Eighty Days Yellow; The Lighthouse; Anna Karenina
James Kidd: e- and audiobook reviews for September 2
Eighty Days Yellow
by Vina Jackson
Where, oh where to begin? The rip-off title? The now de rigueur "If you loved 50 Shades" sticker on the front? The suspiciously exotic name: Vina Jackson? It can't be real, can it? Actually it isn't. "Vina Jackson" is a collaboration between two anonymous authors. With lines such as "Fortunately Darren was a tidy lover and had left no stains either on me or the dress" I would want to be anonymous too. Following hot on the heels of various shades of Fifty come the imitators who make you long for E.L. James' stiff prose. Eighty Days Yellow rips off James quicker than a dress worn by Jackson's lissome heroine, Summer Zahova. Summer is a wild, redheaded violinist, who has a boring boyfriend (tidy lover, Darren) and the need for a new violin. Enter Dominik, a college professor who has wanted to fiddle with Summer ever since he saw her busking. He'll give her a violin if she bows to his will. It seems churlish to complain about additions to a genre that is so flagrantly and enjoyably unoriginal. But enough, already.
by Alison Moore
As part of my increasingly desperate attempt to keep up with this year's Man Booker longlist, I picked up The Lighthouse by Alison Moore. Her prose ripples pleasantly with melancholy rhythms and tones: "He looks up at the night sky, up towards the waxing moon, inhaling deeply through his nose as if he can catch its scent in the wind, as if he can feel its pull." The "he" is Futh, who occupies about 50 per cent of Moore's narrative attention. The novel starts in blustery fashion on a ferry. Futh is sailing towards Germany and a restorative walking tour along the Rhine, and away from a personal crisis: he has recently separated from his wife. As Futh treads through Germany, he ponders, Proust-like, on his divorced parents, a strange childhood friendship and a model of a lighthouse he carries everywhere. This is the only gift he has from his mother. The Lighthouse has a clipped descriptive precision that fleshes out a subtle, if modish sadness. The novel has a chance to make the shortlist.
by Leo Tolstoy
(read by Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman)
Who should narrate an audiobook of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina - soon to be a movie starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law? The answer is tricky because the narrator's gender could go either way. Of course, you could choose a newly released BBC dramatisation, starring Toby Stephens and Teresa Gallagher, which at three hours, 30 minutes is almost two days shorter than most unabridged readings. But out of sheer curiosity I downloaded this 25-minute (yes, minute) version starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman. The crackle suggests its age (1944), the melodramatic music its origins in Hollywood schmaltz. This mood is enhanced by the softly spoken but lilting dialogue. Bergman is excellent, if over the top, and rather better than Gallagher's cut-glass English tones for the BBC. But Peck's hurried - and inescapably American - Count Vronsky sounds as if he is rehearsing for an Am-Dram production. Listen for curiosity value, but buy the BBC for consistent excellence.