I listened to my first complete audiobook last week. It’s not my preferred choice but was the only way I could obtain the latest Hannah Kent from the library. Will I change my mind about audiobooks? I don’t think so. It requires complete immersion and concentration and you listen at the pace of the narrator. You can’t skip or skim, of that I am guilty. For many that may be an advantage but for me I wanted to race ahead if I am loving the book. The language of an audiobook becomes almost a living thing. In the case of Devotion, this was the best aspect. I do love Hannah Kent’s writing and it makes me want to read Good People, having read Burial Rites a few years ago with my book group.
This book follows a group of Old Lutherans from Germany to a place where they will have freedom to practice their religion. In Germany they have been hounded and abused. Hanne, a young girl, around fifteen when the book begins is different from other girls. She seeks solace in nature, in the way the ancient trees speak to her. She believes her mother doesn’t love her and wishes to spend more time with her twin, Mathias, her only friend – until Thea arrives and an instant connection forms.
There is so much I loved about the book. The reader is immersed in the way of life in this village where every aspect is ruled by the beliefs and customs of the Lutherans while they wait for permission to leave. The second part follows them on a brutal journey in a cramped ship where typhus rages, to South Australia, not long after the founding of Adelaide. It’s on the ship when the author throws a huge curve ball which left me at sea – pun intended. Had she really done that? Had she ruined the book for me? I listened in disbelief as the book turns into something else, a new genre. I listened on, disbelief eventually subsiding and I came to understand a possible reason. Where, at the start, we are cocooned in a tiny village in old Europe, we are thrown into a continent of settlers as they battle to survive and are helped at first by the original owners of the land until their inevitable displacement. The author needed a third eye, perhaps.
I was left wandering / wondering (both are correct). Did the author plan this story or did she, a third of the way through think a) how do I solve this huge problem I have set myself or b) think my readers could do with being shaken up. Whatever – how brave. You have to decide.
Will I borrow another audiobook? I have one on order – The Manningtree Witches. I absolutely love the service provided through Norfolk Libraries and Libby. While I will always prefer and e-book, I will order an audiobook if necessary. I just know that it will take longer to get through and make me pay more attention to the words.
What is your choice?