Those of you who listen to audiobooks, what do you think about multiple readers reading one book? I finished listening to Colum McCann’s The Dancer recently and had mixed feelings about the quality of the reading. I’m not sure about the quality of the novel itself, as it’s hard to tell if I would have liked it if I had read it in the usual way. But on audio I found it slow and a little dull. And their choice to have multiple readers reading various parts irritated me.
This is a book where having multiple readers makes sense, in a way, because the novel switches point of view a lot, moving from character to character and place to place, telling the story from a whole range of voices and perspectives. Having different readers read each part makes it easier to figure out that a new section has begun. I could remember the reader’s voices, too, and figure out which character the narrative was then following.
And yet I prefer to stay with one reader, no matter how varied the novel’s point of view is. What I like about audiobooks is the sense that there is one person reading a story to me; that reader becomes kind of like a character him or herself, someone I want to spend time with. Switching readers feels too jarring.
It didn’t help that several of the readers have irritating voices — too often overly dramatic, with every word over-enunciated. Some of the readers were really loud and others were really quiet, so I could never get the volume set right. It seems hard enough to find one reader who can read well; trying to put a book together with half a dozen good readers seems impossible.
The book is about Rudolf Nureyev, covering most of his life, from his very poor childhood in Russia to his international success as a ballet dancer, which brought wealth and fame. It captures life in the Soviet Union very well, as well as the pressures that are placed on a strong-willed, spirited young man who finds himself with more money and attention than he knows what to do with. He becomes friends with all sorts of famous people including Andy Warhol and John Lennon, and it was fun to read about the artistic, bohemian circles Nureyev moved in.
But overall, there were only parts of the book that really intrigued me; unfortunately, I spent more time cringing at the readers rather than getting much out of the book itself. I probably would have stopped listening to it if I listened to books anywhere but in the car, but I have plenty of time there (unfortunately), so it seemed to make sense to keep on with it.
Now I’m listening to Laura Lippman’s What the Dead Know, and it’s working much better for me. Maybe when it comes to audiobooks I should stick to mystery novels?