With the vast majority of audio books I listen to, there is what I think of as a "settling in" period when I adjust to the voice of the reader. In many cases during the first chapter of books I have read, I sit there thinking, "No, no, no, this is all wrong".
It is not generally all wrong, of course. Simply different from the voice I heard in my head and the adjustment take a few minutes, maybe longer. But I almost always adjust, in some cases to the extent that I hear that narrator's voice the next time I pick up a book by the same author: Sean Barrett and Michael Robotham being one.
Rare is the book where the reading starts and the narrator takes hold immediately. But so it was with this marvellous reading of Alice Sebold's heart-breaking and mesmerising novel The Lovely Bones, read by Alyssa Bresnahan.
Perhaps it is that the opening moments of the novel are so arresting that it is impossible not to be drawn into the narrative immediately - it is one of the most powerful and disturbing openings that I can recall.
But I think credit must go to Bresnahan for capturing essence of Susie Salmon, the murdered teenager who follows the lives of those she leaves behind from her own personal heaven. Susie is by turns soulful, reflective, joyous and with a crushing wisdom that extends way beyond her years, understanding the implications of the emotional upheaval - and in some cases destrcution - of her family and friends. It is an emotional and draining journey for the the reader - a difficult book to read I remember - but Bresnahan imparts the soul of the book to the listener and it is an altogether more uplifting experience than reading the book.
In particular she has a gift for voices, which is absolutely critical, and she gives resonance to key characters, Jack Salmon, Susie's desolate father, and her friend Ruth Connors, in particular.
One of the joys of listening to the audio interpretation of a book you've read before is that it invariably opens new dimensions to the story that the first read does not reveal. This time I was struck by how strong and resourceful a character Lindsay Salmon, Susie's sister, becomes. And also by the kindness of the Steckler brothers, Samuel and Hal, who servce as reminders of humanity's goodness as the Salmons try to pick up the pieces of their fragmented lives.
This is a wonderful book, served well by a beautiful narration. It has pathos, drama and subtlety. It comes with a warning, however, it might not be a good idea to listen to it while driving as that becomes a dangerous exercise when tears are streaming down your cheeks.
The audio came billed as a complement to the recently released Peter Jackson film. In all honesty though, I'm not sure I will bother with the cinema. I don't know what more it could contribute.