LISTENER

bookylady

  • 90
  • reviews
  • 465
  • helpful votes
  • 112
  • ratings
  • A Far Cry from Kensington

  • By: Muriel Spark
  • Narrated by: Juliet Stevenson
  • Length: 6 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 288
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 265
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 264

First published in 1988 and described by Ali Smith as 'one of Muriel Spark's most liberating, and meditative novels' - A Far Cry from Kensington shows Muriel Spark at the mature height of her powers.The narrator is one Mrs. Hawkins. She writes from Italy, a far cry from Kensington indeed, taking us back to her threadbare years in postwar London. As a young, rather fat war-widow she spent her days working for a crazy, almost bankrupt publisher; and her nights offering advice from her boarding-house in South Kensington.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • some writer some narrator good story.

  • By Amazon Customer on 16-04-18

What a Treat.

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

Reviewed: 08-01-19

I really loved this book, for all sorts of reasons. Muriel Spark's tale of a widow in her late twenties making her way in the world of 1950s publishing and living in a Kensington boarding house is an absolute gem.

Mrs.Hawkins, the main protagonist, looks back on her life during this period from a vantage point some years afterwards and from a place that is a 'far cry from Kensington'.She gives advice on life, love, weight loss and work to various people, whether it is sought or not and conducts a mildly adversarial campaign against an aspiring but untalented author. The latter takes up with a well-known lady author and also with one of Mrs.Hawkins' fellow boarders in an attempt to discredit and damage Mrs H. His actions end in tragedy.

This is a charming story which is both poignant and humorous. The details of life in 1950s London were engaging, as were the characters. l loved every minute of it.

Juliet Stevenson was an excellent narrator overall. There were a slightly dodgy Scottish accent at one stage but it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book.

  • Offshore

  • By: Penelope Fitzgerald, Alan Hollinghurst - introduction
  • Narrated by: Jot Davies, Alan Hollinghurst, Stephanie Racine
  • Length: 5 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 18
  • Performance
    2.5 out of 5 stars 16
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 16

On Battersea Reach, a mixed bag of the temporarily lost and the patently eccentric live on houseboats, rising and falling with the tide of the Thames. There is good-natured Maurice, by occupation a male prostitute, by chance a receiver of stolen goods. And Richard, an ex-navy man whose boat, much like its owner, dominates the Reach.

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Puffing insincerity

  • By Struweltiger on 31-05-17

An accomplished story, spoiled by the narration.

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

Reviewed: 03-01-19

I would have expected a polished style of narration, for this book, a voice full of character and gravitas, given that this novel won the Booker Prize. Sadly the narration, for me, sadly let down the great quality of writing.
The cast of characters in this wonderful story was varied and the narrative drew me into a world of outsiders living a bohemian life on Thames barges. It's a charming, poignant tale which has moments of humour and real sadness.
Overall, a little disappointing. A different voice and style of narration could have made it great.

  • Heads You Win

  • By: Jeffrey Archer
  • Narrated by: Richard Armitage
  • Length: 15 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 349
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 322
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 322

Heads You Win is the incredible and thrilling novel by the master storyteller and best-selling author of the Clifton Chronicles and Kane and Abel, Jeffrey Archer. Leningrad, Russia, 1968. Alexander Karpenko is no ordinary child, and from an early age, it is clear he is destined to lead his countrymen. But when his father is assassinated by the KGB for defying the state, he and his mother will have to escape from Russia if they hope to survive.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Great story. You’ll need a note book.

  • By Sarah on 10-11-18

A terrific tale, beautifully narrated.

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

Reviewed: 29-12-18

My first Jeffrey Archer book and it certainly won't be my last. I became totally engrossed in the tale of a mother and son who escaped St.Petersburg during the communist era and made their way to a new life in the west.

During the journey a choice had to be made and that became the basis for a terrific plot device. What kind of life would ensue depending on the choice they made?

There is an extensive cast of characters within a cleverly constructed and convoluted plot and Richard Armitage inhabits each character wonderfully well, giving each one a unique voice and temperament.

The very last word of the book gives away another plot device, one which I had guessed quite late in the narrative and which I thought was brave on the part of the author.

A truly satisfying experience.

  • The Murderer's Son

  • A Jackman and Evans Thriller
  • By: Joy Ellis
  • Narrated by: Richard Armitage
  • Length: 9 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 930
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 861
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 851

Crimebusting duo DI Jackman and DS Evans are back, solving another crime that will make your skin crawl. Twenty years ago: a farmer and his wife are cut to pieces by a ruthless serial killer. Now: a woman is viciously stabbed to death in the upmarket kitchen of her beautiful house on the edge of the marshes. Then a man called Daniel Kinder walks into Saltern police station and confesses to the murder. But DI Rowan Jackman and DS Marie Evans of the Fenland Constabulary soon discover that there is a lot more to Daniel than meets the eye.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • No Sitting On The Fens About This One!

