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Celebrating Debut Listens by Women Authors

By Rose Cook, Cameron Phillips and Kathryn Alley

As we celebrate March as Women’s History Month, the Audiobooks Team invites you to enjoy some of our must-listen debut audiobooks by women authors. Here you can experience listens by women who write to ensure their voices are always heard and that their stories will forever inspire. 

Rose’s Pick: Prima Facie by Suzie Miller, narrated by Jodie Comer

‘She plays by the rules, but the rules are broken’

When the one-woman play Prima Facie opened on the West End in 2022, it was lauded by critics, receiving multiple award nominations and winning Best New Play at the Olivier Awards. Now the show’s playwright Suzie Miller has adapted the script into her debut novel of the same name.

Prima Facie tells the story of Tessa Ensler, a lawyer who specialises in defending men accused of sexual assault. Motivated by her belief in the legal system and the right to a fair trial, Tessa loves nothing more than the thrill of getting her clients acquitted. Tessa is excelling in her career when she is offered a new job and nominated for a prestigious award. But then she’s sexually assaulted, and Tessa begins to realise that the rules she has followed might not be there to protect her.

The audiobook is narrated by Jodie Comer, who played Tessa in both the West End and Broadway productions, winning Best Actress at the Tony and Olivier Awards for her performance. Comer brings the skill of her live performance to the narration, creating a powerful listening experience that expresses Tessa’s fear, despair and hope. Prima Facie is a novel which must be listened to, rather than read, to fully experience and grasp its powerful message.

Kathryn’s Pick: This Impossible Brightness by Jessica Bryant Klagmann, narrated by Caroline Hewitt

Klagmann’s debut listen follows Alma as she searches for meaning in her future while grieving the mysterious loss of her fiancé. When her friends painfully affirm that she can no longer stay at home, Alma journeys to a remote island in the North Atlantic to find refuge.

The island soon becomes a surprising safe haven, offering a newfound sense of community around strangers who share a similar experience of loss and loneliness. Klagmann and Hewitt brilliantly explore this theme of loss that is both haunting and poignant for all listeners. This Impossible Brightness offers hope for anyone suffering from grief and experiencing a loss that feels like perpetual drowning. The island was Alma’s unexpected refuge, her lighthouse from an unending storm. Klagmann introduces that there is power among a community that offers hope to continue living and persevering. I thoroughly enjoyed this listen and encourage everyone to experience this moving story.

Cameron’s Pick: Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian, narrated by Brittany Pressley

Vera Kurian’s debut is something unique in that her ‘protagonist’, Chloe Sevre, is a psychopath. Serving as part of an experiment in a college campus to study psychopaths, Chloe crosses paths with Will Bachman, someone who wronged her previously; as a result, Chloe wants to murder him. 

From my own brief experience of researching psychopathy and its lack of moral self, Kurian does a brilliant job in painting this for Chloe, which is no mean feat in the sphere of literature. It’s far easier to depict on the screen than on the page, so that was fascinating. However, when another one of the students on campus is murdered, a game of cat and mouse commences, and Chloe has to race to find the killer whilst wrestling with her own longing for Will’s death. Can she trust any of her fellow psychopaths, and can she trust herself? 

This was brilliant. Chloe is a fantastically written character; she is delightfully, deliriously deranged, and yes, that is perhaps a bizarre thing to say given that she is a psychopath, yet there is a certain infectious charm that Chloe and the rest of her experimental class carry. It is bonkers, really, but that is what makes it so interesting. One thing I did find interesting about the book was the character of Charles, who despite being labelled as a psychopath, tries desperately to stop his diagnosis from controlling and shaping his actions and how others perceive him. I thought that was very compelling. Pressley does a marvellous job in making Kurian’s psychopaths readable and transparent, and you can clearly tell she is having a lot of fun narrating these characters, which makes it far more enjoyable to listen to!


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