Now available in a new recording, Jojo Moyes’ 2009 novel may terrify listeners renovating their homes, but everyone should enjoy it hugely.
Isabel Delancey, a recently widowed mother of two, is shocked to discover that she is on the verge of bankruptcy. A talented classical violinist who had abandoned her career, Isabel must sell her family’s upscale London home, fire the nanny and find out how and where to live. Then comes the news that a distant relative has passed away and left him his decrepit country mansion. Isabel sees an opportunity, but there is a catch: the local builder helping with a massive renovation sees the house as his own. As the walls crumble, Isabel’s savings begin to disappear in a cloud of plaster dust.
The novel, beautifully narrated by actress and singer Elizabeth Knowelden, is a potent blend of betrayal and obsession; village life and romance; dry rot and load-bearing walls. (Penguin, full version, 1:15 p.m.)
Katie Crouch’s skillfully written novel shows us the thankless lot of “trailers”, the wives of foreign diplomats.
Amanda Evans gave up the job she loved in California so that her husband, Mark, a second-rate scholar, could pursue a study funded by Fulbright and overseen by the U.S. Embassy in Namibia. It turns out that Mark had secretly turned to this project in hopes of finding out the fate of a woman he loved but abandoned when he was in the Peace Corps 20 years ago. Is she dead? Or disappeared? Or has she taken on a whole new identity? We begin to suspect the last one and also who exactly she is now. The situation becomes delicate. The novel is partly a satire of poisoned and exploitative embassy communities, partly a comedy of manners and partly a drama.
Marni Penning tells the book in a clear and direct manner, distinguishing the speakers with a mixture of voices and accents, some of them apparently of his own invention. (Dream landscape. Full version, 14 hours)
Sunjeev Sahota’s intense and heartbreaking novel is based on a tale passed down through the author’s family.
In the center is the “porcelain room”, an outbuilding of a farm in rural Punjab where, in 1929, the three wives of three brothers sleep and cook for their husbands and their dictatorial mother-in-law, Mai. After arranging the marriages, Mai chooses which woman will spend the night in a completely dark “windowless room” with her respective husband. “Dedicated, veiled and silent,” wives are prevented from knowing which brother is whose husband, an ignorance that leads to the terrible blunder that turns the life of the youngest wife, Mehar, 15, upside down. His story alternates with that of Mehar’s great-grandson, an 18-year-old addicted to heroin. To get rid of his habit, he retires to the abandoned farm in India, where, grimly, one of the outbuildings is equipped with bars. We end up discovering their usefulness after a few painfully suspensive hours.
Antonio Aakeel takes up the first-person narration of Mehar’s struggling great-grandson while Indira Varma tells Mehar’s story in a low, melodic voice. (Penguin Audio, full version, 6 hours)