AudioFile - Find your next great audiobook
Get our Newsletter
blog post image
Aurelia's Audio Adventures: The Stars are Out Tonight

Asked to read a telephone book, Meryl Streep could find subtext even in the X’s. Hand her a novel and she’s la crème de la crème. That cannot be said about most celebrities who’ve narrated audiobooks. Unfortunately, mega stardom doesn’t guarantee a mega audiobook performance. So let’s celebrate three stage and screen superstars who also are able to deliver splendid listening.

The Testament of Mary

Streep can do serious, as evidenced by her performance of Colm Tóibín’s THE TESTAMENT OF MARY — a blazing commentary by the mother of Jesus on her son’s fate. She channels Mary, making the audiobook one for every faith or none. It’s a performance of a lifetime that I’ve pressed on many who weren’t sure and who came away convinced. Streep can also do funny, and her comedic timing is beautifully displayed in Nora Ephron’s fictionalized memoir, HEARTBURN. Both performances won Earphones Awards. Then there are her characterizations, vividly apparent in several narrations for children. For the kids in your life, or just for yourself, listen and savor THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, or three stories in an audio collection called RABBIT EARS STORIES BY BEATRIX POTTER. Rarely has Peter Rabbit sounded so inveterately tempted by Mr. MacGregor’s garden.

Brideshead Revisited

That brings me to another book ostensibly written for children, Roald Dahl’s JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH. It is so perfectly voiced by Jeremy Irons that I want to run around giggling hysterically. (That’s how joy affects me.) His grasp of the book, his confidence, pacing and characterizations — they simply will make you happy. Don’t wait for a kid to listen. And don’t wait to hear what Irons can do with a grown-up book. I’ll start with Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel of passion and society, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, because the long-ago BBC miniseries helped make the actor famous in America, and because Irons’s performance is so nuanced and addicting that upon finishing, I wanted to hear it again. Or how about his indelible reading of LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov? Savor every glorious word, and do let the story nudge you out of your comfort zone, as Nabokov intended. Irons won Earphones Awards for them all.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

Another BBC miniseries based on a famous novel, this time I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves, made the already famous Sir Derek Jacobi a household name in the States. Graves’s tale of ancient Rome’s internecine plots is addicting, and long, so it’s a delight to have Jacobi’s Earphones Award-winning performance of the abridgment. Skillful editing honors the original, so you can listen without guilt as often as you wish. After that, try Jacobi’s take on Roald Dahl, for he has narrated as much of the comic author’s work as Jeremy Irons (and won as many Earphones Awards). Try GEORGE’S MARVELOUS MEDICINE, perhaps, or his memoirs BOY and GOING SOLO. All display Jacobi’s gift for characterization, and pacing that is as illuminating as the finest stagecraft. Finally, Hendrik Groen’s recent marvel, THE SECRET DIARY OF HENDRIK GROEN, offers a chance to savor two masters. The author is 83 1/4, the narrator 79. The book, which takes place in a care home, is funny, furious, and uplifting. Between them, they tilt at the limitations of age and leave us smiling.

Share This
More From Audiofile
blog post image
Robin's Roundup: 5 Iconic Audiobook Series
In celebration of AudioFile's first 25 years, we collected a list of 25 Iconic Audiobooks. We asked our reviewers and editors and heard your nominations on our social platforms for
blog post image
Aurelia's Audio Adventures: Hide the Television
I was fourteen and my brother seven when my parents hid the television in the attic linen closet and told us that it was broken. It remained at the "repair shop" for two years,
blog post image
Robin's Roundup: July 28 New Audiobook Reviews
A couple of the audiobooks in this week’s new reviews have European provenance. THE SECRET DIARY OF HENDRIK GROEN:  83 1/4 Years Old  by Hendrik Groen is a Dutch bestseller
blog post image
Aurelia's Audio Adventures: Humor Is the Best Medicine
The summer before my mother died, I repainted our front porch. Neither she nor I wanted me in constant attendance. So, in between visits to her bedside, I scraped, painted, and
The latest audiobook reviews, right in your inbox.

Get our FREE Newsletter and discover a world of audiobooks.

envelope

AudioFile Newsletter

Let us recommend your next great audiobook!

No algorithms here!
We pick great audiobooks for you.
Sign up for our free newsletter with audiobook love from AudioFile editors.

If you are already with us, thank you! Just click X above.

×

Thank you for signing up.

×

Thanks!

Thank you for contacting us!

Our group will review and follow up within 72 hours.
Thanks for your interest!

Back Home ×