By Cameron Phillips, Nuria Berbel Torres, Kathryn Alley and Sarunicka Satkuruparan
Here at the audiobook team, we’ve been talking about how we’ve loved our recent listens, so here we are to round them up for you.
Cameron’s Pick: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Kim Cooper, Narrated by Donna Island
I recently listened to Kim Cooper’s oral history in the 33 ⅓ series on Neutral Milk Hotel’s landmark record, In The Aeroplane Over the Sea, narrated by Donna Coney Island. Singer-Songwriter Jeff Mangum’s magnum opus has become lauded in alternative and indie music history. Inspired by Eastern folk, lo-fi and alternative music, Mangum paints a surreal collage of warped images dedicated to young love, religious fanaticism, life and death, nostalgia, and yes, Anne Frank, who Mangum claimed to be haunted by after he read a copy of her diary.
This record is very dear to me, both artistically and personally. From the opening of 'King of Carrot Flowers Pt 1' to the ending of 'Two Headed Boy Pt 2,' Mangum, and Julian Kosner’s magical singing take you on a journey unlike anything else. Internet hysteria was arguably what contributed towards Mangum’s breakdown and total withdrawal from society after the album released in 1998. Kim Cooper diligently recognises this, and Donna Island’s soothing narration takes care with the source material, and respects the artistic vision that Jeff was clearly going for.
Nuria’s Pick: The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See, Narrated by Jennifer Lim
My most recent listen, The Island of Sea Women, is a mesmerising historical novel that narrates the story of Mi-Ja and Young-Sook, two best friends who come from very different backgrounds. Set on the Korean island of Jeju, the two friends begin working in the island’s female diving collective. As readers, we get to explore their closest bonds over many decades and hardships through Japanese colonialism, World War II, the Korean War and beyond. However, their close bond is tested numerous times; their differences are too hard to ignore. Mi-Ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, which forever marked her in the village. Young-Sook was born into a dynasty of haenyeo and will eventually inherit her mother’s position as a leader of the divers. Little do the young friends know that after hundreds of dives and years of friendship, forces outside of their control will push their relationship to the breaking point.
This is a beautiful listen that illuminates an unforgettable culture. It is a story of female friendship and what shapes them. Jennifer Lim does a wonderful job with the story, transporting the reader to the beautiful island of Jeju and taking you on the journey that is the lives of these two women.
Kathryn’s Pick: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Narrated by Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan, and Robert Miles
My most recent audiobook, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, was sparked by cast announcements of an upcoming movie adaptation. To me, nothing is better than a spring afternoon with a refreshing drink and a moving listen and Taylor Jenkins Reid’s audiobook fit this perfectly.
The heart-wrenching tale describes the life of a fictional Hollywood star as she reveals the truth behind the glamour and details the price of her fame. At age 79, Evelyn Hugo gives an exclusive interview to a journalist that recounts her journey to the spotlight within Hollywood’s male-dominated entertainment industry. Particularly in audio format, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a really emotional listen, with Cuervo’s narration beautifully recounting Evelyn’s failures and triumphs as she reflects on a challenging, lovely and full life. The narrative is reminiscent of actresses like Marilyn Monroe, illuminating the delicacy of our identity in public spheres, the reality of human frailty and encouraging compassion as we engage in reflecting on our past.
Sarunicka’s Pick: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and narrated by Atossa Leoni
I recently listened to Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns narrated by Atossa Leoni. A Thousand Splendid Suns is the story of two women, Mariam and Laila, who form the unlikeliest bond as they are brought together by fate. Set throughout thirty years of war-stricken Kabul, Hosseini paints a picture of how life was like under the Russian and Taliban regimes. Devastating, evocative and compelling, this is a story of female friendship, heroic self-sacrifice and the salvation to be found in love.
The complexities of emotions in this book are truly commendable – from the absolutely harrowing moments to moments of pure sorrow that you feel so deeply for these women. Despite the turmoil these women live in, the layer of enduring hope and resilience which is still prevalent in these characters and story, makes it all the more impactful. So nuanced, so powerful and so strong in its development of characters, themes and messaging, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a deeply moving listen narrated perfectly by Atossa Leoni.