By August 24, 2010 1 Comments Read More →

More About “Hedgehog” — and Audiobooks

I read with interest Misha’s recent post about her discussion experience with Muriel Barbery’s exceptional novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog  Months ago, Misha wrote about discovering this book, and I thought then about someday using it in a discussion of my own.  Recently I was told by my supervisor that Hedgehog is a title I could use in a discussion sometime next year.  (The library will be purchasing multiple copies for its various discussion groups.)  But I hadn’t read it yet, so before I decided to make a commitment, I checked out the audio version to become more familiar with the book.

I’m happy to report that the audiobook is wonderful, and it really sold me on the novel.  Now I’m definitely planning to add Hedgehog to my 2011 discussion schedule.

The reason I’m writing about this is to point out the value of listening to audiobooks when considering titles for discussion and also when preparing discussion programs.  (This idea ties in with Kaite’s recent post, “Talking About Listening Redux.”)  As others have commented, the recorded versions lend an extra dimension to many works — and that factor hasn’t gone unnoticed by book discussion participants.  During the last two discussions I attended, several group members mentioned that they had listened to the books instead of reading them.  They remarked on how much they enjoyed the readings because of the skill of the narrators and also because the voices drew them into the texts, something they doubted would have happened with these particular books had they approached them only as readers.

In the case of Hedgehog, there are two narrators — Barbara Rosenblat, one of the audiobook industry’s real rock stars, and Cassandra Morris.  Rosenblat portrays the imperious concierge, Renee, and Morris voices the quirky 12-year-old Paloma, who lives in Renee’s building and — as Misha pointed out — is planning to commit suicide (!) on her next birthday.  At first, these characters are terribly offputting, and the listener really must stick with them for a while to get a true sense of their stories.  But once hooked, there’s no letting go.  Prepare for delightful insights into the realms of art, literature, film, music, and philosophy; the author creates a rich and colorful tapestry of words and ideas.  And then there is the conclusion to the tale, which packs an unexpected and deeply emotional wallop.  All of this comes across so beautifully in the audio performances.  I wonder, when I actually read the book in a few months, in preparation for my discussion, if the impact will be as great.

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About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).

1 Comment on "More About “Hedgehog” — and Audiobooks"

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  1. socialmediaeditor@audiofilemagazine.com' Kirsten says:

    Hi, Ted; what a great post. We’ve been discussing this very topic over on Audiobook Community – I’m going to drop a link to your blog post, but hope you’ll come over and have a look at what our members are saying about audiobooks in book clubs, as well! Here’s the specific discussion: http://www.audiobookcommunity.com/group/industrybuzz/forum/topics/audiobooks-in-book-clubs

    Hope to see you there!

    Best,
    Kirsten
    Social Media Editor
    AudioFile Magazine

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