By Cameron Phillips, Kathryn Alley, Nuria Berbel Torres and Sarunicka Satkuruparan
Welcome to a roundup of our recent listens! In this issue, we’re stepping away from genres, topics and themes and just letting you in on what we’ve enjoyed listening to. Maybe you will find your next read below…
Cameron’s Pick: Dark Souls: Beyond the Grave Volume I, Written and Narrated by Damien Mecheri and Sylvain Romieu
Now that I’m older, I’m a fairly big single-player video gamer, and games don’t come much bigger or more influential than Dark Souls. It is an absolutely brilliant experience in terms of thematic exploration, writing, world design and gameplay. Its first big breakthrough is explored in this book from top to bottom by people who are passionate about and grateful for what the game has given them.
What is so brilliant about this book is its investigation of the design process and philosophy of Hidetaka Miyazaki’s magnum opus. Dark Souls was a game that stood no chance, as it was headed by the unheard of Miyazaki, who at the time was one of the youngest game publishers in Japan. But his words and his team are essential to this book. They had a complete vision, which – through many trials and tribulations, disagreements and backward steps – resulted in one of the greatest pieces of interactive art.
It is fantastic to listen to just how much work went into the project and how a unique team in a unique situation created one of the most original games ever. Absolutely enthralling.
Kathryn’s Pick: Fault Lines by Emily Itami, Narrated by Lydia Wilson
After watching Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated Barbie, I longed for a listen that continued the film’s existential exploration of a woman’s identity and her own unique purpose in this world. I’m so happy to have found Emily Itami’s debut novel, which echoes an astounding tone of nostalgia, loss and memory.
Fault Lines is a brilliant audiobook that follows Mizuki, a Japanese housewife, who faces a piercing crossroads between the life she has always known and the life she thought she always wanted. Wilson narrates with a bittersweet tone of wit and sorrow as Itami poignantly wrestles with the cost of a mother’s desire.
Mizuki’s life at home is supposed to be everything a woman should want, and yet a part of her soul longs for something different. Itami offers a startlingly honest portrait of the female identity as Mizuki grapples with who she is, what she needs and ultimately, what she wants. Fault Lines is a beautiful story that encourages listeners to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures in life while examining the thoughtful inner workings of our souls.
Nuria’s Pick: Cat Lady by Dawn O’Porter, Narrated by Daisy Haggard
We have all heard of cat ladies – maybe even judged them or feared becoming one. They are single, often elderly women who are independent, aloof and obsessed with their cats. O’Porter uses her wit and irreverence to encourage us to look into the person and not the stereotype. What if behind the Cat Lady there’s a story worth nine lives?
We first meet Mia as the perfect wife to her husband, a doting step-mother and a successful professional. But we soon find out that behind the woman Mia presents herself as, there is another desperate to claw her way out. After a shocking life event, she is faced with a choice: should she continue her life of pretence in a society that is all too quick to judge, or should she live for herself by her own rules?
Like Kathryn, I went looking for a listen that explores women’s identity and experiences in the world after watching Barbie. This book drew me in immediately – from the title, whose negative connotations have become less scary over time, to the energy this story evokes, highlighting the importance of defying labels and living life your way.
Sarunicka’s Pick: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, Narrated by Jennifer Kim and Julian Cihi
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, is a story about two friends, Sadie and Sam, whose lives intertwine around their love of gaming. Having met as kids, they developed a friendship that now spans thirty years, and the story follows their ups and downs – from falling in and out of love to their successes and failures. Throughout it all, their one constant is video games.
If you’ve been following our issues, you will have noticed that I love a listen that centres around flawed and layered characters and stories that portray the human experience and its nuances. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is no different!
Sadie and Sam are both loveable yet infuriating. Zevin does a great job of developing all the characters and presenting so much of the human experience in a bold and multi-dimensional way. The book blends reality and virtual worlds so uniquely, with parts of the narrative taking place in a virtual open world. Jennifer Kim and Julian Cihi provide a dedicated narration to this intricate story. Ultimately, it is about identity, failure, and above all, our need to connect: to love and be loved.