Twenty years ago, I was the only person I knew who listened to audiobooks. (Actually, back then, they were called “books on tape,” as they were offered almost exclusively on cassette.)
As a working mom, I resorted to audiobooks because the only time I had to read “real” books was late at night, in bed. You can pretty much guess how that went. No matter how good the book was, after two pages I was unconscious.
Fast forward a couple decades to the CD-era, digital downloads from your library, and Audible.com. Now, so many of my friends enjoy audiobooks that we trade recommendations not just on the book itself, but on the “performance.”
A good narrator or reader can make an audiobook come to life; a bad reader can make you switch your car radio to an ABBA marathon and call that a relief.
I once tried to listen to an award-winning novel read by its author—a woman with a high, squeaky, childlike voice. I listened for 2 minutes, drove around the block, and returned that audiobook to the library.
In short: for people who enjoy audiobooks, a good reader is nearly as important as the author. That’s why going forward, The Mother Load is going to review not just books, but audiobooks.
My first review is of a book I loved–The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt—that has an equally fabulous audiobook performance by Jared O’Connell.
Let’s talk about the book itself first.
Yes, admittedly, it’s on the long side. Over 770 pages. And if someone is going to complain about this book, that’s usually where he or she will go: it could have benefitted from some pruning. I respect that criticism, but personally found the characters so fascinating, the story so full of tension, and the writing so vivid, I was drawn in from the first page and never lost interest.
The Goldfinch is the story of Theo Decker, who loses his mother in an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum and ends up in possession of a tiny, priceless painting of a goldfinch—a secret that informs his life going forward. Theo’s first-person account unfolds in New York, Las Vegas, and Amsterdam and eventually involves gangsters, drug rings, art thieves, and New York socialites. But in contrast to Life of Giants (reviewed earlier on this website), the situations never seem farcical or implausible. The main comic relief in The Goldfinch comes in the person of Theo’s Russian friend, Boris, and truly, you must read this book if for no other reason than to know Boris. 770 pages is not enough; you will actually miss him when you put the book down.
And perhaps this is where the audiobook narration by Jared O’Connell was most masterful. O’Connell’s interpretation of the character of Boris deserves its own Pulitzer. His voicing of Theo, Andy, and Hobie are also extremely well-done. O’Donnell’s women characters are not quite as distinct as his male characters, but still quite good for a one-actor-does-all audiobook. I would actually recommend the audiobook over the print–it’s that good.
So download this audiobook and enjoy—at 32.5 hours, it will provide enjoyable diversion for quite some time.
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