  • By Simon on 17-10-18

Great Story

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

Reviewed: 13-11-18

I loved the first Jackman and Evans thriller and this one lived up to my expectations of a great read. There were one or two moments where I had to suspend my disbelief but, otherwise, I thought this was a tightly plotted narrative with wonderful characters and a satisfying number of twists and turns. I did guess the identity of the killer but very late in the plot.
Richard Armitage's narration was a real bonus. His mellow voice drew me into the story and kept me listening to it in big chunks.
Can't wait for the third story in the series.

  • The Heart's Invisible Furies

  • By: John Boyne
  • Narrated by: Stephen Hogan
  • Length: 21 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 2,316
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 2,171
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 2,172

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery, or at least that's what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn't a real Avery, then who is he? Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Phenomenal

  • By Kerri on 19-02-17

A 6 star novel, 5 isn't enough. Loved it.

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

Reviewed: 17-10-18

This novel had just about everythng for me - wonderful characters; a well-plotted narrative; a great narrator;some social and political history; different viewpoints on a difficult subject (homosexuality in Ireland from the 1940s onwards, marriage and the Catholic church;) conflict; twists and turns; humour; some redemption for major characters; resolution of mysteries for others. And then, a satisfying ending with lots of threads tied up but nothing sugary sweet or implausible.

All in all, a terrific, deeply satisfying novel. But what else would I expect from John Boyne, a master storyteller.

  • In a Free State

  • By: V. S. Naipaul
  • Narrated by: Vikas Adam, Neil Shah, Simon Vance
  • Length: 9 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    2.5 out of 5 stars 7
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 7
  • Story
    2.5 out of 5 stars 7

On a road trip through Africa, two English people - Bobby, a civil servant with a guilty appetite for African boys; and Linda, a supercilious "compound wife" - are driving back to their enclave after a stay in the capital. But in between lies the landscape of an unnamed country whose squalor and ethnic bloodletting suggest Idi Amin's Uganda. And the farther Naipaul's protagonists travel into it, the more they find themselves crossing the line that separates privileged outsiders from horrified victims. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Masterful storytelling

  • By bookylady on 04-10-18

Masterful storytelling

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

Reviewed: 04-10-18

This is a wonderful book. It is really a novella plus a set of shorter stories, each of which deals with some aspect of immigration or expatriate life. The novella is set in post-colonial Africa and describes a car journey taken by two Brits from the capital city back to their compound in the African countryside. Their privileged lives and their sarcastic, racist, arrogant attitudes towards African people (the word savages is,shockingly, used) are portrayed in wonderful prose.

The story is shocking in its content and language; some of this is due to the fact that it was written in1971 when attitudes were different. But the novel is as relevant today as it was back then; the world has not moved on, in some respects.

The other stories concern immigration, the dislocation that can be experienced when living in a different culture and the kind of rampant bullying and discrimination that immigrants can experience.

Overall, a thought-provoking book that has made me think hard about a lot of things.

  • Anatomy of a Scandal

  • By: Sarah Vaughan
  • Narrated by: Julie Teal, Luke Thompson, Esther Wane, and others
  • Length: 10 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,091
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,008
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,005

You want to believe your husband. She wants to destroy him. Gripping psychological drama for fans of Apple Tree Yard, The Good Wife and Notes on a Scandal. Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Tense, engrossing and very topical

  • By Kaggy on 06-02-18

I couldn't stop listening. Really, really good.

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

Reviewed: 23-09-18

A fantastic courtroom drama, interspersed with the back stories of the main characters. A great plot, superbly told in a narrative that just keeps driving on towards a very satisfying end. There was a twist at the end which was a good one, but I figured out that there had to be one due to repeated references to a 'favour owed' during the story. This spoiled the outcome just a little, hence only 4* for the storyline, not 5*.

The story covers many themes including privilege, class, bullying,politics, greed, the nature of truth, rape, justice, revenge, personal trauma. The main characters meet at Oxford University and when about twenty years later one of them, a government junior minister, is accused of rape by a colleague the ensuing court case uncovers a web of deceit, dubious behaviour, manipulative interpretation of facts by barristers and failures in relationships.

A great read and one which I really enjoyed, reading it in three large chunks because I found it hard to turn it off! All of the narrators were good and made their characters believable.

