Mawer just isn’t for us?

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