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Well written, but longer than it needed to be

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

Reviewed: 04-04-18

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Depends. While undeniably cleverly and well written, I personally found it just a bit too wordy and drawn out – a case of 'why use 10 words when you can use 100'. I just found it a bit too slow and overly descriptive to the point where I probably won't read any more Kasasian. The descriptive detail was excessive – I don't really need to know that Grice stirred his tea; I certainly don't really need to know how he did it. Grice's relentless unpleasantness and implausible observations became very wearisome very early on; not even Sherlock Holmes tries to be that clever. I also found the ending so unnecessarily complex that it felt a bit too much as if the author was just on a mission to show how clever they were rather than provide a convincing or entertaining finale. In short, I got bored.

Would you recommend The Secrets Of Gaslight Lane to your friends? Why or why not?

You already asked this, above.

If this book were a film would you go see it?

Probably.

Any additional comments?

It's a good book, it's just too long and complex and wordy for me, plus I found Grice to be a very unsympathetic character. May be fine if you have a long journey and can commit to it – I read it in lots of short bursts and this wasn't ideal.

Emma Gregory's performance ad narrator was excellent, by the way; and I like the cover!

You can't do better than this!

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

Reviewed: 04-04-18

If you could sum up Right Ho, Jeeves (Dramatised) in three words, what would they be?

Hilarious, brilliant, silly

What was one of the most memorable moments of Right Ho, Jeeves (Dramatised)?

I loved all of it from beginning to end.

What does Michael Hordern and Richard Briers bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Everything! These two completely make Jeeves and Wooster. If ever a man was born to play the hapless, hilarious Bertie, it's Richard Briers – this is a masterclass in comic acting and verbal dexterity. He is genuinely hilarious. And if ever a man was born to play the witheringly acerbic Jeeves, it's Michael Hordern. They make this what it is – brilliantly funny. I really hope they had as much fun working together as it sounds like they did...

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I just laughed, again and again, out loud, and very few books ever do that to me. The combination of Wodehouse's fantastically anarchic writing coupled with Briers' and Hordern's superb performances pretty much guarantee that you can't fail to find this brilliantly silly and side splittingly funny.

Any additional comments?

Wodehouse's writing was really ahead of its time in its joyous silliness and its anarchic use of language – there's something a bit Goons-y about it – just the character names have me in fits. It still feels fresh and a bit bonkers in 2018. And did I mention that Briers and Hordern are brilliant? I may have.. once or twice.

A sinister and unnerving slow burner...

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

Reviewed: 30-10-16

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I'm a big Waters fan and having read everything she's written to date, I think this may now be my favourite of her novels – definitely on a par with (and possibly surpassing) Fingermsith and The Paying Guests.There are very few characters in this darkly atmospheric story, but the bleak, crumbling house is perhaps the biggest and most fascinating.

Sarah Waters writes brilliantly about the complex intricacies of class structure and snobbery, intricately and defly interwtining this with a sinsiter and creeping 'haunting' that seems to predict the slow death of a house, a way of life, and ultimately the family itself. All of this is observed from the outside by Dr Faraday, an ambitious but frustrated man whose mother was once in service at the hall and who visited it as child and was captivated by its now faded grandeur. His attempts to help (and infiltrate?) the family form the basis of the story and everything we see and hear is through him.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The house! The Ayres are snobs, stuck in another world, and Faraday is a needy and manipulative social climber. The house is a constant and sinister presence, and without it, there would be no story.

What about Simon Vance’s performance did you like?

Everything – hence the five stars. I barely noticed it, which is a great sign. His performance enhances the story rather than distracting from it. He did very little, brilliantly, which is exactly what you want from a great narrator.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

What do you do when your home no longer wants you there?

Any additional comments?

People have complained that The Little Stranger 'isn't scary enough', that it's too long, too reptitive. I find this utterly baffling – I was completely rivetted from the first word to the last, barely switching it off, and I was scared too! The horror is subtle, mundane, domestic, disturbing – it followed me around for a long time after I'd finished listening.

The opening line strongly echoes the first line of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, and like Rebecca, the house (Hundreds) is as big a character as any of the Ayres family. Pretty much everything that happens in this story happens inside the walls of the increasingly sinister house, adding to the sense of claustrophobia and creeping dread as room after room is deemed unusable or unsafe and is shut up into darkness. Slowly, the house starts to control everything, herding the helpless family into just a few rooms, where they anxiously await the next sinister happening...

Far from being a 'just a ghost story', The Little Stranger is a fantastic commentary on the death of so many aspects of pre-war British life – a rigid class structure, unquestioned social hierarchies, the aristocracy, their homes and their privileged (and increasingly unsustainable) way of life. The book deals with the arrival of 'new money' people who are now the one people able to maintain such houses, the social isolation of professionals like Dr Faraday who sit uncomfortably (and frustratedly) between two worlds, the imminent arrival of the health service... In short, it's a book about what happens when old and new clash, and apparently unquestionable rules are broken. The deeply unsettling state of flux that results from this re-ordering stirs up strong and dangerously sinister happenings at Hundreds Hall. It's safe to say that The Little Stranger is far more than a conventional ghost story.

I'm sure this is great if you can be bothered...

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

Reviewed: 22-10-16

Would you try another book written by E M Forster or narrated by Edward Petherbridge?

Not on the strength of this. After persevering for hours, I finally admitted defeat and gave this one up with a good third of the book still left... I've never done that before. I even got to the end of Me Before You, and that was DISMAL. This isn't dismal, just really, really dull.

What was most disappointing about E M Forster’s story?

Too long, too waffley, too frightfully, frightfully middle class and ultimately, just too tedious and irritating. Entire chapters go by without anything really happening other than the two sisters pondering at length the relationships between music and art and life and love and class and money and literature and the universe and blah, blah, blah, blah... It's just one endless stream of self indulgent, navel-gazing noodling, laced with large amounts of snobbery and sexism – a very well observed commentary on the awfulness of the English class system I'm sure, but when I found myself hating all of the characters, I decided to give up. I'm now listening to a Sarah Waters book which has interesting characters and pace and a STORY, praise be! Things actually happen! The relief is immense...

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The first one, until I realised just how excriuciatingly tedious it was going to be.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Howards End?

At least half of it.

Any additional comments?

The incredibly clipped narration is perfect for this book (Edward Petherbridge could make Brian Sewell feel like a real peasant), and it's extremely good for falling asleep to....

1 person found this helpful

Perfectly perfect in every way! Can't fault it.

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

Reviewed: 09-06-16

What made the experience of listening to Tipping the Velvet the most enjoyable?

The performance by Juanita McMahon – absolutely spot on, and wholly convincing.

What other book might you compare Tipping the Velvet to, and why?

I always love Sarah Waters' writing but this was actually unlike any other of her books that I've read inasmuch that it was a lot more light hearted, and a LOT saucier! Nothing wrong with that at all, but I can imagine that it might offend someone of a delicate disposition who can't cope with 'coarse language' that sex workers and 'toms' would have used at that time. It was a real education! Who knew that tipping the velvet is Victorian street slang for... well, you'll have to read the book to find out!

Have you listened to any of Juanita McMahon’s other performances? How does this one compare?

n/a

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It wasn't a massive emotional roller coaster in the way that, say The Paying Guests was, but that was actually part of its appeal – it was a hugely engaging, undemanding romp through the secretive, seedy, often sexually exciting underbelly of 1890s London. It also gave an interesting insight into poverty and the growth of the socialist movement. It was completely convincing, thanks in part to Waters' extensive research, her convincing, perfectly paced narrative arc and McMahon's superb delivery. The perfect package.

Any additional comments?

Having endured the truly awful 'Me Before You', this has restored my jaundiced faith in literature. I'll be giving this a second listen, and buying any other Waters novels that are read by McMahon. It's almost impossible to find anything remotely critical about this, so I shan't!

Compelling, but read very, very badly

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

Reviewed: 14-05-16

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Probably not – it's the kind of fluffy romantic stuff that young women would reach on a beach.

How could the performance have been better?

The running time of this book could have been cut in half had the reader simply spoken at a normal speed – as it is, she delivers in a manner that would insult a class of 5 year olds.

This painful slowness (I actually listened at 1.5X at one point, I was so frustrated) and the indulgent, cutesy style was patronising and infuriating.With 7 hours still to go, and losing the will to carry on, I actually shouted 'JUST SPEAK NORMALLY! I'M NOT STUPID!' at her. She didn't. (Is this the same woman who does those annoying, gurgly in-store Superdrug ads too?)

She does, however, do the most hilariously awful Geordie accent I've ever heard, which made the whole interminable experience worthwhile... it starts well, and then drifts into a sort of vague generic northern. It's worth listening for this alone.

If this book were a film would you go see it?

First off, it's 'would you go AND see it' as this is Audible.co.uk

Second, far be it from me to suggest that this book was written with a film deal in mind, but when a friend asked me what this book was like, I replied 'A Richard Curtis film that hasn't been made yet'. A sort of 'Love Actually' for paraplegics, which doesn't bear thinking about. I can already see Isla Fisher in the lead role. Please, somebody save us from this. If you want to see an intelligent film about love and disability, go AND see Rust & Bone.

Any additional comments?

In defence of the reader, the writing style is pretty clunky in places too – Moyes seems to think that the upper classes don't contract words, ever, so Will says things like 'I do not want to do that, Clark' or 'I would not do that if I were you...' and as a result, he ends up sounding like a butler. Someone needs to explain to her that even toffs say 'don't' and 'wouldn't' and it came across as a very wooden device to communicate otherness.

Contrast this with the supposedly small-town Louise who says 'Let's go see this' or 'We'll go do that' – Americanisms that I suspect she wouldn't use.

Saying that, I stuck with it to the bitter end, partly because I'd paid for it (more fool me), but also because I needed to know how it ended (for one obvious reason). With some tweaks to the writing style, and being read by someone who doesn't sound like their next job is voicing a Teletubbie, it could have been much better.

I won't, however, be listening to any more Jojo Moyes – the cutesy first name should have been a clue, but please DON'T do what I did and believe all the other reviews that assure you otherwise, this is very much romantic holiday fluff that would easily fall under the banner of 'chick lit'.

2 people found this helpful

Initially promises a lot, but loses its way

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

Reviewed: 08-10-15

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The trajectory of the story. Throughout the first two thirds or so, I'd become extremely interested in the central characters, who are compellingly well described and fleshed out, and the building tension that preceded the arrival of a momentous and life changing event left me on the edge of my seat. The arrival of that event, however, is also the point at which the story (for me, at least) lost its way, and almost lost this reader.

What was most disappointing about Vanessa Lafaye’s story?

The arrival of the hurricane, which completely dominates the last part of the book. It is dragged out for so long that the language becomes repetitive (how many ways are there to express just how loud the wind is? Just how powerful the sea has become?) This is also the point at which the story becomes confusing – I reached a point where I wasn't actually sure who was where, which veteran was which, and had long since ceased to care. The scene in which some people outrun a wave, having conversations while they do so, is especially implausible and ironically seems to drag on for ages!

Have you listened to any of Adjoa Andoh’s other performances? How does this one compare?

The reader was excellent.

Did Summertime inspire you to do anything?

Nope. It did make me realise that thousands of good reviews don't always guarantee a good listen...

1 person found this helpful