E-books/audiobooks: fiction

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 December, 2014, 12:10am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 December, 2014, 12:10am

Miracle on 34th Street
by Various
Jonathan Cape

There was a time when radio could attract the cast of a successful movie to re-record a screenplay for audio broadcast. So it was with the Lux Radio Theatre, who lured Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood, in an early role as the young girl desperate to believe in the embodiment of the Christmas spirit. This is, of course, Kris Kringle, beautifully reprised by Gwenn, the Santa Claus to end all Santa Clauses. Kringle believes he really is Father Christmas. And when his star turn at Macy's flagship store in Manhattan proves too successful for its rivals, doubts are raised about his sanity. Cue Fred Gailey, played with great charm by James Stewart-alike John Payne. A lawyer by trade, he goes about the seemingly impossible task of proving that Kringle is exactly who he says he is. His motives are humanitarian (he is won over by Kringle's simple faith) and also romantic (he wants to melt the heart of Macy's special events director Doris Walker, played with glacial authority by O'Hara). The dramatisation works well, carried along by familiarity and charm. You even get an advert. It is Christmas…


A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
(read by John Gielgud)
Random House

There may be more versions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol than almost any other text, with the possible exception of Hamlet. John Gielgud knew a thing or two about playing the latter, and he launches into Dickens' fable about miserliness and redemption with surprising cheerfulness. His bright and breezy take on "Marley was dead: to begin with" contrasts with the stately chill that defines most openings. This levity catches the narrator's initially amused tone as he details the deadness of ironmongery before zooming into the life and opinions of Ebenezer Scrooge. The frosty mood seems to get to Sir John who can be heard sniffing as he recalls how Scrooge "iced his office in the dogdays; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas". Gielgud's light, fluting voice suits the First Ghost of Christmas Past, but deepens as the mood darkens. Gielgud catches Scrooge's shaming nicely, but is at his best when recounting his salvation through humility and Christmas presents. A fine, festive rendering.


The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
by Arthur C. Doyle
(read by E. Hardwicke)
AudioGO (audiobook)

Sherlock Holmes' rationality may not, on first glance, seem the ideal accompaniment for the agreeable derangements of the holiday season. But in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle Holmes pits his wits against that most devilish of criminal masterminds - a Christmas goose, plucked, stuffed and ready for eating. Originally published in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, it begins with Holmes considering why the bird wound up on his doorstep along with a battered hat. The answer presents itself when Inspector Peterson, who took the abandoned roast home, returns with a priceless jewel - the titular Blue Carbuncle - that his wife found in the throat. It belongs to the Countess of Morcar, and while Holmes has essentially resolved the case he has not solved it. This leads him to the bird markets of Brixton and Covent Garden, and some of the countess' staff members. Edward Hardwicke's mellifluous voice is nicely suited to the uplifting denouement when the Christmas spirit gets the better of Holmes. Elementary, my dear Santa.