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A heart-warming tale for everyone

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

Reviewed: 01-07-2018

I love Maeve Binchy, but Circle of Friends is one of her loveliest novels. It harks back to the lost Ireland of the 1950s, where it's an amazing thing for a country girl to go to university and Dublin is regarded as the danger zone for moral purity! The cast of characters is varied, vivid and always interesting, from the quick-tempered orphan Eve to the self-doubting only child Benny, from Benny's loving but suffocating parents to the wise Mother Francis who is determined to get Eve the future she deserves. It's a story about self-acceptance as much as it is about friendship and love -- Benny struggles to find her place as both dutiful daughter and independent educated woman; Eve has to lay her unhappy past to rest in order to build herself a life. As with all Maeve's novels, there is tragedy and sorrow as well as laughter and fun. This is a great listen; please enjoy.

A journey from Ireland to Italy

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

Reviewed: 01-07-2018

This is a great Maeve Binchy novel -- full of her usual cast of fascinating and varied characters who are somehow also completely believable.

The structure is unusual in that it's told 'by character'; one chapter each for 'Signora', 'Luigi', 'Constanza' and so on. Initially, this grates when you get to a character you're not particularly interested in, but with Maeve's story-telling skill you're soon drawn in to the lives of even the characters who aren't your favourites. In my view, this is one of Maeve's most beautiful love stories, and it's heart-warming to see Aidan and Nora getting a second chance at happiness after a tragic beginning on each side. If you need a pick-me-up, feel-good sort of audiobook, then this is a great place to start. You can also follow Aidan and Nora through other Maeve novels later on -- Scarlet Feather, Heart and Soul and Minding Frankie all update the reader on how our favourite pair are getting on!

One of Maeve's most touching stories

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

Reviewed: 01-07-2018

Light a Penny Candle is one of my favourite Maeve Binchy novels -- the story of the English Elizabeth who's sent to live with the Irish Connor family during the Blitz. Although it's set during the period 1941 - 1956, it speaks to my own experience of living in Ireland as a foreigner, and all the cultural miscommunications that ensue. It's a warm and engaging story, full of relatable and memorable characters, but it's also tragic and deeply sad -- just like real life! Aisling and Elizabeth are great characters, believable both in their totally different personalities and in the strength of their friendship. This is a particularly affecting novel for anyone who's ever tried to sustain a relationship in writing; Maeve treats with great accuracy the difficulties of describing the realities of day-to-day life to someone whom you used to be able to talk to in person every day. The gradual distancing of friendships as people grow up and move away is one of the central themes of the novel; anyone who's ever made or lost a friend will find something to relate to here. It's an old recording, but solid to listen to. Enjoy!

Fantastic novel, fantastic reading...

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

Reviewed: 01-07-2018

Like thousands of others, I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, and Stephen Fry's readings are just delightful. He achieves a truly impossible feat, bringing out the vivid personalities of JK Rowling's characters in speech, giving them distinctive accents and cadences so that you love them even better than you did before. Professor McGonagall, in particular, is a favourite of mine -- you can hear her tones and emphasis changing through the books as Harry grows up and gets to know her better.

The Philosopher's Stone is the first of the seven Harry Potter books, and is the start of a life-changing journey for many readers. Harry is a thoroughly relatable character -- a normal kid with normal resentments against his horrible extended family and normal insecurities about how he's going to be the stupidest kid at his new school. Somehow, the fact that Harry doesn't understand or care how special he is is one of his most attractive features. He's a fantastic illustration for kids and grown-ups alike that it's both ok and possible to be weird and different; everyone has to live out the life that is in them. If you happen to know nothing about Harry Potter (where have you been for twenty-five years??), please don't hesitate -- these books will be with you forever! Enjoy!

A comfortable listen, but not one of Maeve's best

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

Reviewed: 01-07-2018

Regrettably, Firefly Summer is not one of Maeve's better novels -- it's too long and poorly paced, often feeling slow. Having said that, it's a typical Maeve story of real, engaging people who are complex and interesting. The rural setting is unusual for Maeve's work, and the historical timeframe (covering the period 1962-65) offers interesting insights into Irish society of that generation, when the civil war was a living memory and the Church still ran the country. This novel also contains Maeve's only thoroughly 'bad' character (as far as I'm aware...) -- Kerry O'Neill is a true narcissist with no empathy and no redeeming features.

There are a few problems with the recording -- bits of text repeated without warning (1-2 minutes' worth), and some static interference , presumably from converting an old recording into digital format.

West Cork cover art

A disappointing and amateurish treatment of a deeply troubling case

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-04-2018

This is my first disappointment with Audible — I can see why it was free, because it compares poorly with other true crime podcasts of a much higher calibre. The reporters are not brave or well-informed enough to tackle the really interesting question, which is the colossal mismanagement of the murder investigation by the gardai, and so they resort to a simplistic portrayal of the Irish as parochial and bigoted. This bears no relation to my experience of living in Ireland as a foreigner, and it obscures the real and serious material of the case. The podcast is poorly structured, far too long, shows abysmal interview technique and lacks both research and dispassion. It only became interesting in the final two hours, and should have been less than half the length for the amount of substantive material covered. It doesn’t matter whether you think Ian Bailey is guilty; this is a poorly-framed narrative which sheds no light on the case and offers nothing of value to a listener interested in either the case itself or the effects of the case on Ireland and Irish society. They make the point that Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s family has been short-changed by the legal process in Ireland, but I think they are equally short-changed by this sort of amateurish production. Whatever this is, it’s not serious reportage.

1 person found this helpful

Perhaps the most disturbing Galbraith yet

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

Reviewed: 04-03-2018

This is a deeply troubling story about justice missed, miscarried or generally ignored...and the people who live who the consequences. What I loved about this book is that Robin achieves greater centrality, and we really get to see her develop as a detective. I literally can’t wait for the next Galbraith novel, because I think Robin and Strike are into a new phase as partners and it’s going to be even more interesting. Another stunning read by Robert Glenister — don’t hesitate to listen!!

Another corker from Robert Galbraith

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

Reviewed: 04-03-2018

I didn’t like this second Strike novel as much as the first — it’s gruesome, but it’s still an excellent detective story. Robin and Strike really carry the reader along, and their case is saved from being overly grotesque by the fact that it’s clearly about why people behave the way they do, whether it’s the murdered man with his eccentricities, or his widow who doesn’t care what people think, or the cast of ancillary characters who each have an axe to grind. I found myself pondering this story more than the previous one, because it asks why people turn out the way they do...

Even better than reading the book...

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

Reviewed: 04-03-2018

Robert Glenister makes this book even better than Robert Galbraith’s original, because you get to hear all the different accents and tones which make the characters so vivid. I was expecting to find his interpretation of Strike not what I wanted, but I was mistaken — he’s just the right mix of curmudgeonly, kind and obstinate to draw the reader in. If you like seriously good detective fiction which is as much about why-dunnit as who-dunnit, then you can’t miss Robert Galbraith read by Robert Glenister. Enjoy!

Quintessential Maeve Binchy

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

Reviewed: 04-03-2018

Scarlet Feather is one of my favourite Bunchy novels, and this reading does it full justice. Simon and Maud in particular tug at the heart strings, and this is a great story about how life doesn’t turn out the way you think it will, but sometimes for the best anyway. This book has some profound things to say about the nature of family, but in typical Maeve fashion it’s done with a lightness of touch that draws you in and makes you laugh even as you’re raging against the world’s injustice. Highly recommend for anyone who wants a great story full of true Irish characters... Muttie Scarlet is a particular favourite of mine!