Thursday, October 23, 2008

Listening to Anne of Green Gables

The audio edition I listened to was narrated by Kate Burton and released in June 2008. (There are other editions read by other narrators out there.)

I *love* Anne of Green Gables as most of my readers know (or are finding out). Yet I sometimes have difficulties loving audio books. It is rare for me to overcome my natural prejudices and embrace this format of a book.

It is my advice that you do yourself a favor and skip the three tracks of introduction. (Especially Intro B and Intro C.) The intro (so I'm told by the narrator) is by Margaret Atwood. It is smug and condescending and rubbish essentially. (Again, that's my personal opinion that her opinion is such.) What she says basically is that readers have to work to overcome a sense of embarrassment or shame over liking Anne of Green Gables. After all, the book is popular and beloved so it can't possibly be good and of quality and worthy of attention or praise. "It can't be good or good for you" if it is popular. Doesn't that sentiment make you want to slap her? Then she says that the sequels aren't as good as Anne of Green Gables. That they're lacking. And she has the nerve to assume that all readers agree with this assessment. That Anne of Green Gables is the sole gem. (As if!) She then proceeds to theorize that Marilla is really the heroine of the book. "The book is about Marilla becoming a good and more complete woman."

The narration. I liked it okay. I have nothing to compare it too. I found the voice to be a bit boring. Almost a lulling quality to it that you could sleep through. I always imagined Anne being more excitable and entertaining than that. I did like her narration of Matthew, however. But the other characters, well, not quite as much. Again, not that the narration is awful. It's more than acceptable. But it sounds like a bored-and-sometimes-uninspired adult being paid to read a kid's book.

Reading what I've written so sounds like I'm cranky. That I regret the ten hours (or so) I spent listening to the book over the past few weeks. That isn't the case. Some audio books have a magical feel to them. They bring something new to the text. They offer something lyrical or dramatic. They engage the reader's imagination, their attention as well. They offer through the narration their own perspective on the story and words. This one...not so much. The audio book works because L.M. Montgomery's words are magical in nature. The story is so good that the narration would really have to be bad for it to make a difference to whether or not one enjoyed it.

But there was nothing in the narration that makes me say to my readers that they should seek out the audio book instead of the actual book.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Shelley said...

This makes my not appreciate Margaret Atwood so much. How dare she?
I only listen to audio books because they help me get through the mundane aspects of life, but there is nothing like the experience of seeing the print and feeling the pages, and being able to control the "voice" you hear in your head.

1morechapter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I have no shame in loving Anne of Green Gables. The books are one of my fondest childhood memories and I must admit that I watch the movies way to much. As for audiobooks, the only time I have to listen to them is on road trips in the car, which I enjoy.

Nan said...

Oh, Becky, here's the one to listen to:

It is unabridged, no extra "junk," with the best narrator of young people's lit I've ever, ever heard, Barbara Caruso.

You may hear a clip of her voice here:

to see if you like it as much as I do. I've listened to several Anne books (more than once) from Recorded Books, and have loved them beyond words. If I lived closer and if I owned the tapes or cd, I'd pop over this morning, Becky to loan them to you!

I am a huge fan of audio books, but the narrator makes a huge difference. I just gave up a Wodehouse (my fave author in the world) book because I thought the narrator just didn't have the voices right. And the other thing I hate is when an audio company puts on music either at the beginning, or even worse all through the book. Yuck! RB is great because each narrator reads the book as it is on the page with no frills. They have tremendously talented readers who bring a book and its characters alive for me.

1morechapter said...

I deleted my previous comment because I realized the one I heard was Barbara Caruso, NOT the narrator I listed earlier. Sorry!

Barbara was great!