November 29, 2009

Review: The Lovely Bones (Audiobook)

By Alice Sebold, Read by Alice Sebold
Released by Hachette 30 September 2009
Review copy provided by publisher

Book Cover

I read THE LOVELY BONES in the ninth grade and loved it. I picked it up because I knew it was getting a lot of buzz and felt it deserved it once I was done. I enjoyed seeing the world through Susie's eyes, as her family dealt with her death and her killer seemed to escape justice. I have not read it since, so I remembered little about the details of the story when listening to the audiobook, but they came back quickly.

As for audiobooks, this is my second one. They seem popular, but I'm still not sure they're for me. For one thing, it takes longer to listen to the book than it would for me to just pick it up and read it. I listened to THE LOVELY BONES in my car, driving from my apartment to my home and back, but I kept missing little snippets when something happening on the road took my attention from Alice Sebold's voice.

As for this audiobook in particular, I have a love/hate relationship with Sebold's narration. She's rather dull. No effort to distinguish between the voices of different characters or to add emphasis to dramatic parts. On the other hand, her lulling voice makes the worst parts of THE LOVELY BONES that much more horrifying. I felt like crying as her family realized Susie was truly dead with the discovery of her hand-knit winter hat, soaked in her saliva - her mother's love aiding her murderer. It's a scene already wrenching in print, but Sebold's flat, emotionless voice makes it more thematically naturalistic.

However, the aural presentation slows the novel to a glacial pace. I remember the digressions being charming in the text, fleshing Susie and her world out. It fit the narration of a young girl, that she would be somewhat flighty and need to explain little bits of the story to explain the whole thing. It also fit with the idea of a dead narrator, one who has all the time in the world to tell her story and has lived her life - all she has to tell is her past and what others do, necessitating that the two weave together. I remember Susie's death happening so quickly. In the book, she warns you what will happen in the opening lines and her brutal rape and murder is complete by the first chapter. You've been put through the emotional wringer before the book truly begins. In audio format, this takes around 20-30 minutes. The digressions became distracting, making me think, "Is she dead yet?"

THE LOVELY BONES is a great story, and I look forward to seeing the movie. But I must recommend the book version over the audiobook. Perhaps the story would've been better served in this format by an abridgment or a different narrator. I'm not familiar enough with the format to tell.

The excellent movie trailer:

1 comment:

  1. An amazing book with just one small flaw (a scene at the end that I won't describe because it spoils the plot a bit). I'm not sure if I will see the film simply because the book resonated so strongly with me and I'm afraid a theatrical version might come off like an episode of 48 Hrs Mystery.

    Good point about audiobook narrators - they can mean the difference between loving and hating a book.


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