E-books/audiobooks: Fiction

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 4:30pm

Cloud Atlas

by David Mitchell

(read by various)

Hodder & Stoughton


David Mitchell's genre-busting, structure-defying novel-cum-short-story collection seemed to have been a bust as a movie: reviews were mostly negative. So how does it fare as a film tie-in audiobook? It needs a host of narrators (Tim Beckman, Garrick Hagon, Jeff Harding, Steve Hodson, Regina Reagan, Liza Ross and David Thorpe) who read six stories, five of which are interrupted in the middle by their successor. The tales range from Adam Ewing's travels through the 19th-century Pacific region to a clone, Sonmi-451, in the far future, to a post-apocalyptic western. So distinctive are the voices on the page that some narrators came as a shock. I had forgotten Ewing was American until the reader's booming tones began; my favourite was the posh, earthy tones of Thomas Cavendish's comic tale of gangsters and publishing. The problem is you miss the visual innovations of the original: the Russian doll-like mixing of motifs, metaphors and stories, the exquisite sense of pleasure delayed and gratified. Still, a very good attempt to appeal to the ear as well as the eye.

The Carrier

by Sophie Hannah

Hodder & Stoughton


Two women are trapped together in a hotel room thanks to a delayed flight. They are connected by a crime: Lauren Cookson, a jittery young woman, spills that she is responsible for an innocent man being jailed for a murder he did not commit. The other woman is Gaby Struthers, who is in love with that man: Tim Breary. Coincidence or what? The plot is driven by a typically ingenious Sophie Hannah premise: Tim had confessed to killing his wife, Francine, who was in a coma following a stroke. Was it a mercy killing? Was there a darker reason? Hannah's long-running - but always marginal - detectives, Simon Waterhouse and wife Charlie Zailer, investigate, but the main action is always provided by those implicated in the crime proper and Hannah's carefully teased-out double-crosses and secrets. This complex plot demands and rewards attention, thanks to a fantastic cast and some superior, atmospheric prose: Hannah began her literary career as a poet, of all things. Thrilling.

Instructions for a Heatwave

by Maggie O'Farrell

Headline Digital


Maggie O'Farrell writes addictive, witty and emotional novels that rest easily between literary and popular fiction. Instructions for a Heatwave is set in the almost mythical London heatwave of 1976 - when the West Indies cricket team famously made England grovel. Robert Riordan, a retired bank worker, goes out to the shops to buy a newspaper and never returns. This leaves his wife, Irish-born Gretta, and three children to solve the mystery. Gretta's two adult daughters (Monica and Aoife) and one son (Peter) all return home to help hunt down their father, and unravel his life in the process. Everyone is unhappy, thanks to marital breakdowns and re-marriage (Monica), thwarted dreams (Peter) and, for Aoife, dyslexia and New York. O'Farrell's tale moves elegantly between past and present, from London to Ireland to America. Period details, whether from the 1950s or 1970s, are acutely unpicked, as are human frailties and sadness. The reveal takes time, but is wonderfully handled and moving. A terrific, memorable novel.