LISTENER

Kate J

  • 3
  • reviews
  • 1
  • helpful vote
  • 18
  • ratings

Slow burning but vivid characters

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-05-2019

I read 'Swing Time' over a year ago and wasn't sure how I felt about it at the time. All this time later, the characters have stayed with me so strongly I feel compelled to explore how I felt about this book. Audiobooks are a new medium for me and this book worked well in audio. I enjoyed the narration byPippa Bennet-Warner. She had a silky British accent and skilfully subtle accents and voices for the different characters. 'Swing Time' is a bildungsroman of an unnamed narrator growing up in 1980s housing estate London. She is of mixed-race and develops a competitive childhood friendship with a neighbouring child called Tracey, who is also mixed-race. The early parts of the book focussing on their childhood is enthralling. Tracey and the narrator struggle for power dynamics in their friendship, which over time turns toxic through jealousy. They are both aspiring dancers struggling with their identity as mixed race. The narrator is jealous of Tracey's superior dance talent while Tracey is jealous of the narrator's supportive two-parent home. The girls grow up and apart - Tracey continues her dance while the narrator's life takes her across the world. Our narrator loves dance from afar and puzzles over the history of dance, it's role in life and how black people fit in. The girls encounter each other on and off over the years and remain bitterly jealous of what the other has. Ultimately, 'Swing Time' had a far ranging, ambitious plot that had a number of successful culminations but many puzzling add-ons. Overall it loses momentum and the early stages of the book where our narrator is young promise a more hopeful and riveting conclusion. The reason this book has stayed with me is the fascinating and vivid characters that demonstrated so many lessons pertinent to relationships, identity and career in modern day life. I 'read' this book via Audible audiobook while in holiday mode, so I had the time to be patient with the tangential plot-lines and enjoy the book moment-by-moment.

A slow but entrancing story

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 18-12-2018

This book was not the type of thing I normally read or listen to but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It follows a family for many generations and mostly flicks between the main character, Tom Crick’s, life as an adult history teacher and teenage years in the 1940s. Similar to other books I’ve read by Graham Swift there is a lot of foreshadowing so you know so much of what is going to happen but are missing the key details until the final moments. I find this is a very engaging and natural way to tell a life narrative. There are fascinating deviations from the plot to explain natural history phenomena like the life cycle of eels, which then cleverly become metaphors for human components of the plot. The characters are subtle, flawed, awkward and realistic. I found the narrator very well suited to telling this story - a good balance of performance without being melodramatic. To my kiwi ears some of his voices of rural British folk verged on having American accents, but I’m not one to judge. Overall a good yarn if you’re happy to invest for the long haul, particularly nice to unwind before bed.

Fine Tragicomedy

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 27-05-2018

I loved the witty black-humoured short stories, especially ‘the duel’ and ‘oysters’. Initially I was unsure about Stephen Fry’s reading style but I came to enjoy the fast pace and focus on the comedic aspects. Unfortunately the recording was let down by the editing. There were only milliseconds between the poignant endings of the short stories and the beginning of the next, in some cases Stephen Fry didn’t even get to finish his final words!

1 person found this helpful