Tag Archives: julia glass

Top 10 Favorite Audiobooks

JuneHeaderIn honor of June is Audiobook Month (JIAM), I’ve decided to share a list of my favorite audiobooks. This was hard! There are a lot of good ones out there. If you haven’t tried an audiobook before, here are a few you might want to try.

1. Three Junes by Julia Glass. What I said: “The narrator, John Keating, was nearly perfect. I loved his brogue and his Fenno was wonderful.”

2. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash. What I said: “The three performers -Nick Sullivan, Lorna Raver, and Mark Bramhall – were absolutely perfect; I felt like I was listening to a script reading. The voice of Clem, in particular, was superb. This may be the best audio production I’ve ever listened to.”

3. Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout. What I said: “The performer, Bernadette Dunne, had the accents down perfectly and really imbued the voices with personality and character. She brought Strout’s words to life so convincingly that at times I felt as though the characters were in the room with me. This is one of the best audiobook narrations I’ve listened to, ever.”

4. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. What I said: “[T]he narration by Peter Altschuler is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Great delivery and perfect accents. Mrs. Ali was the weak link, the errant thread of the Turkish rug. But the others were great.”

5. A Good American by Alex George. What I said: “The audio is terrific. Great narrator – Gibson Frazier. In fact, I think it was the audio version that kept me interested – I am not sure I would have stuck with this book if I hadn’t been listening to it.”

6. Faith by Jennifer Haigh. What I said: “The narrator, Therese Plummer, has a perfect Boston accent, and she vividly brought Faith‘s characters, male and female, to life. The audiobook forced me to ingest this novel more slowly than if I had read it, prolonging the pleasure of experiencing the book.”

7. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: What I said: “Hope Davis is an excellent narrator. She conveys a range of voices perfectly – from Marina’s terror brought on by drug-induced nightmares to the infallible tone of Dr. Swenson.”

8. The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris. What I said: “I highly recommend the audio. It was narrated by Ferris, and he’s a great reader. I love listening to authors read their own works – who understands the words better than they do? Who else knows exactly where the emphasis lands in a sentence, and the tone of voice a character should take when talking to someone else?”

9. The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta. What I said: “It didn’t hurt that I listened to this book on audio narrated by the sublime Campbell Scott. I wouldn’t complain if he narrated every single audiobook in the library. His deep voice, which verges on (but never reaches) flatness, was the perfect vehicle for Perrotta’s understated sarcasm and jabs. I especially enjoyed Scott’s narration of Pastor Dennis – just perfect.”

And finally, the audiobook that got me into audiobooks…

10. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. What I said: “This book is narrated by Kristoffer Tabori, an accomplished actor, and I give him credit for embodying so many diverse voices throughout the 21 hours of Middlesex. His narration is fluid and vibrant, his voice highly capable of conveying the range from humor to desperation. To me, the weak link was his female voices, especially that of Cal’s grandmother Desdemona, who bordered on caricature. But this is a minor complaint. There were times when I was tempted to read ahead in my print copy of Middlesex, but I developed a strong appreciation for and loyalty to Tabori as I was reading, and felt that it would be betraying him NOT to experience every word through his narration.”

What are your favorite audiobooks? Please share them!

THREE JUNES by Julia Glass

I am here! Please don’t give up on me, EDIWTB readers. I am still here, and reading, and trying to find time to post. And this week I will be at BEA – yay! – so I will have lots of book-related stuff to share. Thanks for sticking around to read the blog, even when my posts have been spare.

I finally read a book that has been on my radar – and my shelf – for quite a while: Three Junes by Julia Glass. I had heard uniformly good things about it, and finally gave it a shot. And the reviews were right – it was very good.

Three Junes is essentially three novellas within a novel, each of which takes place in June, spread ten years apart. In the first section, Paul Mcleod, a widower from Scotland, travels to Greece after his wife’s death and falls for a young American he meets on the trip. In the second – and longest – section, Fenno, Paul’s oldest son, travels from his home in Greenwich Village back home to Scotland when his father dies unexpectedly. In the third, Fenno has a chance encounter with Fern, the young woman his father had met in Greece, during a weekend in the Hamptons.

