Friday, July 1, 2011

Book Review: Silksound Audio Books' Evelina

By now I am sure most of you know of my affinity for Fanny Burney's Evelina.   Some of you may even know of my fondness for audiobooks; despite my lack of reviews of them appearing here.  I have already reviewed Evelina, which only a select few publishers have released and is virtually impossible to find in a hardcover edition.  However, Silksound Books, whose tagline is, "Audiobooks read by star performers" has a most delectable version of Evelina which was as enjoyable to listen to as it was to read the first time.

Burney's premier book is written as an epistolary novel beginning with correspondence between Evelina's guardian, Mr. Villars and his friend, Lady Howard about the possibility of Evelina spending time with Lady Howard's family.  After Mr. Villars gives his consent so begins the correspondence of Evelina to him describing her various adventures in London and so forth.  Given there are multiple letter-writers in Evelina, Sourcebooks recruited a cast for the reading of the book, an unusual move for an audiobook.  And what a cast it is!  Listeners will hear none other Dame Judi Dench in the opening pages.  Her daughter, Finty Williams reads the letters of Evelina.  Geoffrey Palmer is responsible for the male authored-letters. 

One of the things that make an audiobook (both fiction and nonfiction) successful is the reader's ability to distinguish voices in quotations.  Williams narrated all of Evelina's letters but these letters are littered with the voices of the various characters she meets, which she distinguishes like a pro.  Madame Duval has the obnoxious French accent, the Captain sounds like a pompous buffoon and Sir Clement like the slimey sycophant you would expect.  I was shocked that Palmer, responsible for the male-authored letters was the same person when I heard his Mr. Villars and Sir Clement.  Mr. Villars voice was that of a lecturing old professor, easy to doze off to while he's in the middle of a lecture, while Sir Clement's sounded magically thirty years younger!  My only criticism with the narration would be that it could alter the listener's opinion of characters before they could form it themselves.  However, this is a trifle that comes with listening to any audiobook.

I enjoyed Silksounds' Evelina as a previous reader of the book and I do believe it will also appeal to those who haven't had the time to pick up the book who still would like to read it.  The talented narrators capture the feel of the book, giving voice to Burney's masterpiece.
This form of audiobook is only available in downloadable format; so you get your book instantly.  If you don't have an mp3 player, I believe you have the option of burning them onto CDs.  Evelina can be purchased here.

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