Voices Behind the Scenes
The performers of audio books can enhance or disparage a novel if their voice does not agree with you. Some readers have amazing multiple vocal registers: male, female, young, old.... They are able to be different characters and carry out dialogs and conversations without you realizing they are one and only.
Actress Cassandra Campbell who has worked at the Mint Theatre in N.Y. has the sharpest and most intense modulations in Michelle Moran's novel The Heretic Queen and Adriana Trigiani's novels Lucia, Lucia, The Queen of the Big Time, and Brava, Valentine.
Soft and Warm
Carrington MacDuffie's narration of The Year of Fog or No One You Know, two very emotional stories by Michelle Richmond , will move you deeply. Her voice can be compared to Orlagh Cassidy's in Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series. Orlagh was awarded Best Voice in Mystery & Suspense in 2008 for An Incomplete Revenge.
Judging the quality of a recording is of course very personal. Nonetheless, it is impossible to deny that a sleepy voice such as Janet Song's in Peony in Love by Lisa See or John Lee's in The Pearl by Steinbeck does not honor the value of the books.
There is also the annoying high pitch voice, the inconsistent one (rising and falling), the forced and artificial foreign accent....
On the other hand, some are a real delight and joy: you may shed tears of laughter listening to Rosalyn Lander's British inflections in Sophie Kinsella's novels. She adds to the humor and quick wit of the scenarios.
Also on the humorous side, Lisette Lecat offers a very charming version of Alexander McCall Smith 's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series with her South African overtones.
Indian actor Sumil Malhotra must be mentioned for his brilliant and enthralling performance of the best seller novel Cutting for Stone by A.Verghese. His accent intensifies the drama of the book.
Self Reading Authors
Some authors prefer to read themselves. However, not being professional actors they sometimes harm their own work: for example R.P Evans's in Finding Noel, an otherwise very moving story. John Grogan's monotone voice in his autobiography The Longest Trip Home renders the book irksome and it lacks the warmth and humor of the original creation. Johnny Heller was so hilarious and entertaining with Grogan's first book Marley & Me, that the contrast is drastic.
A Convenient Format: Playaways
The San Mateo County Library offers an extensive collection of books on CD. The Playaway format is getting very popular as well. A Playaway is a pocketsize device on which the whole book is recorded : you just need to put a AAA battery and plug in your earphones . You may also hook it up in your car like an iPod.
Reading is acting: an art in itself. Some actors' names, well known for their talent, may influence the choice of a patron over the book or audiobook version.
You may get spellbound by the voices, do not forget to concentrate on the road!
Photo credit: dave.kobrehel
Jocelyne C. has a forty minutes commute to get to her second job but actually enjoys it thanks to the library.