In Free Weeks during recent months I have posted about how much I have gotten out of well-read audiobooks. Well-performed audiobooks have added greatly to my pleasure and cultural knowledge, for I might never have taken the time to read through many a thick tome or series when so much else has occupied my hands, (and work has been going slowly for me).
Since we were married, The Husband has tried to get me interested in several series. First was the Hobbit/ Lord of the Rings series. I had friends who were very much into it when I was younger and frankly, I just couldn’t. Along came the Peter Jackson films and with The Husband and Niece complaining about the deviations from the books, I looked into the audio versions, and loved them.
When it came to the “Narnia” books, even the movies did not do it for me. Try as the family might to get me to read the stories or watch the movies, I just didn’t get it. Yes, there were analogies to Christianity, but, well, why not just Christ, as opposed to Aslan? No, it was all lost on me.
But when I was out of excuses and out of ideas as to what to listen to next, I gave it a shot.
I found many versions on YouTube, but simply, most were not well done. Then, when I did find decent ones, I could not find a last section or chapters and was frustrated.
The Husband came to my rescue when he went, unbidden, to our local library and brought home the entire series of Narnia books on CD. I asked him if I had to get through ALL of the stories and he said, yes. We agreed that if I got through these, he’d read a series which I particularly love.
Our Tuesday Fox has mentioned the Narnia books many times, and I have discovered that they are glorious. What truly added to my pleasure was the incredible readings done in the set by Kenneth Branagh, Patrick Stewart, Lynn Redgrave , Michael York, Derek Jacobi and a couple of actors with whose work I was less familiar, but their contributions were no less impressive.
The very mass of work is great, with many CDs per ‘book’. They are in storyline chronological order, not written order. You can tell that some of the ‘first’ parts of the saga were written after some of the ‘last’. By the sheer ease of the writing, the more-ready humor, you could tell that C. S. Lewis was more comfortable with himself as his stories were accepted and loved.
After I listened, two thing happened: I ‘got’ the stories and the Christ/Aslan analogy…and I learned that I really have to stop striking bargains with people, because they never come through with their side.
I cannot find this particular Narnia audio book set as a whole, but I am still looking.
My book-budget is limited, but these readings, done by classically-trained British actors, is beyond any which I have ever experienced, and I may just indulge myself. Buying them one-by-one is pricy, to be frank. I would also love to have these, if only just to be able to share the experience with others.
If you know anyone who would like the books, or would like to hear a great reading of the stories, I could not recommend these more highly. I don’t believe that there is any way I would have read all seven books, and I would have missed so much. It was easy to keep up my end of the agreement.
I’d never have gone for The Last Battle and I probably would not have bothered with the prequel, The Magician’s Nephew. Let me tell you that this particular recording, Kenneth Branagh’s performance is worth a listen, whether you know the story by heart or have never heard of it.
I enjoyed all of the Magician’s Nephew’s story very much and all of the characters came to life, but near the end, (not to give a spoiler), one character changes drastically. I did not realize who it was reading the story until I looked afterward, but I can tell you that I was so completely impressed by the changes in the character’s attitude, the character’s voice and the manner of speech, (slowly during one or two sentences, which came across by beautifully the performance), that I cried.
These are not available on YouTube, or I’d send you there for a listen. Audio ‘plays’ are, there, with the characters voiced by different actors, but since the complete flow of the writings of the books is missing, again, it did not ‘sink in’. Stories are good, (these are great), but I enjoy the way a story is written, more than the story itself. I can’t say that I ever ‘enjoyed’ any story by Ernest Hemingway, but I have probably read everything he has written, just to ‘listen’ to him ‘talk’. Conversely, I supposed that I have missed a number of good stories because I could not get past bad writing.
However, if you have the money and inclination, I will send you to the site:
If you like good stories beautifully read, I can’t imagine any better than this series of recordings.
Love your quote, “…have to stop striking bargains with people, because they never come through with their side…” and I feel exactly that way (though not necessarily in the context of books or audio books).
I’ve never read the Narnia series, though I have nieces, who — when young girls — were totally “into” those books/stories… and tried to explain to me the appeal.
Like you, I was surrounded with people who were gaga about Hobbit and L of the R. While I was overseas and had more time on my hands, I struggled through the Hobbit. And it was a struggle for me. I think (perhaps) if I’d just picked up that book and started reading, it might have hit me slightly more favorably. But with all the build-up from all those enthusiastic fans… well, I just never saw the spark that had set all of them afire. [Note: it’s not really a genre I read anyway, so it’s quite unlikely I would have ever touched the book withOUT the hype.]
As for audio — Hmmm. It should say a lot that my first two published novels were both turned into audio and I have not yet “read” past the sample provided on the Amazon page.
Just never could identify a block of, say, 6-7 hours to sit still and LISTEN to something that I could read by myself in 3-4 hours.
HOWEVER, I had a pleasant surprise when I was given the opportunity to PROOF the audio for my novel, Ghostess and Mister Muir. The reader, Jacob Phillips, did a SUPER job on my story and I truly enjoyed the experience. I’m just now proofing another novel audio, also rendered by Jacob Phillips, and that has been another treat for me.
Though audio is still not my first choice, I know I’d love it if I were ever in circumstances where I had to be stationary for long periods — like, if I busted a toe or something.
Oh, goodness, Jeff, the only reason I do audiobooks is so that I DON’T have to sit still! I would lose my mind if I just sat there listening. I use Bluetooth headphones or earbuds (preferred; my grandson gave them to me and they are better than headphones).I do everything short of vacuuming ( a little too noisy) while listening.
As for striking bargains, it’s for all things that I should know better after so many years and trials.Unless I get someone to do their side first, no more.It has been a lifetime of disappointment…small things to large. Oh, I could tell you stories.One is almost funny, nearly 40 years later, when I struck the last bargain with my sister,(I should have known better; how many times burned there!); I may tell that one some time.
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I’m so glad you gave the series a try and that you enjoyed it. It is one of my all time favorites! In fact Wyatt and I decided this is the next series I will read to him. I can’t wait to share this with him.
Is there another series that you haven’t read yet but are now considering?
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Not really, Angie, no series. When I find a writer that I truly enjoy, I tend to go through their books/audiobooks.As I have mentioned before, as for audiobooks, I listened to all of Elisabeth Von Arnim’s, all of the Stephen King short stories I could find, and others. My grandson put me onto the Angie Sage long, huge-volume series of Septimus HEap, (which, since you like Harry Potter, you would really enjoy, as would Wyatt; they are exciting but a little gentler than Harry’s).
Right now, I am just trying to play catch-up, reading-wise. I am looking for something else to listen to, hopefully on YouTube or Librivox, so I can come and go without worrying about getting it back to the library.
Those sound like powerhouse names, and I’m sure they’re wonderful! Someday I’ll give audiobooks another try. I once got the latest Stephanie Plum book on audio from our local library because there was such a long wait list for the print books it would have been several months before I got a turn. But I made the mistake of trying to listen while sitting back with a cup of tea and my knitting. I woke up in the middle of Chapter Ten with a cup of cold tea and a bunch of tangled yarn.
Anyway, thanks for the recommendation!
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It’s kind of hit-and-miss when it comes to readings. Some on Librivox are very well-done and some not so much, since they are all volunteers, but even so, paid performers often drive me nuts with bad vocal characterization.
These are THE BEST.