Separating the Narrator from a Series

I became addicted to audiobooks about seven years ago and haven’t looked back. Before I had a membership at audible (thank you Lea, for the recommendation) I listened to audiobooks on CDs. Because CDs were quite costly, I primarily stuck with audiobooks by my favorite authors such as Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, and Linda Howard. I was unwilling to take a chance on newer authors. However, sometimes even with those favorites, the audio version was a risk in the hands of a less-than-desirable narrator.

Thanks to my audible membership I’m able to sample books before I download them, to make certain that I actually like the narrator. And thanks to Lea’s wonderful Speaking of Audiobooks columns, I’m now alerted to new-to-me narrators. As Lea wrote in her very first Speaking of Audiobooks column back in June of 2009, it’s all about the narrator. Over the last seven years I’ve discovered such wonderful narrators as Tanya Eby, Kate Reading, Xe Sands, Justine, Eyre, Susan Ericksen, and Anna Fields. I now not only look for titles I think I might like in audio, but for new works by some of my favorite narrators. But of all the wonderful narrators I’ve listened to over the past few years, my favorite, bar none, has been Jayne Entwistle’s narration of the Flavia de Luce mysteries.

I loved Alan Bradley’s first Flavia de Luce mystery, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, in print and gave it DIK status here at AAR. I listened to it later in audio, and Ms. Entwistle’s narration is so spot-on that I now listen to each subsequent book rather than reading them in print. Ms. Entwistle truly brings Flavia to life. Flavia goes through a lot of emotions in each book; she’s alternately angry, pouty, smug, curious, wistful, and afraid. You name it; Flavia feels the emotion, including her deep love of chemistry. And Ms. Entwistle’s narrations bring life, and humor, to those emotions.

I like Ms. Entwistle’s narration so much that I’ve done numerous searches the last few years for other books she’s narrated. Until recently these searches have been frustrating. Outside of the Flavia de Luce series, she’s narrated several children’s books, but nothing I particularly wanted to read.

I was absolutely delighted a few months ago when I discovered Jayne Entwistle is the narrator for Sophie Kinsella’s I’ve Got your Number. I immediately downloaded it and began listening. I was intrigued by the book when I read Leigh’s B+ review of it earlier this year. I became even more interested when several readers listed it as one of their favorite Chick Lit books of 2012 in a post I wrote here on the best of 2012 Chick Lit and Women’s Fiction. This seemed almost too good to be true: a great narrator reading a highly acclaimed book. But somehow, it didn’t quite work as I expected.

Don’t get me wrong, Jayne Entwistle does a marvelous job with the narration of I’ve Got Your Number. The problem for me is that she uses exactly the same voice for Poppy, the heroine of I’ve Got Your Number, as she uses for Flavia. That voice is so fixed in my head as being Flavia’s, that for at least the first two hours I was constantly pulled out of the story, thinking such things as “Why does Flavia have an engagement ring,” and “No, no, Flavia, dump that jerk!” and “Flavia, you’re only 11 years old, go back to your chemistry lab.” Thank goodness there’s nothing more than kisses going on in the book, as I just don’t think I could have handled Flavia…err Poppy, in bed with anyone.

But once I managed to get Flavia out of my mind, Ms. Entwistle’s voice did work for me as Poppy. Poppy has all kinds of funny escapades, and the narration brings out the humor in each one. By the end of the book I was both completely satisfied and hoping that it would go on longer.

If you listen to audiobooks, have you ever had problems moving from one book to another with the same narrator? I’ve listened to hundreds of audiobooks, and this is the first time this has ever happened to me. Not every narrator works for me, but I’ve never had such a problem separating a narrator from her previous work. Perhaps it’s because I’d listened to four books narrated by Ms. Entwistle prior to this point in which each time she was the voice of Flavia de Luce.

Note: If you’re curious about Ms. Entwistle, you can sample her narration of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie at Audible, and her narration of I’ve Got Your Number here. You don’t need an audible account, but will need to click on the arrow under the book on each page (and sometimes it takes a few clicks to get it to begin).

– LinnieGayl Kimmel

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25 Responses to Separating the Narrator from a Series

  1. Leigh says:

    Maybe because I read the book, I Have Got Your Number, first and knew who was suppose to say what, but but I didn’t have any problems with the voices.

    Audio books are hit and miss with me. I wouldn’t say so much for the voices but the content. When someone reads a book aloud, the faults become obvious.

    A Julie James book, and a Kristan Higgin book were favorites in print, but not in audio.

    Susan Duerden and Annie Aldington are a few of my favorite narrators.

  2. LeeB. says:

    I don’t listen to audio books at all but I love your description of the exploits of Flavia, err Poppy! :)

  3. LinnieGayl says:

    Interesting, Leigh. I don’t think I’ve listened to anything narrated by either Susan Duerden or Annie Aldington….or at least not that I recall. I’ll have to look for them, and of course sample :)

    Poppy was delightful, as of course, is Flavia, Lee.

    • Leigh says:

      I misread your statement. You associated the voice with another character from another series. Duh. I haven’t come across that problem yet.

  4. Mrs. Fairfax says:

    I was enjoying Susan Erickson’s narration of Meg Gardiner’s The Memory Collector until Peabody from the In Death series showed up as the crazy next door neighbor with the monkey.

