Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The sun'll come out ...

Back in April, when I listened to a perfectly dreadful version of A Little Princess, I said that I really didn't need to acquaint myself with the modern sequel, just published and written by Hilary McKay. I think I was starved for some recent audiobooks when Wishing for Tomorrow was ordered at my library and so in a moment of sentimental weakness I placed a hold. McKay shifts the emphasis of the story away from Sara Crewe and onto the friends and schoolmates she left behind. I'm going to guess that that's Lavinia, Lottie and Ermengarde (from left to right) -- along with Bosco the cat -- gazing wistfully out of the window of Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Young Ladies.

Wishing for Tomorrow (in the running for most insipid title of 2010) begins with the last few weeks of Sara Crewe's stay at Miss Minchin's from her friend Ermengarde's viewpoint. Ermengarde feels bereft at Sara's departure, and oppressed by Sara's instruction to look after young, impetuous Lottie and the rat Sara tamed while living in the attic, Melchisedec. She writes long letters to Sara -- off enjoying the fresh air of the seaside with her new family -- but is too shy to send them. All the other girls are off-kilter as well, and Miss Minchin is in the throes of a nervous breakdown. Things at the Select Seminary are not going well.

The skilled and experienced narrator Justine Eyre has everything under control here. Her warm, low voice is so gentle and pleasant to listen to -- it's girlish for the pupils, severe for Miss Minchin, and saucy and opinionated for the new maid. There are even a few lines of dialog for the neighborhood cat. The three girls each had a unique voice that Eyre sustains throughout the story. In particular, she invests Ermegarde with a touching wistfulness that actually makes you a little angry with Sara for deserting her! Eyre's experience shows in how she moves the story along efficiently, while never losing sight of the emotional arc of the novel.

I've enjoyed Eyre's work before: here, here and, particularly, here. I like having confidence in picking up a book she is reading, knowing that -- whatever the shortcomings of the story -- it will be a good listen.

Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay
Narrated by Justine Eyre
Brilliance Audio, 2010. 5:47 (unabridged)

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