The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (Audio)

imagesThe End of the Affair was a random audiobook buy. I had credits to spare and saw Colin Firth’s name as narrator and clicked purchase without thinking. Because Colin Firth. Obviously. Mr. Darcy aside, Graham Greene is one of those author’s I’ve been meaning to read but just haven’t found the time until Colin Firth pushed him in my direction.

Greene’s novel is about the end of an affair. How’s that for a summary? Maurice Bendricks is a bitter ex-lover to a woman named Sarah. Their affair took place during WWII until it abruptly ended after a particularly deadly air raid in London. Sarah ends their relationship and Maurice is left with what he describes as ‘hate’ rather than love. God, faith, and Catholicism now enter the picture.

Honestly, I should have read this one in print. Not because Colin wasn’t great – he was terrific and had such nuanced character changes in his voice that amazed me – but because Graham’s writing really deserves to be read. Each and every word seems so precisely chosen and his turns of phrase are so powerful. I can’t wait to reread this one day.

The story itself is rather hit and miss with me. Bendricks is hardly a lovable character and the religious undertones of the novel are not of any particular interest to me. However, the actual unraveling of the love affair between Bendricks and Sarah feels very visceral and poignant. And in contrast, his growing friendship and connection with cuckolded husband, Henry, is endearing. The humanity of this short novel is what truly wins me over.

Going back to the Catholicism, while I’m not particularly religious, I did appreciate that Bendricks’s final relationship with God is strained, troubled, and filled with questions you’re not sure will ever be answered. I like that he’s not just some enchanted new believer and still struggles in spite of, perhaps because of, his new beliefs.

Oddly, I can’t say I would recommend this story to most readers. To Graham Greene fans, yes. To those who just want to listen to Colin Firth’s yummy voice, yes. Or to those readers who will read anything as long as the writing is beyond gorgeous.

Have you read anything by Graham Greene? Does his overt Catholicism bother or enhance your reading?

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Audiobook reviews: Shadow and Bone & Stardust

10194157Just a couple of short audiobook reviews for y’all on this marvelous Friday morning. First up, I finished Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo a couple of weeks ago. It’s a YA fantasty novel about a world similar to Imperial Russia where the Shadow Fold and the Black Heretic have incited major fear in the population. The Shadow Fold is this black oceanic void of darkness that separates most of the population from the ability to receive trade goods from the coast. In order to cross the Fold, you have to travel with an army and Grisha to fight the crazy human-hungry birdlike creatures. Grisha are humans who have special powers of sorts – they are able to manipulate matter in various ways. Our heroine, Alina, is a normal girl who turns out to be the most powerful Grisha of all – of course.

The standard YA tropes are all here. Nothing new to write about really. I will say that I enjoyed the Russian setting and thought this book did a decent job being a bit darker and sexier (that’s right, sexier) than other YA. Alina is also not a terrible protagonist, but there’s nothing here to compel me forward. The middle lacked decent pacing and the ending was entirely predictable. Worked fined as an audiobook with a decent narrator – nothing spectacular or terrible, just ‘meh’.

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I also recently finished Stardust by Neil Gaiman which was a superb audio because he narrated it himself. His voice is gorgeous, and I think the listener really gets something extra special from the narration when the author reads his/her own work. Stardust is an adult fairytale about a boy searching for a fallen star to give to the girl he loves. It’s filled with fun, fantastical creatures, haggard witches, and lots of magic. I saw the movie first and enjoy both formats. What impressed me most about the audio was the interview with Gaiman at the end where he described how Stardust came to be – loved hearing how his mind works! I’d definitely recommend Stardust on audio and any other book that Gaiman narrates. A pleasant way to spend any commute. Very tempted to listen to The Ocean at the End of the Lane.