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That’s the question for discussion today on Audiobook Week 2012 hosted by Devourer of Books.

I’ve just started listening to audiobooks regularly this year and already found a few excellent narrators:

Jeremy Irons reading Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh — I’ve already mentioned how captivating his voice is on my review. Basically, it’s the aptness of the tone in fitting the mood and atmosphere of the book. Clarity is crucial as well. Often when just listening, I would easily get confused as to who’s talking. But Irons is most efficient in keeping his characters distinct. Finally, the dramatization of them is spot on. I can see them in my mind’s eyes. They are convincingly interpreted and portrayed, consistent with the characterization of the book.

Peter Francis James reading On Beauty by Zadie Smith — This is a challenging book to narrate because of its myriad of accents and racial mix. James has done an amazing job in voicing the characters in their cultural, gender, and age-related quirks and expressions. Here we have a fusion of British, British/American, African American, rapper American, and British/Trinidadian. All these just to depict two mixed-race families. Here, the criterion for excellent narration is efficiently met: Amidst the cacophony of voices, James has distinguished the characters with apt individualism, helping me to appreciate each character on its own.

Tim Jerome reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson — This 2005 Pulitzer Prize winning novel has only one character speaking throughout and that’s the ageing Reverend in Gilead, Iowa, John Ames. Suffering from illness but still lucid and wise, he leaves his memories to his very young son as a family legacy while he still has time. Tim Jerome’s voice exudes gentleness, compassion, forgiveness and wisdom, just like the character John Ames. Listening to the audio makes me feel like he’s casually and warmly chatting with me over coffee after a good meal. I don’t think I’ve heard another more gentle and loving voice, which is so appropriate with the characterization.

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You can see I’ve mentioned the audiobook that I listened to with these narrators, as I haven’t heard their other works. So this leaves another question: Are they just as excellent in those other readings? That I’ll gladly explore.

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