Last weekend, I published some thoughts about "The Borrower", an audio book I had abandoned. That non-review generated quite a few very well-expressed comments from all of my friends in blog-land. So rather than bury my reactions and additions in the comments section, I thought it appropriate to continue the discussion here.
Normally, I truly enjoy audio books but I recognize that the narrator can make or break the audio version. I'm always careful in my reviews to note whether or not I 'read' the book in print or audio format. Often I listen to a book AND read the book. My right/left brain finds it easy to go back and forth, and I find I am able to continue reading when my eyes and hands are otherwise occupied.
In this particular case, I was sent this book IN AUDIO FORMAT by the publisher with the specific expectation I would review it AS AN AUDIO. The Early Reviewer Program of LibraryThing is a wonderful program that puts books in various formats (print, ebook, and audio) into the hands of serious readers and asks only that a review be written in exchange. In fact, they did not necessarily expect a blog post, but I always post my reviews on LibraryThing and on the blog. Because I couldn't finish it, I felt obligated to write something saying that this was the case and to explain why I couldn't get through the book. I specifically said it wasn't a review. Even when I finish and review a book I don't care for, I try to say what it is that turned me off, because I recognize that each of us has different expectations, preferences, and values that will color our perception of anything we read.
That said, many of your comments have made me open to taking a look at the work in print format to see if I have a different take. If the book is supposed to be the reminiscences of an older librarian looking back on a very inappropriate behavior, then those of you who noted that made a very valid case for the audio being a dud. The narrator absolutely sounded like a 12 year old, and I think that's what gave me such a negative feeling. I never would have gotten a mature look-back from that voice.
So I'm willing to give it another look, but I think I'm going to have to let some time elapse before I will want to try to re-evaluate given my negative feelings at present. I did give the book to our children's librarian, who also likes audio books, and asked her to have a go. I did not give her any indication of how I felt, nor has she read the blog. It will be interesting to see if she has the same take.
So thanks for a good discussion, and by the way...I do think in many instances that author does have some say about who will or will not narrate. Even if they don't, shame on a publisher for not considering the appropriateness of a voice for a narration. It's a shame to spoil a good book by having the wrong person reading it. Emily Bauer's reading is clear and well inflected, but, if I hear those who read the print version correctly, her voice is the wrong voice for the story. And that is a disservice to the author and the readers.
Narration aside, I found the plot to be one that didn't draw me in either, and felt that by listening to at least 1/2 the book, the plot should have grabbed me by then. I'll reserve judgement and let you know if that feeling changes on a later re-read.
Lastly, I will say that there are books that have taken me two or even three tries before they 'clicked' with me. Three of my best all time life-time reads are in that category: Olive Kitteridge, Cutting for Stone, and Cloud Atlas all took me three reads, and a group book discussion (either online or at the local library) before I fell in love with them. I listened to and read each of them, and they remain among my favorites to this day. So there's hope for Miss Makkai. I'll let you know. In the meantime, keep those comments coming in. You make blogging fun.