Tuesday, March 3, 2009

To the edge of the world

Now that the submissions are coming in for Odyssey consideration, I shouldn't really be listening to other things, but I had checked out this Chronicle of Narnia earlier this year and so snuck it in between the 2009 offerings. For the long term, I'm listening to each of the books in the series (chronological order, not publication) since I read them in childhood (and didn't really care for them). The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is number five this way (which many people believe is the wrong way). What I really like is that HarperAudio has got all those fab British actors to read them (Kenneth Branagh, Michael York, Lynn Redgrave, plus an actor with a loverly voice of whom you likely haven't heard, Alex Jennings), including Sir Derek Jacobi who reads this one. (And Jeremy Northam and Patrick Stewart to come!)

In this adventure of the Pevensie children, younger siblings Lucy and Edmund are spirited away -- along with their annoying cousin Eustace -- on board the Dawn Treader. Prince (who is actually a king now) Caspian is fulfilling an oath to try to find some missing Narnian lords, banished by his wicked uncle. Their voyage takes them to the end of the world and Lucy and Eustace (whose name I kept hearing as "useless") undergo some personal growth along the way, but otherwise not much happens. The Pevensies are told by Aslan that they have grown too old and will never return to Narnia. Eustace, on the other hand ...

You know, I can say it, these books are very old-fashioned. The story moves slowly, and there are lengthy passages rife with symbolism and portent that never actually go anywhere. I did enjoy the author's viewpoint that occurs in this story (which may be in the other ones and I just don't remember), as he frequently makes asides to us about what we and he might be thinking. There's not much humor in this one (just that odd little interlude with the one-footed gnomes). If I hadn't been listening to Sir Derek's unique voice (and had a lot to do this weekend that required hands but no brain), I might have given up. Those rounded vowels and that deep register are sometimes all you need.

Because, quite frankly, Sir Derek isn't the greatest audiobook reader. His voice tends to get "juicy," full of saliva (all that enunciating!) that a listener can hear sloshing around. When he gets chirpy -- as he does for the mouse knight, Reepicheep -- or girly -- for Lucy -- it can be a bit grating. But he does give you that avuncular uncle feel of C.S. Lewis actually telling you this story, so his faults are easy to overlook. Also, I fully confess to the anything-read-in-by-an-Englishman-is-fine-by-me prejudice. I can say that because I was that way long before I began listening to audiobooks. Can you say raised on Masterpiece Theatre?

Now back to the current stuff, something perfectly awful called Haunted Hike.

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