E-books/audiobooks review: fiction
The Round House
by Louise Erdrich
Constable and Robinson
Louise Erdrich's superb new novel is narrated, at some remove from the events, by 13-year-old Joe Coutts. The action opens in 1988 on a Native American reservation in North Dakota. Joe and his father are quietly digging out tree saplings from the foundations of their house when the family's peace is shattered by the rape and attempted murder of Joe's mother. The pair's pursuit of justice jostles with ordinary life. Erdrich lovingly describes Joe's eccentric grandfather, or Mooshum, his exotic, sexy aunt Sonja, and his four best friends who spend a summer drinking, playing, obsessing over Star Trek and dreaming of girls. Erdrich's political intent is evident from the chilling afterword that one in three Native American women are raped, but few perpetrators are ever caught. The Round House approaches a complex, disturbing subject matter with admirable sensitivity and courage. The moving final pages linger long in the memory. A deserved winner of 2012's American National Book Award.
And When She was Good
by Laura Lippman
(read by Anne Wittman)
"Suburban Madam Dead in Apparent Suicide". Anne Wittman's bold tones bellow a phrase that, to be honest, had me hooked and slightly ashamed. I think it was the specificity of "suburban" that intrigued me: Laura Lippman is that kind of writer - addictive and precise. That headline is read by Heloise while queuing at a Starbucks near her son's school. Heloise may seem ordinary by day but by night she is one of the more remarkable madams in the western hemisphere. Hence her interest in her dead colleague. Having protected her secret identity for many years, Heloise is suddenly conscious that her veil is starting to slip. Her financial advisor is wondering where her income is coming from. More terrifying is the release of her violent ex-husband from prison. This could all be rather sleazy - even exploitative - if Lippman wasn't such an empathetic storyteller. And When She was Good is helped by Wittman's expressive tones, which mix comedy and the thriller with equal facility.
Blood and Beauty
by Sarah Dunant
(read by John Telfer)
John Telfer is one of the finest and most in-demand audiobook narrators around. Whether he's reading classics such as Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End or the tragic real-life story of German goalkeeper Robert Enke, he tailors his tone to the book at hand. For Sarah Dunant's clever but enjoyable historical romp about the powerful Italian Borgias, he has to mix intrigue in the Vatican (Pope Alexander VI was a Borgia), illicit sex (Pope Alexander had several children, including Lucrezia, and almost as many mistresses) and enough scheming to make Machiavelli faint. Telfer is possessed of a deep, sonorous voice that can absorb both Dunant's sense of grandeur (exotic, famous settings boldly described) and her sense of humour. Much of this pretty lengthy recording is taken up by the aforementioned Lucrezia who comes off rather better than her dastardly brother Cesare. This is the first of two parts, and my appetite is truly whetted.
Extras: historical reference material available on audible.com