Listening in

April 27, 2005

I love books on tape, and I always like to have one in the car. There are some I can listen to over and over again, even when the book isn’t a particular favorite, but because the reader does so well. I can listen to Jim Dale read the Harry Potter books again and again. (That’s funny, because I never want to hear Jim Dale sing anything again. His vocalizing from the cast album of Barnum reminds me of Michael Crawford’s, and that isn’t a good thing, in my opinion.)

One of my favorite readers is Barbara Rosenblat, who’s recorded many of the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. She’s one of those readers who just precisely captures the way I hear the voices when I read the book, and it’s great fun to listen to her bring the cast to life. Her Amelia is just note-perfect: bossy, self-assured, impatient, funny, sly.

Now, the book I’ve currently got in the car is one that I haven’t actually read in print version, The Egyptologist, by Arthur Phillips. It might be entertaining on paper, but the audio version is… well… it’s agony. There are handful of readers on it, and one of them, who gives voice to an Australian private detective, is… well, let’s just say I can’t make it through ten CDs of it. There’s no way.

So when Kevin Melrose linked to an interview with Susanna Clarke, author of the sublime Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, I made a mental note to check the library to see if they had a copy of the audio version. And I looked up the audio version on-line. It’s read by Simon Prebble.

Simon Prebble is one of the readers on The Egyptologist. But I don’t know if he’s the one who’s hurting me with the down-under gumshoe shtick. So, has anyone out there listened to the audio version of Jonathan Strange? Is it any good? The sanity you preserve may be mine.