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Rachel Redford

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  • 168
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  • The Queen of Bloody Everything

  • By: Joanna Nadin
  • Narrated by: Kelly Hotten
  • Length: 12 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 622
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 587
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 586

As Edie Jones lies in a bed on the 14th floor of a Cambridge hospital, her adult daughter, Dido, tells their story, starting with the day that changed everything. That was the day when Dido - aged exactly six years and 27 days old - met the handsome Tom Trevelyan, his precocious sister, Harry, and their parents, Angela and David.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Insightful and intelligent, witty and honest

  • By Lu on 21-04-18

Brilliant!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 21-04-19

I loved this - it's a fantastic achievement by Joanna Nadin (her first novel for adults) to follow Dido through from childhood into early middle age with the mass of crystal detail of each passing decade. How can Nadin remember so clearly all those 1970s things that children said and did with such accuracy? Dido lives with her truly awful ex-hippie-ish utterly selfish alcoholic mother when the Trevelyans move in next door - apparently the perfect family. Dido and Harry (Harriet) become best, best friends, she falls in love for ever with Tom her brother - and comes to love Mrs Trevelyan with all her silly tight-lipped ways more than her own hopeless chaos of a mother. But all families are chaotic, just some more than others.

I can't explain the plot without giving it all away - but it's completely absorbing, the sort of book you don't want to end. It avoids all conventional novelistic cop-outs - these are real people with real lives making the real mistakes we all make and doing the best they can to be happy - and usually failing. These are real people..Ultimately what lifts the whole book is that it's about accepting people with all their messy faults; it's about forgiveness and love.

Kelly Hotten's narration is superb - she captures Harry's affected nonchalance, exactly and the languid, uncaring drawl of Edie, Dido's mother.

Brilliant!

  • The Pianist of Yarmouk

  • By: Aeham Ahmad
  • Narrated by: Nezar Alderazi
  • Length: 10 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 8

One morning on the outskirts of Damascus, two starving friends were walking through their war-ravaged city. They entered a once familiar street that had now been turned to rubble - concrete bridges towered over them like tombs, and houses were turned inside out. One of them, Aeham, turned to the only comfort he had left - his piano - and composed a song of hope. It was a song that would reach beyond the rubble and bring a message of solidarity to his fellow Syrians and all those suffering the devastation of war. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Hear our cry

  • By Rachel Redford on 06-04-19

Hear our cry

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-04-19

Aeham Ahmad is the pianist in the green T-shirt in the iconic image seen world-wide. He's playing his piano wheeled out into the ruined streets of Yarmouk, the outer district of Damascus for decades the area of Palestinian refugees. His piano was later burned in front of him when Isis took over the area. He and his family endured - and survived - the siege when many around him starved to death with nothing but clover in their stomachs, others disappeared into detention, and many more were shot.

From his eventual sanctuary in Germany, Ahmad dictated his story to an accomplished ghost writer who wrote this blisteringly excellent testimony now published in many countries. The celebrity gloss now surrounding him risks diminishing his experiences, but it doesn't diminish this honest memoir which should be compulsory reading / listening.

It takes us through Ahmed's childhood with his blind father's insistence that his son should learn to play the piano and the old man's learning to tune the old piano which the family was given. Ahmad's passion for his music and his singing and his sincere belief in their healing properties are unshaken by experiences of sniper fire which cut the tendons of his fingers in one hand, killed the sparkling star-child of his street choir before his eyes, detention in state prison for attempting to escape from where he heard the constant screams of his tiny sons through the walls - and much,much more - and his final escape to Germany.

No news report brings home exactly what the destruction in Syria's war has done to the innocent civilians trapped by it. Ahmad continues to feel crippling grief for what he left behind, even though he and his wife and sons are now safe.

It's the most tender, heart-rending, shocking, mind-shaping,, indelible testimony that you will read or hear. Beautifully read..

  • When I Had a Little Sister

  • The Story of a Farming Family Who Never Spoke
  • By: Catherine Simpson
  • Narrated by: Catherine Simpson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 10

On a cold December day in 2013 Catherine Simpson received the phone call she had feared for years. Her little sister Tricia had been found dead in the farmhouse where she, Catherine and their sister Elizabeth were born - and where their family had lived for generations. Tricia was 46 and had been stalked by depression all her life. Yet mental illness was a taboo subject within the family, and although love was never lacking, there was a silence at its heart. After Tricia died, Catherine found she had kept a lifetime of diaries.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A lifetime of loss

  • By Rachel Redford on 29-03-19

A lifetime of loss

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 29-03-19

This is a harrowing, poignant memoir of a family which didn't want 'mithering' by questions or expressions of feelings. It conveys brilliantly the whole family on their labour-intensive Lancashire farm where words weren't to be wasted on 'soft' talk. Children who laughed at mealtime were sent away from table. Catherine Simpson's grandfather never spoke of his time serving at Ypres and when his wife died in childbirth, their 12-year-old son(Catherine's father) was sent out to finish the milking. He never went to school again. Nothing was said.

Tricia was Catherine's youngest sister - her sweet companion as they wheeled dead runt piglets decked in clothes round in their dolls pram, but at around the age of 9 or so, Tricia started to withdraw behind her heavy fringe - the beginning of her un-talked about depression which would drive her to suicide, nearly 30 years later after episodes of tragic psychosis.

Catherine has explored her sister's life through diaries Tricia left behind. She's given us a crystal clear, warm, heart-breaking, insightful analysis of her family, stifled by their lack of words.

It's full of humour too which makes it enjoyable as well as sad. I loved the child's answer when told only a married woman could have a baby: "How does God know if you're married?" Mother's answer: "Stop mithering".

Not so much a 'reading' as Catherine talking to us. A great listen.

  • Lanny

  • By: Max Porter
  • Narrated by: Annie Aldington, Clare Corbett, David Timson, and others
  • Length: 4 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 30
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 27
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 27

Not far from London, there is a village. This village belongs to the people who live in it and to those who lived in it hundreds of years ago. It belongs to England's mysterious past and its confounding present. It belongs to Mad Pete, the grizzled artist. To ancient Peggy, gossiping at her gate. To families dead for generations, and to those who have only recently moved here. But it also belongs to Dead Papa Toothwort who has woken from his slumber in the woods. Dead Papa Toothwort, who is listening to them all. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Clever Stuff That Took Me Out Of My Comfort Zone!

  • By Simon on 08-03-19

a download like no other

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-03-19

I was impressed by the sheer originality and verbal power of Max Porter's Grief is the thing with feathers. I'm very glad I ignored the Saturday Times review that slammed Lanny as a tedious re-working of Ted Hughes' Iron Man (wrong) - I loved Lanny. It's not perfect but bursting with experimentation, exuberance and awareness of nature.

Lanny is the young ethereal son of the metrocentric couple who have migrated from London for the elusive English rural village life. Lanny's father is immersed in typically money-orientated life-crushing issues; his baffled mother is on the verge of making it as a (quite nasty) crime writer. Lanny is a bright sprite in tune with nature and all its treasures. His mother arranged for him to have art lessons with local Mad Pete, an idiosyncratic (not mad) artist of repute. Ageing artist and little boy Lanny together have what was once accepted for what it is: a mutually inspiring friendship centred on art and nature. All goes well until Lanny goes missing. That's when the village voices go into overdrive and Mad Pete is arrested.

Crow from 'Grief is the thing with feathers' was centre stage; similar in some ways is Dead Papa Toothwort, a Green Man-myth man of English folklore - here both a real and an unreal presence, a figure who has been part of the village since time immemorial, a commentator on the present day village.

