12 October 2015

Sound Recommendations: An Eclectic Trio

The Lost Landscape by Joyce Carol OatesIn The Lost Landscape, a series of interlinked essays, Joyce Carol Oates recalls her family, childhood, and youth and the pivotal events that influenced her worldview and development as an author. Many pieces are set in rural upstate New York, where Oates grew up, revealing not only the charm of such a life (Oates attended a one-room elementary school) but the ugly side as well (such as a neighbor's abusive father). The essays embrace a broad emotional range, including the wonderment at obtaining her first library card, the almost unbearable stress of graduate school, and the devastation of losing a parent. Narrator Cassandra Campbell puts in a near-flawless performance, creating an intimacy between the listener and Oates's carefully crafted prose. Although I'm sure The Lost Landscape is wonderful in print, I highly recommend reading it with your ears. (Ecco, 2015, ISBN: 9780062408679)

The Girl form the Garden by Parnaz ForoutanThe Girl from the Garden by Parnaz Foroutan is a multilayered novel about three generations of women in a well-to-do Jewish Iranian family living in Karmanshah in the early twentieth century. The story focuses on the interplay of family dynamics, cultural and religious expectations, and the women's personalities and dreams. The primary drama involves power struggles within the household and the women's conflicted feelings about fulfilling (or not) their duties to their husbands and to God. With its beautiful descriptions of a bygone era and its additional themes of jealousy, motherhood, fertility, self-identity, and independence (or lack thereof), Foroutan's thought-provoking novel would be a terrific book club selection. Narrator Lameece Issaq's animated performance and native-sounding accents enrich the novel; however, periodic unexpected pauses pull the listener out of the story. (Ecco, 2015, ISBN: 9780062388384)

A Paris Affair by Tatiana De RosnayThe stories collected in Tatiana de Rosnay's A Paris Affair are linked only by theme: Each is set in Paris and explores marriage, cheating, and getting caught. The affairs and their ramifications run the gamut of emotions, such as revenge, anger, humor, pragmatism, remorse, and surprise. The bulk of the stories are told from a woman's perspective, and the collection explores both sides; sometimes the protagonist is the cheater and sometimes he or she is the victim. Despite the focus on adultery, the collection is entertaining, although some of the pieces seemed slightly underdeveloped and even predictable. Polly Stone is the primary narrator for the audiobook. Her French accents are spot-on, and she nicely captures the characters' personalities. Simon Vance reads the few stories told from a male viewpoint, and his performance projects the mood and pace of de Rosnay's prose. (St. Martin's, 2015, ISBN: 9781250068804)

Note: The original versions of these reviews--which specifically address the narrators' performances--can be found on the AudioFile magazine website. Reworked and posted with permission.


(Diane) bookchickdi 10/12/15, 7:29 AM  

The Joyce Carol Oates book sounds terrific. I had a long chat with a customer the other day who is a big Oates fan, she would love this.

Daryl 10/12/15, 8:37 AM  

interesting sounding books ... tho i am not a short story person these sound intriguing ... i finished Jojo Moyes After You which was almost as wonderful as Me Before You ....

rhonda 10/12/15, 8:37 AM  

I'm about to start the Joyce Carol Oates book your review made me even more interested.Inreadv Her first memoir about her marriage&widowhood a really interesting look at her adult life.

bermudaonion 10/12/15, 9:39 AM  

The Lost Landscape sounds like my kind of book.

rhapsodyinbooks 10/12/15, 12:12 PM  

I can't believe I have yet to listen to a book by Cassandra Campbell! I can't wait till I come upon one...

Unknown 10/12/15, 1:35 PM  

You say The Girl From the Garden is a good book club book. What do you think makes a good book club book?

Beth F 10/12/15, 1:37 PM  

@ Sally Whitney: lots of things to talk about -- multi-themed & multi-layered. Controversial characters ... I don't know.

JoAnn 10/12/15, 2:50 PM  

The Lost Landscape sounds wonderful!!

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