The eye or the ear?

I’m not really a devotee of audio books but having had Elizabeth Kostova’s long novel The Swan Thieves on my ‘to read’ shelf for over a year, and seeing the audio book was available, I thought, why not?

My experience of listening to this audio book has made me muse over the difference between reading and being read to.

I loved Elizabeth Kostova’s first book, the literary vampire novel The Historian so I expected to also love The Swan Thieves – but I didn’t. I thought the story was very slight for a lengthy book, it was painfully detailed, the main narrator, a psychologist called Marlow, was uninspiring and terribly middle-American, and the sections set in late 19th century France were unconvincing.

In Kostova’s favour is a wonderful eye for detail, an ability to construct a beautiful sentence and to write authentically about art.

In the end, having merely listened to the book, I was unsure whether my impatience and ambivalence was really about the book itself or about the reading. This particular audio book was read by five actors/readers representing the different narratorial voices in the novel. Did I really hate Marlow the character, or Marlow the actor? Were the French parts really as bad as I thought, or were the Americanised French accents what turned me off?

Ultimately I can’t unequivocally say the book was as weak as I think because I can’t ascribe it all to Kostova. It does make me think that, just as I look for a narratorial voice I like when I select a book I want to read, I should also check an audio book for a reader whose ‘take’ on the narrative is sympathetic to my own.

Eat prey love

I love it. Move over Elizabeth Gilbert!

“New York Times bestselling author Kerrelyn Sparks pens the next book in her witty Love at Stake series, in which a sexy agent finds untamed passion in a world she never knew existed.”

Now that I might read. How much better than Elizabeth’s “journey in search of three things she has been missing: pleasure, devotion and balance”.

What are they thinking?

I read and loved the YA novel A Brief History of Montmaray and a main motivation in buying the book was it’s lovely cover that captured something of a love of reading and the solitariness and yearning for freedom of teenagehood. Imagine my horror when I saw the sequel in my local bookshop – The FitzOsbornes in Exile. Okay I haven’t read this sequel yet but the cover looks like something for a non-fiction book. The post next to the girl looks like some sort of farm implement and her hunched-over pose suggests she’s exhausted (the book description says “Sophie’s dreams of making her debut in shimmering ballgowns …” hmm nothing about toiling on a farm!). The publishers have also rebadged the first book to have the same look. This effort is a bit better. At least it has our heroine looking out over the sea but it’s still not a patch on the original cover.

The same thing has happened to The Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zinks. The first cover was evocative and caught my eye and luckily the tale was as spooky as the cover. Now they have rebadged this book to be in keeping with the sequel Guardian of the Gate. These later covers are just ghastly. I refuse to read anything with a cover like that which is a pity because I’d really like to read the sequel. I’m sure the publishers are attempting to position these books in the vampire/zombie/horror teen fiction market when Zinks’ books are much better than that and have cross-over potential.