The brilliantly presented voices of the villagers reminded me of Under Milk Wood with a Alan Bennett at his most acid, expressing of-the-moment opinions and thoughts, such as on the mawkish, prurient 'heroes' searching for Lanny. There's a tremendous mix of voices from the very moving desperate terror of Lanny's mother searching for her child to the vituperative, mean-spirited complaining about the parking on the grass when a child is missing.

Part 3 where all is concluded and dead Papa Toothwort takes a central role I found a disappointment. The ethereal other-worldliness was over-done for me and distracted from the very strong, lean first two parts, but the whole production is still worth a 5 for Porter's sheer originality and risk-taking. It was fully exploited by the cast which I think made the whole a better listening experience than a reading one.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Wych Elm

  • By: Tana French
  • Narrated by: Paul Nugent
  • Length: 22 hrs and 7 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 133
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 127
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 125

One night changes everything for Toby. A brutal attack leaves him traumatised, unsure even of the person he used to be. He seeks refuge at his uncle's rambling home, the Ivy House, filled with cherished memories of wild-strawberry summers and teenage parties with his cousins. But not long after Toby's arrival, a discovery is made. A skull, tucked neatly inside the old wych elm in the garden. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • excellent

  • By MS T. on 22-03-19

FAR TOO LONG!

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 13-03-19

This psychological thriller-mystery (whatever it is) has a lot of strengths and is very powerful. But it's FAR TOO LONG! 22 hours?? Tana French is asking too much from us to stick with her over-indulgence. Radical editing was needed.

It's a pity because with pruning it would have been first class, but I was longing for it to finish. Not another twist PLEASE! Just end it, Tana!

Much of it is excellent - Toby's struggle with a brain injury following his being beaten up during an apparent break-in; and his cherished uncle Hugo's living with terminal cancer are both superbly conveyed in visceral detail. The central plot is who murdered the sex pest Dominic 10 years previously and dumped his garotted body in the hollow wych elm in Hugo's lovely garden where the extended family of cousins spent so much time. The truths (in the plural) are disclosed achingly slowly. The final truth about the break-in was an anti-climax.

What is excellent is the language: a mix of Irish colloquial now argot rich in expletives alongside some very subtle elegant writing crammed with starling detail and imagery.

The other excellence is the narration. What a fantastic performance from the Irish Paul Nugent! The range of convincing characters, the inner moods of Toby, the increasingly threatening presence of Rafferty the detective, the nuances within the hours and hours of dialogue are all presented brilliantly.

  • Late in the Day

  • By: Tessa Hadley
  • Narrated by: Abigail Thaw
  • Length: 7 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 33
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 30
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 30

Alexandr and Christine and Zachary and Lydia have been close friends since they first met in their 20s. Thirty years later Alex and Christine are spending a leisurely summer evening at home when they receive a call from a distraught Lydia. Zach is dead. In the wake of this profound loss, the three friends find themselves unmoored; all agree that Zach was the sanest and kindest of them all, the irreplaceable one they couldn’t afford to lose. Inconsolable, Lydia moves in with Alex and Christine. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Time changes everything

  • By Rachel Redford on 22-02-19

Time changes everything

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 22-02-19

I liked listening to this - it's impressive how Tessa Hadley kept my interest as she delved more and more deeply into this married quartet of best friends. Only a prolonged trip to Venice bored me - it felt like Hadley indulging herself in a recent visit to Venice.
It all starts with a phone call from Christine's best friend since school, Lydia, one evening. Lydia's husband Zachary is dead: Zachary the vibrant, energetic, bright one has had a heart attack and is unbelievably dead. Of course Lydia in her distress must move in with Christine and Alex.Can that work?
The rest of the novel weaves backwards and forwards in time, fleshing out the very close relationship between the four of them. Hadley does it all at such a leisurely pace with such delicacy, such insights into intimacy and marriage, the passing of time, the dependency of children and wives, bereavement, loss, letting go......that the quartet become totally real. When it all suddenly stops, it's quite a wrench.
Beautifully read - totally in tune with the content. A lovely voice from Abigail Thaw.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Dear Mrs Bird

  • By: AJ Pearce
  • Narrated by: Anna Popplewell
  • Length: 9 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 626
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 581
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 582

London, 1940. Emmeline Lake and her best friend, Bunty, are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent, and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance - but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt of Woman's Friend magazine.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wartime tale of writing, bravery & soldiering on

  • By K. J. Noyes on 12-04-18

A lovely read!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 28-01-19

This story of Emmeline and Bunty's WW2 lives pulls at your heartstrings, makes you forget your own troubles and leaves you feeling cheerful. It's warm, compassionate and spirited. What's not to like?

  • The Language of Kindness

  • A Nurse's Story
  • By: Christie Watson
  • Narrated by: Christie Watson
  • Length: 8 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 278
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 257
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 256

Random House presents the audiobook edition of The Language of Kindness: A Nurse's Story, written and read by Christie Watson. Christie Watson was a nurse for 20 years. Taking us from birth to death and from A&E to the mortuary, The Language of Kindness is an astonishing account of a profession defined by acts of care, compassion and kindness.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Honest and thought provoking

  • By stansmum on 23-05-18

An NHS Angel

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 21-01-19

Uplifting, heart-breaking,(particularly the children with terminal illnesses), heart-warming, horrifying (the liquids which can torrent from a human body!), frightening (the reality of some deaths), heart-stopping... I'm in awe of Christie Watson's super-humanity, resilience, patience and above all her love, tenderness and kindness towards all her patients from little scraps of premature babies to the desperately sick and those ravaged by mental illness and even those who are violent. She has given out all this caring for 20 years whilst struggling with her own difficulties (becoming a broken-hearted single parent reliant on after-school clubs), utterly selfless, making the difference between life or death, or merely helping someone drink or holding a hand. The whole book is a wonderful affirmation of human goodness.

It's totally scandalous that she and all other nurses often struggling to pay household bills and travelling long distances to work at all hours should be paid so little, but Christie never complains even as she lays bare the shortcomings of our present state of affairs.

Christie reads well but I gave her only a 4 because her voice is that of a very young woman and it doesn't fit with her many years of experience. I'm sure it's very charming in real life, but I found it disconcerting in the audiobook.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Dead Love Has Chains

  • By: Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  • Narrated by: Celine Major
  • Length: 4 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 1

Pregnant and unmarried, 17-year-old Irene Thelliston has been sent home from India in disgrace to live with her aunt in rural Ireland. Only one person knows her secret: Lady Mary Harling, a fellow passenger on her sea voyage, who pities her misfortunes and solemnly swears never to divulge her secret. Years later, to Lady Mary's horror, the beautiful Irene arrives in London and becomes engaged to her son Conrad, who has a secret of his own, having spent seven years in a madhouse after a broken heart left him insane. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • How binding are promises?

  • By Rachel Redford on 09-01-19

How binding are promises?

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-01-19


I’ve been reviewing audiobooks since 1973 and have never heard such a lamentable narrator. That this title should have been marketed with such a narrator is a disgrace.

It seems that there are titles on LibriVox Recording in the USA where titles read by non-professionals like this one are in the public domain for free download, but for copyright reasons in the UK listeners are required to pay. I could have returned this book, but I’m interested in the author and I wanted to assure myself that this narrator really was throughout as destructive, unprofessional and unpleasant to listen to as at the beginning. Also I wanted to warn any other potential downloaders, and interest any professional producers who might read this.

For a start Celine Major speaks far too fast with not a vestige of expression or anything approaching nuance or even any apparent engagement with the author and her text. M.E.Braddon wrote 85 popular ‘sensational’ Victorian novels in her time (as well as raising 11 children!) and this one was published in 1907 when she was in her seventies. After long experience of writing about the psychology of crime and passion and the mores of English society, in Dead Love has Chains, she drops the crime and questions these social mores and hypocrisy of the upper English classes and the social constrictions suffered by women of the time. To have a discordant American narrator who mispronounces English names is entirely jarringly inappropriate for English listeners.