Three Junes felt to me like an old-fashioned novel:  rich, textured, and very moving on both personal and more universal levels. I am having more trouble with this review than usual – there is so much going on in the book that I find it hard to summarize! It is a family saga – about Paul’s three sons, Fenno and twins David and Dennis – and the secrets and resentments that have built up over the years. It is about keeping secrets from one’s self and the dangers of denying who you are and what you want, for fear of shaking up your life beyond recognition. It is about the tragedy of AIDS, and the effects of infertility and depression, and parenthood, and being an expat, and so much more. It’s both sweeping and minute at the same time, if that makes sense.

I loved Fenno – a quiet, introspective man with so much going on beneath his wry, restrained veneer. He’s not perfect, but he’s so compelling and easy to relate to. I finished the book yesterday, and I already miss him. It is hard to believe that this was Julia Glass’s debut novel. Her writing is beautiful, and Three Junes is expertly structured and paced. The middle section was the strongest, but there were highlights in the first and third that made the second even richer.

I experienced Three Junes mostly on audio, and it was wonderful. The narrator, John Keating, was nearly perfect. I loved his brogue and his Fenno was wonderful. I wasn’t crazy about his American accents, and the gay characters (particularly Tony) were a bit over the top for me. But overall, the audio was very well done.

Really enjoyed this one – and will be looking for more Julia Glass. What do you recommend?

THE WHOLE WORLD OVER by Julia Glass

First, a quick thank you to everyone who wrote in response to my first blog post. I am looking forward to writing the blog, and I also encourage you to write in with comments and suggestions. To answer a few questions that I have been asked so far:

1) Yes, please write in about books you have liked, books you haven’t liked, reviews you’ve read, questions about books and reading, etc. I will post lists of recommended books, and always welcome guest posts. I may aggregate book recommendations into weekly or biweekly posts, so if you don’t see your recommendations right away, that’s why.

2) This blog is not limited to discussing current fiction – send in recommendations or reviews of any books you’ve enjoyed, no matter when they came out. I have a shoebox of book reviews going back about 15 years, which I’m sure I will be drawing on for the blog.

3) Yes, you can be notified via email when the blog is updated. Just enter your email address in the box at the bottom right. You’ll receive an email from Feedblitz asking you to confirm your subscription, and then you’re good to go.

4) I listed “Evening” as one of my top favorite 5 books – what are the other 4? I can’t reveal everything in my first post, can I?

Ok, on to the topic at hand.

037542274901 Many people have have recommended Three Junes to me since it won the National Book Award in 2002.  I bought it at a used book sale a few years ago, but, of course, haven’t gotten to it yet. Well, if you’re one of the ones who read it and loved it, Julia Glass has a new book out: The Whole World Over.  Amazon user reviews are a little mixed (though mostly positive), but Entertainment Weekly gave it an A- when it came out in May. Warning: it’s long (512 pages). I still would like to read Three Junes first (especially because there are characters in it who appear in The Whole World Over) and I must confess that I tend to get bored with too much detail about food and cooking, but if you’re one of the many who have already been favorably exposed to Julia Glass, this may be worth a try.

Here’s the EW review:

From a homey opener (chef Greenie Duquette bakes cinnamon buns in her Greenwich Village kitchen) to a final party a year and a half later (Greenie contributes a cake of ”vanilla, maple, orange, and coconut”), the extravagantly long new novel, The Whole World Over, from extravagantly talented Julia Glass is a voluptuous treat.

In leisurely chapters laden with detail — Greenie never just bakes, she concocts ”a coffee cake rich with cardamom, orange zest, and grated gingerroot” — Glass explores the loneliness and longings of contemporary New Yorkers. Greenie — earthy, practical — is the book’s emotional center, and around her revolve her chilly psychotherapist husband, Alan (”Whatever’s the opposite of Latino — that’s you,” Greenie tells him); Walter, a gay restaurateur obsessed with an unattainable paramour; and Saga, a brain-damaged young woman who rescues stray animals. Fenno McLeod, the Scottish bookseller from Glass’ 2002 Three Junes, makes a welcome return in a supporting role.

What preoccupies these talky, well-fed characters (the baking should be a tip-off) is the desire for hearth, home, and above all, children. Greenie hankers after a baby, while Walter takes in a teen-age nephew. Alan coins the term ”baby crossroads” for the conflict drawing couples to his couch, and he has his own extramarital brush with a baby-mad female. Glass sometimes overplays her nesting theme, but she breathes such warm life into her characters that you forgive her.

Grade: A-

Here are links to a few more reviews of The Whole World Over from The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times (subscription required).

Have you read The Whole World Over? Send in a comment.