Author: Ann Patchett –
Publisher: Harper Audio –
Genre: Literary Fiction –
Overall rating: 5/5 –
Writing: 5/5 –
Duration: 12:22 (long) –
Narrator: Hope Davis –
Narrator/performance: 5/5 –
Impressions: 4/5 –
Performance errors: 1/5 –
Complexity/reading level: 3/5 –
This blog is called “Backstepping” because reviewing audiobooks is a little bit like stepping back from the experience which already is semi-detached, at least for a person used to reading books in print. This review is about the book I rated my favorite audiobook of 2021. The choice was not obvious. This is, however, the book which I found most satisfactory and memorable from a good many I read that year. I remember the story to this day in a lot of detail as it was able to paint itself in my head accurately, clearly and consistently from the beginning till the very end.
The story has a dream-like quality. Hope Davis was able to capture its mood so perfectly and unobtrusively that I had to revisit the recording to make sure I remembered it correctly. The narrator is almost nonexistent in the story, having be able to blend into the background. The accent is pleasant. The actress applied the style I admire in books concentrated on narration and contemplation rather than dialogue and action. Ann Patchett’s literary style is top notch in this novel and it is at the center of the entire production.
The book was shortlisted for several awards in 2011 when it was published but without much success in the finals. Nor does it score particularly high in audiobook ratings (the audio also published in 2011). Yet I still believe it deserves recognition. It has the quality of a Renaissance painting. The subject may seem a little cliché – Amazon forest, innovation, journey – but the picture painted here is even and polished to a degree that one has to admire it in a state of wonder. It may be revisited. It asks serious questions without attempting to give an answer. It calls for analysis and interpretation just like any piece of art should. The subject is modern and the main character has the weaknesses of a contemporary individual. The novel is spread like a canvas between various problems of the current age. Yet the book somehow seems older. Such may be the early signs of a universal work of literature.
The cover is created in the style resembling music recording covers, hinting more at classical music, perhaps Medieval or J. S. Bach. My second association (though it perhaps should be the first one) is that of illuminated manuscripts. I have a feeling that there is a good deal of work behind that cover. Despite that, the artwork tends to blend or hide behind the title, just as the voice of the narrator did not obscure the story. Such humility requires high professionalism and not an insignificant amount of experience.