The story is an interesting one: 18 year-old Irene is returning to Ireland from India in disgrace. On the ship home, Lady Mary Harling comforts the unknown girl and Irene tells Lady Mary her secret disgrace, making her promise never to tell a soul: she is pregnant.

Fast forward to Lady Mary’s son Conrad in England suffering a shameful mental breakdown following a broken marriage promise. Having recovered, he meets a beautiful newcomer from Ireland and falls in love: it is of course Irene. The story revolves around Irene and Conrad’s deep love and planned marriage; Lady Mary’s outraged hostility to it and the return from India of Irene’s old lover demanding marriage with her.

Lots of interesting themes, but spoilt by a rushed unsatisfactory finale – not surprising after 80 or so novels, but a pity!

I would give the performance a minus score as she ruins the text, but 1 is the lowest I can give.

  • Step by Step

  • The Life in My Journeys
  • By: Simon Reeve
  • Narrated by: Simon Reeve
  • Length: 10 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 469
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 434
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 433

TV documentary maker Simon Reeve has dodged bullets on frontlines, hunted with the Bushmen of the Kalahari, dived with manta rays, seals and sharks, survived malaria, walked through minefields, tracked lions on foot, been taught to fish by the President of Moldova, and detained for spying by the KGB. After a decade spent making more than 80 programmes he has become a familiar face on British TV, well known for his extraordinary journeys across jungles, deserts, mountains and oceans, and to some of the most beautiful, dangerous and remote regions of the world. But what most people don't know is that Simon's own journey started in a rough area of Acton, West London where he was brought up and left school with no qualifications.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Couldn’t put it down!

  • By McStick on 18-09-18

Adventure with purpose

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-01-19

Straight, honest, warm, insightful, exuberant - what a brilliant book this is! It’s read by Simon Reeve himself, his voice so familiar from all his excellent investigative adventure travel television programmes.

A memoir as well as a travelogue, Step by Step presents his childhood in Acton which was not one you’d expect a courageous traveller to emerge from. School was nothing much and he left without qualifications; his adolescence was deeply troubled and some of his acts of vandalism and out of control behaviour are truly shocking; dogged by depression he came within moments of suicide. I feel for both adolescent Simon but also for his parents who must have suffered years of worry. It was the therapist who told him to take his life ‘step by step’, advice he took to heart.

It was a chain of luck and pluck that got him onto the Sunday Times as a post boy and from there he started writing travel articles. At last absorbed by a passionate interest, he researched the bombs used in the attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993 and wrote the prophetic The New Jackals. After 9/11 and he was feted as the world specialist on Islamic terrorism and The New Jackals which had all but disappeared became New York best seller. Never in his wildest dreams as he drove round Acton in his granny’s adapted car (apart from his BMX bike his only childhood adventures) could Simon have imagined such a life path!

His brilliant travel adventures – ‘adventures with purpose’ he calls them – followed. His engaging amazement and wonderment never leaves him as he travels world wide – not merely observing but getting right in with the people (often requiring sharing prodigious amounts of local alcohol and food. Fancy barbecued rat?) to learn what life is really like. Abject poverty (Somalia, the ‘Stans’) and ruination of the environment (the draining of the Aral Sea) can leave him in tears of despair and sorrow as he draws the listener into places where most people will probably never go. He’s faced terrifying dangers (a stand-off in Mogadishu between his minders and a local gang, both groups armed with anti-aircraft guns).

Above all Simon is totally unpretentious and hugely generous in his investigations, his empathy and zeal, his determination to learn and experience more and more bursting from him and never failing to bind the listener. Even his camera crew are repeatedly appreciated for their work lugging camera equipment as heavy as a fat Labrador through rough terrain, sweltering heat or bitter cold.

Just great!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful