By Pauline Bird, Emily De Vogele and Cameron Phillips
For some, it seems like audiobooks have always been around. They often do not receive big press releases like their hardback counterparts, and their existence is something that we, as readers and listeners, can sometimes take for granted. This is exactly why we wanted to shine a light on audiobooks that have been recently released, perhaps some you may have overlooked or missed.
I’ve discussed my love of history numerous times before. And while certain historical non-fiction pieces can be challenging to read, or even listen to, some are the complete opposite. Hence my pick for this issue. The Facekmaker by Lindsey Fitzharris tells the story of Harold Gillies, often regarded as the father of modern plastic surgery.
After the First World War, soldiers returned home disfigured and broken. Gillies set up the first ‘plastic surgery’ hospital (although it wasn’t known as that back then). Fitzharris does an incredible job of making this story accessible to the average listener, you don’t need a medical degree to understand the subject and themes. We learn about the trials and tribulations of both the medical staff and the soldiers, and what they all faced in order to rebuild lives and confidence in post-war society.
Fitzharris’ clear passion for this subject in history is obvious through the careful research it required to tell these stories. The narrator, Daniel Gillies, brings to life the pioneering actions of the surgeon, giving this speechless historic figure a voice. Gillies’ narration is part of what makes this audiobook such an exciting listen; his voice keeps the story alive. Coming in at a short and sweet eight hours, this is perfect for a weekend listen or even an afternoon, depending on how brave you are!
My pick this week is Pete Doherty’s A Likely Lad, an audible memoir from Pete Doherty, guitarist and lead co-songwriter of the era defining English rock band, The Libertines. Let's get one thing out the way; addiction in any form should not be romanticised. It is destructive, and leads to the harm of the user and their loved ones, sometimes more than the user themselves. Unfortunately, Pete Doherty’s life and career has been defined by his addictions, which have overshadowed his immense talent as a singer-songwriter, who produced, with Carl Barat, some of the very best of British music.
In this memoir, narrated by Ben Elliot, Pete takes us on a candid journey of triumphs and tribulations. From his relationship with class A drugs to his famous relationship with friend and fellow band member Carl Barat, Pete never shies away from the terrible lows he sank to. It’s witty, painfully reflective but so defiant. Much like his musical and literary influences, you can tell from Pete’s writing that he is a fan of poetry, alongside French and English literature, which I absolutely love. It’s very subtle, but it’s there.
In another life, Pete could have ended up in The 27 Club, but fortunately for him and his fans, he survived it and lives to tell his tale. Pete’s legacy is a tale of being Britain’s ‘last great rockstar,’ but this is more a legacy of his place in the British music canon, one that is highly deserved.
Many adults, when choosing a book for a child, often select a favourite from their own childhood. Perhaps this is why books by Roald Dahl remain bestsellers today, despite being written in the middle of last century. But with accusations mounting that much of his work is sexist, ableist and racist, is there a place for these childhood classics in the repertoire of recommended books for the 21st century child?
After listening to the new audiobook interpretation of my favourite Roald Dahl story, The Witches, I would argue that this book has stood the test of time and would most definitely recommend this to young listeners. It is terrifying and exciting, and had me hooked from the beginning. Lolly Adefope’s Grand High Witch is deliciously horrid and is sure to both delight and repulse in equal measures.
I believe that banning books is never the answer, but adults should have a conversation with children if they find that certain representations in the texts need to be explored further. For example, in The Witches, I reassured my children that they should not be scared of people who are visually different. The witches in this version are represented as non-human, however intertextuality might mean that children believe the witches to be human females, so this clarification with a trusted adult is important.
Listening to stories such as The Witches can help ignite a love of storytelling for a whole new generation of children. That, I believe, is wonderful and the power of books should never be underestimated.