  • Warlight

  • By: Michael Ondaatje
  • Narrated by: George Blagden
  • Length: 7 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 105
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 100
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 100

London, 1945. The capital is still reeling from the war. Fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister Rachel are abandoned by their parents who leave the country on business, and are left in the dubious care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. Nathaniel is introduced to The Moth’s band of criminal misfits and is caught up in a series of teenage misadventures, from smuggling greyhounds for illegal dog racing to lovers’ trysts in abandoned buildings at night. But is this eccentric crew really what and who they claim to be? And most importantly, what happened to Nathaniel’s mother? 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Loved every minute.

  • By bookylady on 10-09-18

Loved every minute.

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

Reviewed: 10-09-18

From the first page to the last, I found this to be a great novel to listen to. The narrator's voice was just perfect for this tale of skullduggery and espionage during and after WW2. The cast of characters was both entertaining and intriguing and the historical details were well-researched and often unusual.
A war story with a difference and a really nice, satisfying twist at the end. Utterly believable.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Sealwoman's Gift

  • By: Sally Magnusson
  • Narrated by: Katherine Manners
  • Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 162
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 147
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 146

In 1627 Barbary pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted some 400 of its people, including 250 from a tiny island off the mainland. Among the captives sold into slavery in Algiers were the island pastor, his wife and their three children. Although the raid itself is well documented, little is known about what happened to the women and children afterwards. It was a time when women everywhere were largely silent.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Iceland versus north Africa!

  • By Bookaholic on 14-03-18

An Icelandic Saga Under African Skies

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

Reviewed: 01-09-18

What a lovely book. A historical novel with a difference and beautifully read.

I really loved it, believed in all of the characters and felt I'd experienced the harshness of life in Iceland, the horrors of capture and transportation and the misery of slavery.

Throughout the novel, the importance of storytelling to humanity was emphasised and the feisty and resilient heroine, Asta, survived her ordeal and eventual return to Iceland partly because of the Icelandic sagas she had clung to throughout her life.

This is well worth listening to. I would describe it as a slow-burner, but stick with it; it is a satisfying read.

  • The Man from St Petersburg

  • By: Ken Follett
  • Narrated by: Richard Armitage
  • Length: 12 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 196
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 182
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 183

It is just before the outbreak of World War I, and Britain must enlist the aid of Russia. Czar Nicholas' nephew is to visit London for secret naval talks with Lord Walden, who has lived in Russia and has a Russian wife, Lydia. But there are other people who are interested in the arrival of Prince Alexei: the Waldens' only daughter, Charlotte - wilful, idealistic, and with an awakening social conscience; Basil Thompson, head of the Special Branch; and, above all, Feliks Kschessinky, the ruthless Russian anarchist. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Read! Great Reader!

  • By JD on 23-08-18

What a Great Story

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

Reviewed: 01-09-18

I rattled through this story and found it hugely enjoyable and entertaining. I suspect that Ken Follett must have done a lot of research about the events leading up to the Great War and the Suffragette and the Russian anarchist movements before setting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard.) It certainly made for an informative read.

The story is set against the backdrop of the political situation in Europe prior to the First World War and the involvement of Winston Churchill in both the political struggle of the Suffragettes and also the British government's pre-war negotiations with Tsar Nicholas. An aristocrat and ex-politician, the Earl of Walden, is persuaded by Churchill to negotiate with the Tsar's favourite nephew Alexei in order to achieve an Anglo-French-Russian alliance against the re-arming German government. The Earl's wife, Lydia, is Russian and the Tsar's nephew also happens to be her cousin, so all seems set fair for an uneventful negotiation.

But Lydia has a secret past which is unknown to the Earl and their spirited daughter Charlotte develops a keen interest in Votes for Women and social justice when she witnesses a scandalous declaration of support for imprisoned Suffragettes during a debutante presentation ceremony at Court.

Lydia's past life in St.Petersburg comes to haunt her and the Walden family when Feliks, an anarchist sent to kill Alexei and provoke revolution in Russia, discovers her connection to the negotiations and her role in his personal and political misfortunes in the intervening years since they last met. Charlotte, in her burgeoning desire to bring about change within her privileged life and equality within society, becomes embroiled with Feliks and the scene is set for heartbreaking discoveries, fear of discovery, terrorist acts and a shocking conclusion

This was a well-plotted and beautifully characterised novel, told in a sympathetic and spell-binding voice. Richard Armitage, the narrator, has a fantastic range of voices for the male and female characters and it was deeply satisfying to sit back and listen to the story in huge chunks. Just lovely. Top marks on the narration.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful