Pondering the Audio Book

Last month, I had two very long road trips where I was going to be by myself for about ten hours a day (the occasion was that I was taking my girl dog to a kennel to be bred). I thought I’d take out an Audible subscription and buy some books for the journey.

Bonnie, my Toy Manchester

I let my choices of book be dictated by an exam I was about to grade for the UK, and first on the list was P D James’ Children of Men.

This is a dystopia novel along the lines of Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, where human fertility has failed and no children are being born. It was one of eight set texts that formed the background for a unit about dystopias. Other choices in the unit included 1984, The Road, Brave New World, and The Wasp Factory.

I won’t say too much more about the book in this post (a more detailed one is planned to accompany a live discussion of it on Facebook in September), but I mention it here because I thought the book really suffered from reading it in audible form.

Initially, I thought the narrator had a pleasant voice, but the more I listened to him, the more he had a way of sounding really overly posh, self-important, even conceited. Smarmy, maybe. Oily.

Toward the latter third of the book, there were more characters for him to voice, and these weren’t done consistently, and foreign accents were abysmal.

To the credit of the author, P D James, she wrote a book that compelled me to carry on despite the grating voice coming out of my car’s speakers – partly because I’d thought of a very clever twist and wanted to see if I was right, and partly because the setting for the final section was a real woodland near my UK home.


Wychwood Forest at Cornbury Park, near Oxford in England


In the end, was my long, slow slog to the climax worth it? Well, in terms of my dog’s getting bred, the answer would seem to be yes: she’s due to have puppies in September. In terms of the enjoyment of the book? Maybe not so much, and that’s almost entirely due to the actor who read the book aloud on my Audible copy.

How about you? Ever had an audio book that was made worse by the audio, or perhaps, better?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *