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  • The Friendly Ones

  • By: Philip Hensher
  • Narrated by: Chetan Pathak
  • Length: 22 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 11

The things history will do at the bidding of love.... On a warm Sunday afternoon, Nazia and Sharif are preparing for a family barbecue. They are in the house in Sheffield that will do for the rest of their lives. In the garden next door is a retired doctor whose four children have long since left home. When the shadow of death passes over Nazia and Sharif's party, Dr Spinster's actions are going to bring the two families together for decades to come.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Sadly disappointing

  • By AWH on 15-03-18

Flawed novel peppered with occasional good writing

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

Reviewed: 19-03-19

This is a very generous three stars for what really should be two and a bit stars. For context, I enjoyed Hensher's The Northern Clemensy tremendously but was less keen on The Emperor Waltz. This one was very frustrating, as it is really two novels in one. The first half reveals patches from the lives of the Spinster family, and is often excellent. The boy Josh's struggles with his superior, amoral cousins stands out in particular, as does the character of Blossom. The patriarch central to the story, Hillary, also leaps off the page as a three dimensional character. The same cannot be said, though, of the Belgali family next door, who most of the same second half of the novel is about. They are a collection of names with very few ideocyncracies and much of their story is historical - a description of the 1971 Bangladesh genocide perpetrated by Pakistan. I felt that the novel would have been infinitely tighter had it only focused on the Spinsters (who themselves are not entirely all totally believable) and left the neighbours alone, who you sense Hensher never truly believes in.

  • The Dust That Falls from Dreams

  • By: Louis de Bernières
  • Narrated by: Avita Jay, David Sibley
  • Length: 17 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 159
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 148
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 147

In the brief golden years of King Edward VII’s reign, Rosie McCosh and her three very different sisters are growing up in an eccentric household in Kent, with their neighbours the Pitt boys on one side and the Pendennis boys on the other. But their days of childhood adventure are shadowed by the approach of war that will engulf them on the cusp of adulthood. When the boys end up scattered along the Western Front, Rosie faces the challenges of life for those left behind.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Edwardian England painted in a romantic canvas

  • By Wras on 29-07-15

Immersive family saga

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

Reviewed: 12-01-19

A relatively gentle but long and immersive saga that follows a family from pre-first world war utopia to the war itself and its aftermath. Cynics may find it saccharine in places but I loved it.

  • The Blind Assassin

  • By: Margaret Atwood
  • Narrated by: Lorelei King
  • Length: 18 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 270
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 213
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 218

Even now, at the age of 82, Iris lives in the shadow cast by her younger sister Laura. Now poor and trying to cope with a failing body, Iris reflects on her far from exemplary life, in particular the events surrounding her sister's tragic death.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Compelling

  • By Anthony on 15-02-11

Overall good, but could have been edited

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

Reviewed: 13-12-18

I enjoyed the main story but found all of the "book within a book" element to be tedious.

  • So Much Life Left Over

  • By: Louis de Bernieres
  • Narrated by: Avita Jay, David Sibley
  • Length: 9 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 57
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 50
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 50

Rosie and Daniel have moved to Ceylon with their little daughter to start a new life at the dawn of the 1920s, attempting to put the trauma of the First World War behind them and to rekindle a marriage that gets colder every day. However, even in the lush plantation hills it is hard for them to escape the ties of home and the yearning for fulfilment that threatens their marriage. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Brilliant Novel

  • By Mark on 08-07-18

Moving tale

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

Reviewed: 17-08-18

Beautiful tale and well read. I especially enjoyed the female reader. You don't have to know the first book to enjoy this.

  • The Innocent

  • By: Ian McEwan
  • Narrated by: Steven Pacey
  • Length: 7 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 90
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 80
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 80

The setting is Berlin. Into this divided city, wrenched between East and West, between past and present; comes twenty-five-year-old Leonard Marnham, assigned to a British-American surveillance team. Though only a pawn in an international plot that is never fully revealed to him, Leonard uses his secret work to escape the bonds of his ordinary life - and to lose his unwanted innocence.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A good read with a few turns you woldnt expect.

  • By Graham on 07-05-16

Masterclass in concise writing<br />

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

Reviewed: 04-04-18

McEwan at his best. Superb, tightly written masterpiece that showcases the art of concise writing. Never using two words when one will do, McEwan tells the story of a naive Englishman fumbling his way through the world of espionage in West Germany in the fifties. Beautifully paced and tightly written.

  • Seasons in the Sun

  • The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979
  • By: Dominic Sandbrook
  • Narrated by: David Thorpe
  • Length: 41 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 183
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 155
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 155

In the early 1970s, Britain seemed to be tottering on the brink of the abyss. Under Edward Heath, the optimism of the '60s had become a distant memory. Now the headlines were dominated by strikes and blackouts, unemployment and inflation. As the world looked on in horrified fascination, Britain seemed to be tearing itself apart. And yet, amid the gloom, glittered a creativity and cultural dynamism that would influence our lives long after the nightmarish '70s had been forgotten.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Seventies in detail

  • By Francis on 12-01-13

Definitive history of UK in the 1970s

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

Reviewed: 27-03-18

Thorough but entertaining look at Ted heath, Harold wilson and Jim callaghan plus the IRA, trade unions, social history, favourite TV programmes of the time and more. Fascinating, rarely dry, sometimes humerous, and usually very fair. Not looking at it from either the right or the left and often very sympathetic to all the characters, understanding that they were mere humans with their own motivations and limitations. For me this is a definitive account of the period.

  • Hood

  • By: Emma Donoghue
  • Narrated by: Caroline Lennon
  • Length: 10 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10

For 13 years Pen and Cara have had a tumultuous relationship crammed with bickering and intimacy, recrimination and desire. When Cara dies in a car crash, Pen is left to cope with a secret widowhood. Along with that burden comes a hidden story of painful and pleasurable memories. With humour and poignancy, Hood follows Pen through the week of Cara’s death; through the paralysis of grief and the ecstasy of nostalgia to a point where mourning and making a new life melt into one.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Detailed, witty observation of human behaviour

  • By Anonymous User on 27-03-18

Detailed, witty observation of human behaviour

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

Reviewed: 27-03-18

Beautifully observed micro level analysis of human behaviour after grief. Touches upon class, regret, memories and complicated, nuanced relationships.

  • The Buried Giant

  • By: Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Narrated by: David Horovitch
  • Length: 11 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 788
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 720
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 721

The Romans have long since departed, and Britain is steadily declining into ruin. But at last the wars that once ravaged the country have ceased.The Buried Giant begins as a couple, Axl and Beatrice, set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for years. They expect to face many hazards - some strange and otherworldly - but they cannot yet foresee how their journey will reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for one another.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Hmmmm

  • By Jenny on 12-03-15

Loved Never Let Me Go and Remains but not this

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

Reviewed: 19-02-18

I loved Never Let Me Go and Remains of the Day but I couldn't get on with this. I found the quest narrative ultimately quite dull and pointless and couldn't bring myself to care about the characters. Not his finest, unfortunately.

  • Rebecca

  • By: Daphne Du Maurier
  • Narrated by: Anna Massey
  • Length: 14 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,542
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,294
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,291

Daphne du Maurier's young heroine meets the charming Maxim de Winter and despite her youth, they marry and go to Manderley, his home in Cornwall. There, the sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers and the mystery she keeps alive of his first wife Rebecca - said to have drowned at sea - threatens to overwhelm the marriage.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A classic story of love and life.

  • By John Nichols on 30-06-13

Great novel. Starts a little slow and then really

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

Reviewed: 31-12-17

Start is a little on the slow side but it becomes a real page turner with an excellent ending