I’ve been listening to audiobooks for a long time but I have to say this is mainly down to the influence of BookEater Jeff (aka Dad!) And it was while listening to books with him on car journey’s that I started to realise just how big an impact the narrator had on the story. I’d already heard a fair amount of good narrators and enough bad ones when we came across a narrator so good that neither of us could believe it. Let me introduce you to …
My dad was listening to Broken Harbour by Tana French, a murder mystery set on a ghost estate on the outskirts of Dublin when we realised just how good Hugh Lee’s narration is. Although the detective Scorcher Kennedy is male, this book is chock full of strong female characters. A lot of me have trouble doing women’s voices, often making them sound too haughty and querulous. Hugh Lee had no such issue. In fact it was his voicing of the women’s part that really impressed us both, each charachter was identifiable and each sounded completely natural. Needless to say I had inspiration for the next gift to give my father, searching through other books narrated by Hugh Lee I found Three Bags Full by Leonie Swan, a very unusual murder mystery where the detectives are all sheep! Both books are worth a listen!
Find all Hugh Lee’s narration here
Benedict Cumber batch
Being the successful actor that Benedict Cumberbatch is it’s no surprise that his narration is sublime. He added so much character to The Spire by William Golding.
Sadly it’s also no surprise that he hasn’t lent his voice to this art very much! Find all Benedict Cumberbatch’s narration here
Like Benedict Cumberbatch Maggie Gyllenhaal has an incredibly successful acting career so to find anything narrated by her is a special treat. But to find Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar was pretty much all my Christmasses come at once! There’s only one other narration on her list – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy … I’m not a fan of Tolstoy but I’m tempted just for the 35 hours I’d get to listen to her voice!
Find all Maggie Gyllenhaal’s narrations here
Hillary Huber I discovered by chance, but as she’s narrated 148 books on audible I guess I was bound to bump into her work at some time! With a catalogue like that it doesn’t really matter what genre you prefer there’s a strong chance she’s narrated it! I discovered her narrating the brilliant but very literary Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels and she breathed such life into it that I was hooked in a way I don’t think I would have been had I just read the books. Her voice actually reminded me a lot of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s so now I’m not so upset that she has narrated so little … Tolstoy might have to wait after all!
Find all Hillary Hubert’s narrations here
Prentice has one of those voices. You know the ones I mean, the sort that somehow manage to sound like your grandmother is telling you where the secret stash of chocolate she’s hidden just for you is. It’s warm, knowing, a little teasing. I would happily listen to him read the phone book! Luckily I listened to him read Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, a brilliant book so I got double the pleasure!
Find all Prentice Onayemi’s narrations here
I’ve sung David Thorpe’s praises in my recent review of Karen Maitland’s A Company of Liars. I want to say he has a soft, lilting north country accent but the fact is he can do so many accents so well that he might not! Maybe his real accent is an italian one! Anyway being good at accents may be an asset for narrators but it is not enough, Thorpe also has a warmth and a good ear for gentle comedy, inserting inflections in to create levity, love and
Find all David Thorpe’s narrations here
Perfume by Patrick Suskind is one of my all time favourite books! As such, and because it is a book full of sensations I was worried about listening to it, if the narraton had been bad it would have broken my heart. Thankfully Sean Barrett’s understated narration suited the sneaky Grenouille down to the ground. It would have been easy to go over the top with a character like this but Barrett had the wisdom to know that too slimy or whiny a voice would have repulsed readers so instead he voiced it subtly.
Find all Sean Barrett’s narrations here
If you’ve ever listened to an audio version of a Terry Pratchett brook there is a very strong chance you know Stephen Brigg’s voice very well already! Almost every book Pratchett has ever written has been voiced by him. Briggs, an actor as well as a writer, first met Sir Terry when he wrote to ask if he could stage his Wyrd Sisters, Sir Terry said yes and in so doing catapulted Brigg’s life down a different leg of the trousers of time! Brigg’s voice is perfect for Pratchett’s works, and he totally understands the humour in the work. If life is getting you down delve into these audio treasures and you’ll soon be smiling again!
Find all Stephen Briggs narrations here