I have had a marvellous summer of audio books. It seems light years since I sat down with the quilt and determined to finish it, and realised that audio books might save me from listening to Moneybox Live on Radio 4. It's a standing joke, whenever I sat down and switched on the radio it was Moneybox Live and people phoning in with their tax/pension problems.
I may write more about some of the books in the weeks to come, though I took no notes, it's all in my head, so thoughts might be a bit less detailed than usual, but I have quilted my way through...
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (10 hrs 57 mins)...riveting crime
The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill (11hrs 43 mins)...tough issues-led crime including assisted dying...I survived, just.
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (16hrs 29 mins)...superb. Teddy's life in WW2 (brother of Ursula in Life After Life)
A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel (15 hrs i.e. half before suffering from French revolution malaise, I will return to the barricades soon)
A Game of Thrones by George R.R.Martin ( 1.5 books so far = 24 hrs... addicted, can't wait to talk about this)
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferranti (about 2hrs before I realised it doesn't work as an audiobook for me)
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel (17 hrs 12 mins)
Ye gods...that is almost one hundred hours of listening and stitching.
I have re-joined Audible. A month's free trial and then £7.99 a month. Except jump in and say 'no' to renewing your membership at the end of the free month (and before they take the first payment) and up will come the offer 'Please will you stay, only £3.99 for another three months...'
And bear in mind that you can return any book that you don't like and exchange it for another one.
As I mentioned a while back Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel proved to be a splendid listening experience. Narrated by Anna Bentinck who captures the essence of each character with her voices to perfection, even the one voice that I found ever-so slightly incongruous is still milling around in my head.
Alison is an extra large medium...if you see what I mean, and Beyond Black explores as much about attitudes and experience of obesity and non-PC 'fatness' as it does about the world of the psychic, and so much more besides. Self-mocking and quick to flag up her size before others do, Alison's voice is mellow and measured, soft and mellifluous, whilst her waspish assistant Colette talks in sharp, clipped tones that perfectly match her character, and with a brusque and inquisitorial intonation that I feel sure must have added another dimension to Hilary Mantel's written narrative.
Hindered rather than assisted by Morris, her vile and controlling spirit guide from the 'other side' , Alison mediates with the spirit world and passes on the messages, but it slowly becomes clear that she is trapped by far more than her psychic powers. Conditioned into tolerance, acceptance and subjugation by an abusive childhood, Alison becomes a fortress under siege, and along with moments of acute sadness there are moments when Hilary Mantel pours the literary equivalent of boiling oil over the ramparts and there I was laughing out loud...
One of many memorable moments...
Pushed into a GP appointment by Colette, who has assumed the power and become a bully, Alison emerges into the busy waiting room from the consultation humiliated and unable to bend down and put her shoes back on. The GP has been brash, hurried and rude, (and I almost sensed Hilary Mantel might have been writing from personal experience) but Alison decided not to tell him that his liver is 'beyond saving,' and I cheered.
Ultimately Alison proves to be a remarkable and resilient woman and I loved her and loved the book...and Beyond Black had been a reading fail for me in the past.
If you have read or listened to it I would love to know your thoughts.
By the time you read this Bookhound and I will have been to hear Hilary Mantel speaking about My Life in Books at the Budleigh Literary Festival and very excited we have been about it too...
From Jane Eyre to Brideshead Revisited: from Crime and Punishment to The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: Hilary Mantel traces her evolution as reader and writer, discussing the authors who gave her courage, those she holds in awe, and those who make her laugh. As a child she saw reading not as an escape but as the key to experience; she explores how the stories she encountered still shape her imagination today and influence her practice as a writer.
I like that...'reading not as en escape but as the key to experience...'
I suspect this is experience as in discovering the possibilities but will report back on the event for you, and the Happy Campers will be at Hilary Mantel's second event on Saturday ( Thomas Cromwell updates ) and have promised to take some notes for us.
But reading as an experience has always been one of the great motivators for me in writing dovegreyreader scribbles.
I think you will all be familiar with the self-indulgent digressions into experience that happen in the midst of a bookish post here, but I think that is what makes reading so magical for all of us; that canny way a book has of triggering recall of our own personal experiences in life.
Beyond Black and the traumas of Alison's childhood took me right back to the early days of my health visiting career. The Maria Colwell report of 1974, the very first of its kind on child abuse, battered babies as we would call them, had just been published and was compulsory course reading...Alison's childhood is in that era long before, when abuse just happened, was accepted as a fact of life and went largely unnoticed.
One of my health visiting lecturers back in the 1970s used to take great pleasure in pinning me to the wall by me ears (metaphorically speaking) when I would spout forth some naive judgement based on something that had happened out on a visit...
'Ah yes...but that's only in your experience isn't it?'
The emphasis was heavily on the 'your' and it would stop me in my tracks, because of course she was right, and it proved to be one of those snippets of wisdom that was to stand me in good stead for the next thirty years or so.
But this is now, and now I can indulge. It is my experience that I bring to my reading and writing, and you all bring yours to your own reading and to comments here, and don't we have a good old chin-wag along the way.
Hilary Mantel, as I have written so many times on here in the past, is a passionate and engaging speaker and as the Festival's President gave an interesting pre-festival interview on Radio Devon recently (scroll in to 2:20) Having lived in Budleigh Salterton for five years she is happily settled there and writing The Third Book for which we are all desperate but must be patient. We have at least another year before it will be completed apparently but I am happy with that, plenty more Hilary to read, re-read and listen to in the meantime.