"Don't want this one to end"
Those who know me wouldn't dream I could love a book about two brothers murdering for money in the California Gold Rush of 1851.
But one of the brothers has a sensitive side and is regretting his line of work, and vaguely pondering alternatives, while the other takes humorous pot shots at him for this. The dialogue is so poetic and sparkling, their adventures gripping, horrifying and poignant.
The narrator does a fantastic job with the different character's voices, and the whole thing has me wondering how I can finagle some time in my car alone for a good long listen, while realising the downside of that would be that the story would be over too quickly.
"A Whole New Pymian World to Explore"
I downloaded this because I'd been meaning to read Barbara Pym for years, and wanted something frothy after a heavy bout of Dickens.
It ticked all my boxes. I love a sense of place, and especially when the place is London. A sense of time, especially the era around the world wars, and this is set in the fifties, when rationing was still in force. Everything's a bit grim, as people struggle to get their lives back on track. It also ticked the 'narrator with a sly wit' box, and the 'not too oppressively long' box.
Digging around on the internet, I discovered that Barbara Pym had six published novels, but when she sent a manuscript to her publisher in 1963 it was rejected as being 'out of step with the times'. This led her to despair until 1977, when she was nominated as the most underrated writer of the 20th century by both Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil. A novel was then accepted which was nominated for the Booker Prize that year, and more works followed to critical acclaim, some published posthumously, as she died in 1980.
Her work is popular and timeless, and some consider this her best book. Mostly about the everyday lives of very ordinary people, the wit and comic observations sparkle, and her turn of phrase often had me smiling, and occasionally laughing out loud.
I loved this book, and feel I have discovered an author whose works I will read again and again. Some have called Pym 'a modern day Jane Austen' and I think that's about right. I'm not surprised to learn that there exists a Barbara Pym Society of North America - I can quite see how her Englishness would be speak to literary anglophiles. Sadly, there are only three of Pym's novels on the Audible list, so I may have to buy paper copies of the rest.
Finally, the lady who reads this (Jonathan Keeble reads the intro) has fantastic diction - I didn't have to go back and re-listen once, which is a first.
I haven't finished this yet - 2 hours to go and I don't want it to end. Some of the lines in it are priceless, which is not to deny it's terribly sad in parts.
The period details add a wonderful touch, and some of the minor characters - I know them! The reading is terrific, the different voices are well defined without being garish. Anna Bentinck is gifted.
I'm chortling away or crying on the stairmaster at the gym - I've become a regular, and all because of this book. A friend's book club panned it because they felt it was a cynical attempt to cop a movie deal - but if it becomes a film, I'll be first in the queue.
"How can I top this?"
The Little Stranger was my first Audible download. It was so absorbing that it only took me a week to finish. Any excuse and I drove for miles, hoping to get stuck in traffic so I could get in half and hour here and there - luckily the North Circular always obliged. This ticked all the boxes for me (strong plot, sense of place, great characterisation). It's an old-fashioned ghost story, set in a still class-ridden post-war world of upstairs and downstairs. The family doctor is of sceptical mind to all the strange things that happen in the house, so is perfect as the narrator. The setting, Hundreds Hall, which is the star of the show, is described so beautifully I could see it in my mind's eye, both in happier times and in its declining years. Mr Vance does a wonderful job of reading the book, the voices are pitch perfect, the quavering mother, the drawling toff son, the fourteen year old serving girl. It was all such a treat I just don't know how I'm going to replicate the experience with another book.
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