Reviews: E-book and audiobook fiction: Terry Pratchett, Sarah Hall, William Nicholson
The Wolf Border
by Sarah Hall
Faber and Faber
Sarah Hall is the author of four novels of atmospheric, vivid and erotic prose. Having been shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2004 for The Electric Michelangelo, she deserves to repeat the trick with the stupendous The Wolf Border. At the heart is a pack of wolves that is "re-wilded" into England's northern county, Cumbria. The instigator is Lord Pennington, a buffoonish aristocrat who hires Rachel Caine, a wolf expert living in Idaho. The job is a homecoming for Rachel, whose combative mother spent much of her life seducing the married men of her own Cumbrian village. Her death opens up the emotional terrain for Rachel's return. Hall elegantly splices the wolves' reintroduction with Rachel's own: she reconnects with her damaged brother, Lawrence; begins a tentative, if fleshly, relationship with the local vet; and negotiates the political minefield surrounding Pennington. The Wolf Border meditates on wildness and responsibility, love and fear, freedom and ownership in Hall's gorgeous prose. Utterly brilliant.
The Lovers of Amherst
by William Nicholson
(read by Katherine Mangold, Josie Dunn)
Emily Dickinson is not the first brilliant, reclusive author whose life William Nicholson has recreated. His play and film Shadowlands pried inside C.S. Lewis' most private wardrobe to see the love and sadness of his relationship with Joy Graham. The Lovers of Amherst also portrays an affair: between Dickinson's brother, Austin, and Mabel Todd (both were married). Austin had three children to Mabel's one. The headstrong, independent Mabel was also young enough to be his daughter. Nicholson has done his research, and brandishes diaries, letters and poems alongside his own speculative fiction. Like so many modern novelists, however, he feels the need to weave this into the story itself courtesy of Alice Dickinson, who is working on a screenplay of the relationship. Her collaboration-flirtation with a professor frames the challenges of rendering such mysterious matter in prose. These two intertwined narratives are read by Katherine Mangold and Josie Dunn, whose double act works well.
by Terry Pratchett
(read by Nigel Planer)
Terry Pratchett's death on March 12 ended one of the smartest and most enjoyable literary careers of recent memory. Whether writing for adults or children, in fantasy or comic mode, Pratchett made readers smile with the sheer joie de vivre of his prose, characters and imagination. I chose Mort for a simple reason: this fourth in his glorious Discworld series was where it all began for me - as a present from my dad. Mort is all about death - or rather Death, who has a starring role. The titular Mortimer is his assistant. His habit of thinking too much has made him unsuitable for most trades. But thinking too much and asking questions are exactly the sort of traits perfect for helping souls make their final journey. Death hires him at possibly the strangest careers fair ever. Nigel Planer, still known as Neil from BBC comedy The Young Ones, is the perfect Pratchett reader: intelligent and funny; his voice is mellow, supple but tinged with melancholy.
Extras: abridged and unabridged versions.