Our Favourite Full Cast Narrations
By Cameron Phillips and Emily De Vogele
Audiobooks are a treasure to listen to – as we’ve spent many issues discussing with you all. The true joy of an audiobook is the way the narrator brings it to life. So, it’s an even greater joy when we’re treated to not just one narrator, but an entire cast that works effortlessly to bring every character to life. In this week's issue, we wanted to share our favourites with you, in case you were in need of some full cast narrations to liven up your listening!
Without a doubt, my favourite has to be Sadie by Courtney Summers, narrated by Rebecca Soler, Fred Berman, Dan Bittner, Gabra Zackman and a handful of other voices. According to Audible, Sadie features over thirty different voices in its narration. It has won several awards for its audiobook narration and, after listening to it, it’s easy to see why.
This book had a resurgence of sorts thanks to BookTok recommendations – I’m sure you’ve seen the cover at your local bookstore, or all over your social media feeds. And I’m here to tell you that, yes, it is absolutely deserving of the hype (and to persuade you to listen to it, rather than read it, because I believe that it changes the entire story).
Sadie has never had it easy growing up: she’s had no one to rely on but herself as she navigates life, while trying to single-handedly raise her younger sister, Mattie. In their small, impoverished town, everyone knows everyone. But, one day, Mattie goes missing. The police investigation is botched and Mattie’s disappearance is soon forgotten by everyone but Sadie. Leaving everything behind, Sadie starts her own investigation to bring her sister back.
Meanwhile, West McCray, a radio host who is researching small towns in America, hears about Mattie’s disappearance. Starting his own investigation, he also sets up a podcast to follow his research into these two sisters. Seemingly always a step behind Sadie, West doesn’t let this deter him and hunts for the same man responsible for Mattie’s disappearance.
Effortlessly weaving in multiple narrators, this audiobook feels like you’re right there with Sadie and West as they find new clues or get themselves into unfavourable situations. There were several times when my heart was in my mouth as I listened, not wanting to pause my listening experience.
There was no predicting the ending, or the various twists and turns along the way. Usually, I find thrillers and mysteries boring and monotonous, but this was not. Incredibly well written, well narrated and haunting, I still think of Sadie to this day. Her story left a little something behind and I think that’s 100% due to the audiobook listening experience I had.
The BBC’s full cast of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is absolutely fantastic. Pullman’s trilogy is an intriguing take on the fantasy genre, with the blending of real-world history tangibly intertwined within his world and the narrative. From the Edwardian attire of the characters and the epic poetry of Milton, to the clear and unabashed depiction of a repressive, theocratic protagonist, Pullman’s unashamed pulling of historiography is wonderful to me (as a History MA). On this controversial topic, which Pullman’s books are often criticised for, I would look upon his depiction of religion as a criticism of dogmatism and institutional corruption, rather than that of theology and personal religion. He presents very valid criticism of these topics and they should not be shied away from. I commend him for this.
Pullman’s protagonists, Lyra and William in the main, are extremely interesting characters due to their youth. Both being twelve years old in the first entry of the series, the enormity of the world and tasks laid ahead of Lyra is made immediately apparent to the listener and reader, with the youthful innocence and naivety on full display. I think it’s a wonderful shakeup of the fantasy protagonist, one not often done well. Young protagonists can often get swallowed up in the world they come to inhabit (yes C.S. Lewis I’m looking at you), but Pullman leaves just enough restraint that allows for Lyra to dig her heels in, despite her young age.
In terms of the cast, the BBC production has a wonderfully colourful cast of voice actors including Jo Wyatt, Steven Webb, Peter England, Stephen Thorne and Douglas Blackwell, who come together to form a chorus of armoured polar bears, daemons and angels. Interestingly, Pullman himself narrates much of the work. I haven’t found many authors who have narrated their own work, so this implanted a very unique sense of passion and world knowledge. It only serves to bolster the experience. Don’t let a lukewarm TV adaptation turn you away from these books, they are a wonderful melting pot of fantasy and real-world history that is very hard to get right.