    Entwistle’s voice is so distinctive, I can see it would be a problem hearing her as another character. I ruined George Guidell with a Cat Who binge a few years back. Now he’s forever and always Qwill, and I avoid him when I can.

    • Leigh says:

      Mrs. Fairfax: I was enjoying Susan Erickson’s narration of Meg Gardiner’s The Memory Collector until Peabody from the In Death series showed up as the crazy next door neighbor with the monkey.
      Entwistle’s voice is so distinctive, I can see it would be a problem hearing her as another character. I ruined George Guidell with a Cat Who binge a few years back. Now he’s forever and always Qwill, and I avoid him when I can.

      I thought I could listen to the “In Death” books but Peabody’s voice was like the screech of chalk on a blackboard. She definitely wasn’t what I expected.

      • Azure says:

        Yeah, Peabody’s “voice” was quite jarring the first time I heard it–it sounds a little to me like Erickson was going for a Midwestern accent, when if I recall correctly, Peabody’s from somewhere in the Southwest (Arizona, maybe?). I got used to it over time. Worse to me was how her name was pronounced. I’d always pronouced her name as “Pea-body” in my head, not “Pea-buddy.” I’ve listened to about ten or fifteen books in the series now, and the pronunciation still throws me off at times.

      • Meg says:

        My library started getting playaway audiobooks and I’m really enjoying some of my favorite Nora Roberts. But I just can’t get into the J.D. Robb series. Susan Erickson’s portrayal of Peabody is just so wrong with the character. Her narration of Peabody comes across hard and brash and Roarke was a disappointment.

        However, I loved Julie Whelan (The Witness), Tanya Eby (The Search), Angela Dawe (Savor the Moment).

        The best so far is The Last Boyfriend. It wasn’t my favorite of the trilogy but MacLeod Andrews does a terrific portrayal of Avery with some LOL moments.


    • LinnieGayl says:

      LOL, Mrs. Fairfax! Peabody’s voice is distinctive, so it would probably be a problem for me as well.

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  6. DJ says:

    I can’t imagine how that book would work in audio, since so much of it is texts between people using smartphones.

    • leslie says:

      It works surprisingly well and Entwhistle does a great job with the footnotes, but I found Poppy unlikeable and unsympathatic in audio. For me the print edition was a better read.

      • LinnieGayl says:

        I agree, Leslie. if I had known how much of it was texts (and footnotes) I’m not certain I would have listened to it in audio, but Jayne Entwistle did a great job with them.

  7. Liz Mc2 says:

    I had the exact same problem in reverse. I kept hearing Flavia as a chick lit heroine because I had listened to the Kinsella already, and I think it made me enjoy Bradley’s book less than I otherwise might have.

    I also recently DNF’d a mystery in audio in part because the narrator had done a favorite children’s series I had been “rereading” in audio, and I kept hearing disconcerting echoes from those characters.

    I find some narrators are either more flexible (Roslyn Landor surprised me by how well she did with a Kinsella book, quite different from her historical romance style) or have a less distinctive voice/style and I can happily listen to them across books and series, but some will always sound like one particular book/series to me.

    • LinnieGayl says:

      Oh, sorry, Liz, but I laughed when I read your first sentence. Now when I listen to the next Flavia when it comes out in February, i wonder if I’ll hear her as Poppy?

  8. Jebe says:

    Lynnie, you read my mind. I was just thinking of this very issue recently while listening to C.S. Harris’s Sebastian St Cyr novels. It’s narrated by Davinia Porter, who also narrates the Outlander books.

    While I love her voice and range of accents, she reads Sebastian’s voice like the bad guy from Outlander! I can’t get over this! I LoveLoveLove Sebastian in the books, but all I hear on the audio is that bad guy! It’s a tad snobby and uptight, not at all how I heard Sebastian in my head.

    The good news is that all the other characters sound so good!

  9. lauren says:

    My mother has been blind for 13 years she was a avid reader of print books before that. Audio books literally have saved her sanity.
    I am so thankful for them too!

  10. RobinB says:

    For the past several months, I’ve been listening to “The Cat Who” series by Lilian Jackson Braun during my short and long-distance commutes. George Guidall is the narrator, and he does a marvelous job with the various voices. I’m on my sixth book in the series, and I can’t imagine anyone else doing the narration of these very cozy novels.

    Speaking of “cozy”, mysteries like the ones that Braun writes are the ones that I think work best in an audio format, especially if you’re listening while driving. They don’t require as much attention as a more detailed book (fiction or non-fiction), and that means the driver can pay the proper attention to the road!

  11. Elaine C. says:

    I dislike “The Cat” series, but I love George Guidall! He narrated the John Dunning and Tony Hillerman mysteries and “Snow Falling on Cedars” and was just wonderful. He’s one of my favorites. I haven’t heard any romances narrated by him. That’s what I generally download from these days.
    I find both Susan Duerden and Justine Eyre very enjoyable to listen to. My long time favorites are Jenny Sterlin, Davina Porter, and Barbara Rosenblat. Rosenblat can do men, women, children, Italian,and German so well it’s astounding!

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