Good Reading : June 2005
reviewed by felicity carter audiobooks word of mouth The Saint of Dragons Written by Jason Hightman Read by Jamie Glover (Abridged) Adaptation improves some books, like Jason Hightman’s The Saint of Dragons. imon St George is lonely lad grow- ng up at boarding chool. He thinks he’s without family or friends (where have we heard this plot idea before?) until his father pops up one day. Simon’s dad is the last dragon fighter on the planet and he’s come to teach Simon the deadly ways of the Pyrothrax. Hightman’s book is neither original nor well written, being constructed of clichés and absurd- ities, like the time that Simon and Dad pop off to a dangerous location to try to find a book of deathspells belonging to an ancestor. They start digging – and guess what! They find it immediately. While I wouldn’t recommend the book, I do recommend the audiobook, thanks to narrator Jamie Glover. His control of accent and timing is impec- cable, and his delivery adds the menace and depth that’s lacking in the book. The simple language and the repetition are fine in an audiobook, in a way that they aren’t on the written page, and it’s held together by excellent editing and atmospheric music. ★★★ HarperCollins audiobooks 2 cassettes or 1 CD: $24.95 The Enchanted Wood and The Magic Faraway Tree Written by Enid Blyton, Read by Kate Winslet Despite the fact that Enid Blyton is disapproved of these days by educators and librarians, children keep coming back for more. Her stories are simple and easy to understand, yet tap into something magical.Who wouldn’t want an enchanted wood in their back yard, like these three children and their cousin Rick do? Climb one of these trees and you’ll find whole worlds waiting to be explored and new friends to explore it with, like Silky the Fairy, Moon-Face and the Saucepan Man. And who wouldn’t want a mother who keeps produc- ing chocolate cakes for picnics, like this mother does? Kate Winslet does a lovely job of the narration. It sounds like she enjoyed doing the recording. ★★★ ABC Audio $39.95 4 CDs each: $39.95 each The Monarchy of England Volume I: The Beginnings Written by David Starkey Read by Tim Pigott-Smith David Starkey is one of England’s most successful popular historians and it’s easy to hear why. His latest historical work offers plenty of complex informa- tion in an easily digestible format, begin- ning with the decline of the Roman empire in Britain through to the rise of the Anglo-Saxon. Starkey unashamedly s England, ch comes ough loud d clear. If u’re interest- d in the topic, his is a must- have, because Starkey is using up-to- date research which sheds new light on areas like the Roman occupation of Britain.The other good thing about hearing history, rather than reading it, is that you get to find out how all those long Anglo-Saxon names with strange vowel combinations are supposed to be pronounced.Tim Pigott- Smith is a measured, convincing narrator. My only criticism is that it would have been nice to have a table of con- tents included somewhere, as it’s hard to go through four cassettes when you want to find something specific. ★★★★ HarperCollins audiobooks 4 cassettes or 4 CDs: $35.95 The Long Goodbye Written by Raymond Chandler A BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation So there’s this hard-boiled PI, Philip Marlowe, who meets Terry Lennox, an ex-pat Englishman in a bar. From the way Lennox talks about his floozy wife Sylvia, you just know there’s going to be trouble. And there is. Marlowe ends up having to help Lennox flee to Mexico, after he’s apparently killed his wife. Later, Marlowe receives a letter of gratitude plus a $5,000 bill. That’s the kind of stuff that happens to Marlowe. Next thing you know, there’s another blonde woman in his life – Eileen – whose presence helps Marlowe connect the dots and solve Sylvia’s murder. This dramatisation is wonderful. Ed Bishop perfectly captures the world- weariness of Philip Marlowe with every word, while the rest of the cast ably conjures a gallery of rogues and dames. There’s a tough core to the book, which the adaptation acknowledges, without losing any of the crackle and wit of Chandler’s dialogue. ★★★★★ BBC 2 CDs: $29.95 3 X CDs; ISBN 0642589097 MP3-Spokenword CD ISBN 0642589089 This modern classic now an audio book read with warmth and wit by Robert Menzies. Evocatively read by William McInnes with music from the original soundtrack. AVAILABLE FROM ABC SHOPS, ABC CENTRES, SELECTED RETAILERS, ONLINE AT ABCSHOP.COM.AU OR FOR HOME DELIVERY PHONE 1300 360 111. Visit us at abcaudio.com.au for information and competitions.