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LIFE

e-books/audiobooks: fiction

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 10:13pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 August, 2014, 10:13pm

In Love and War
by Alex Preston
Faber and Faber
e-book

Alex Preston's first two books, This Bleeding City and The Revelations, earned him a reputation as a novelist who mixes widescreen stories with elegant prose. The title of his third novel, In Love and War, pulls no punches where ambition is concerned, and its opening comes courtesy of E.M. Forster, Norman Douglas and, more recently, Alan Hollinghurst. It is 1937. Esmond Lowndes is a promising member of a "handsome family" who is on his way to Florence in hushed-up disgrace: he is sent down from university having been "discovered" with his male lover. His early experiences in Italy are decidedly Fosterian: A Room with a View, Juliet's balcony, Filippino's St Jerome. He combines life in the Bohemian demi-monde with attempts to make amends to his fascist father. Esmond runs Radio Firenze, which broadcasts far right propaganda. At the same time, he falls in love with a culture and a woman, Ada. Preston is a real talent, who can combine history and the personal, big ideas and intimate plots. Impressive.

 

The Corinthian
by Georgette Heyer
(read by Georgina Sutton)
Naxos Audiobooks
(audiobook)

Georgette Heyer was the godmother of the historical romance. Fellow novelist Barbara Cartland allegedly stole plot lines from her Regency romances, which is either criminal or the highest form of flattery. Written during the second world war, The Corinthian is a fizzy piece of sub-Jane Austen fun with a sharp edge. Our hero is Sir Richard Wyndham, a feckless, elegant dandy whose hobbies include tying the perfect cravat and avoiding marriage with the chilly Melissa Brandon. This disappoints his mother, a forbidding bastion of convention, so he absconds, pausing only to collect Penelope "Pen" Creed - who, naturally enough, is climbing out of a window dressed as a boy. Cue a road journey, murders, robberies, jewels and a saucy love story. Georgina Sutton's warm, rather deep vocals catch Heyer's comic tones in this new download. She reads the frail Lady Aurelia Wyndham with authority, and is terrific at capturing "Pen" Creed's understated rebellion and the sing-song cadences of Heyer's writing. Most agreeable.

 

The Spring of Kasper Meier
by Ben Fergusson
(read by Leighton Pugh)
Hachette Audio
(audiobook)

The Spring of Kasper Meier, the first novel by Ben Fergusson, begins in Berlin, a city laid to waste after the second world war. It is spring 1946, and the titular Kasper Meier is surviving by dealing cigarettes, food and anything else he can get his hands on through the black market. He has earned a reputation as a fixer. So when Eva Hirsch arrives on his doorstep and asks whether he can help her find a missing British pilot, he is tempted but refuses. Black market melts into something like blackmail as Eva threatens to reveal any number of dangerous secrets about Kasper. The question of how she knows so much and why she is so keen to locate the pilot drive this excellent debut. Fergusson is a gift for Leighton Pugh's reading. He is atmospheric in description and his characters are memorable. Pugh has the sort of sombre but supple voice perfect for this serious story, the shady atmosphere of post-war Berlin and details such as "the wisp of steam curling up from the vegetable's white flesh".