Audio Books and Adaptations

Ever since I began – and finished – listening to Serial, I’ve become somewhat fond of audio-books, podcasts and adaptations.

I never much listened to them before  – other than the bookie kind of my fellow bloggers – but they’ve become a rather comforting indulgence. There is something rather soothing about being read or spoken to (without the discomfort of the person actually being there [introvert problems]).

Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Drama is a favourite, I’ve gorged on their dramas and adaptations recently. And book wise I’ve been listening to Jane Austen adaptations. Mansfield Park and Persuasion, to be specific. I had listened to an adaptation of Mansfield Park on Woman’s Hour a few months back, which I bought, and I then found a version Amanda Root was in as Fanny Price and I had to buy that as well.

Amanda Root plays, for those who do not know, Anne Elliot in BBC’s 1995 adaptation of Persuasion. It’s also my favourite Austen novel. Thus Amanda Root is holy and all I want to be. She also narrates an abridged version of Persuasion, which I am now listening to. Then I’ll probably listen to her narrating Jane Eyre…., sadly after that I will have expired her Classic narrations. Which I imagine will be a rather difficult time for me.

Of the adaptations of novels I have not read, I’ve not finished any wanting to read the novel. So, with few exceptions (I’m looking at you LotR), I won’t be buying any audio-books of novels I may someday read. I think I shall try and reserve audio-books for my most loved novels. Maybe I should buy Parade’s End next?

What are your favourite audio books or audio-adaptations?

Image is by Angie K (check out the rest of her pictures, she seems pretty awesome).

Review: Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Girl on the Train has been floating abouts the periphery of my life for a few weeks. It’s been a hit amongst fellow bloggers and I’ve heard it’s garnered success over the pond. I wasn’t planning on reading it. Anything described as the ‘next Gone Girl’ wasn’t going to excite me. Yet, Friday arrived and I felt the need for a book I could fall into for a few hours, so I bought it.

‘Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?’ GoodReads.

I feel indifferent to Girl on the Train. It wasn’t badly written or uninteresting, I liked the characters and I liked the mystery. I don’t understand the Gone Girl comparison, other than it having a twist it was a different tale altogether. Perhaps the unreliable narrators lead to them being compared.

I definitely preferred it to Gone Girl.

There is a twist to the story, you’ll probably guess it from the beginning. However, because of that twist I’m not going to discuss the plot. There is nothing worse that a spoiled twist.

The characters are wonderful, each so unlike the other. Rachel is a broken alcoholic, directionless. Megan has constantly been running from life before settling down with her husband. And then there is Anna, the coldest of the three women. Rachel struggles with her drinking as she clings to the investigation of Megan’s murder – a center for which to focus her existence.

None of these women are perfect, which gave the book its edge. Rachel, Anna and Megan each had their own issues, their own flaws. Each are ignoring the problems in their lives but distracting themselves with something else. Whether that be a child, alcohol or sex.

The characters made the story worth reading.

Moral of the story? Just because you fantasize about what people are like, based on what you see, doesn’t mean you’re right.

Have you read Girl on the Train? Did you feel the same as I did (despite enjoying it)? Or more excited?

Books That Have Taught Me About War

Being English in times of war or conquest, is a position of privilege. I don’t mean for the people who fight, but as a spectator, a citizen, War is somewhere you go to, visit, fight, wait. From my meagre knowledge of History, past conquests, I cannot think of many events where war has been brought to my country. Excluding the Blitz and acts of terrorism.

Please do correct me if I am wrong. After all, this post is on my ignorance and the literature I have encountered that have taught me more about the subject – I’m here to learn.

When war, like many other things, is separated by other countries and water, it is easy to forget about or ignore its magnitude. From the political to the personal, war resonates for those who are exposed to it.

The majority of the books I have read that are either on or about war have dealt with the personal effects, so I please do recommend me books that deal with cultural and political ramifications. Recommend me any, really.

Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford

“The beastliness of human nature is always pretty normal. We lie and betray and are wanting in imagination and deceive ourselves, always, at about the same rate. In peace and war! But, somewhere in that view there are enormous bodies of men….. If you got a still more extended range of view over this whole front you’d have still more enormous bodies of men. Seven to ten million… All moving towards places towards which they desperately don’t want to go. Desperately! Everyone of them is desperately afraid. But they go on. An immense blind will forces them in the effort to consummate the one decent action that humanity has to its credit in the whole record of history; the one we are engaged in. The effort is the one certain creditable fact in all their lives…. But the other lives of all those men are dirty, potty and discreditable little affairs…. Like yours… Like mine…”

I use this passage a lot when I talk about Parade’s End, but, however many times I read it, it never loses effect.
War breaks Christopher Tietjens, it scars him. Not only the endless bombing, his stint on the front line and the death, but the waiting, the endless waiting.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Septimus’s fall into madness is brought on by his post-traumatic stress. Soldiers who returned after the first world war were not treated for these illnesses. In fact, from what I remember, soldiers were treated fairly abominably on their return to England.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

“It wasn’t that I forgot Hanna. But at a certain point the memory of her stopped accompanying me wherever I went. She stayed behind, the way a city stays behind as a train pulls out of the station. It’s there, somewhere behind you, and you could go back and make sure of it. But why should you?”

Bernhard Schlink writes about the collective sense of German guilt over the war, and how it is (or isn’t) dealt with. War is not confined to a set of dates, its repercussions reverberate.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

“And that, …is the story of our country, one invasion after another…Macedonians. Saddanians. Arabs. Mongols. Now the Soviets. But we’re like those walls up there. Battered, and nothing pretty to look at, but still standing.”

War is rarely about what is ‘right’ and is always about power.

The English Patient by Michael  Ondaatje

“Why are you not smarter? It’s only the rich who can’t afford to be smart. They’re compromised. They got locked years ago into privilege. They have to protect their belongings. No one is meaner than the rich. Trust me. But they have to follow the rules of their shitty civilised world. They declare war, they have honour, and they can’t leave. But you two. We three. We’re free.”

Maus by  Art Spiegelman

Another piece of art that has taught me how the experience of war stays with you throughout your life. On first glance, Vladek Spiegelman is a cantankerous old man, hoarding food and supplies, but he has good reason for being so thrifty when food literally means life or death.

When I began writing this post I thought I had read more (in number and diversity) than this. Can you recommend me any books that provide an insightful depiction of war?

*Quotes from GoodReads.