The NAB Blog

Summer Listening – Audiobooks for the Summer Season

By Anthony Anderson

29 July 2022

Around the World in Eighty DaysThe coming of summer brings with it an air of relaxation – warmer weather and the prospect of travel, either overseas or closer to home. Whether it is just a few days or a period of some weeks, the summer season affords the opportunity to catch up on books, whether recent publications or the more established classics. Here are a few suggestions for summer listening.

One of the most wonderful things about books is that they transport us to different worlds – whether it be to another time or place (or both). Jules Verne’s perennial favourite Around the World in Eighty Days charts the adventures of Phileas Fogg, who is accompanied by his newly appointed valet, Passepartout, and pursued by Detective Fix. Set in the 1870s, the book, said to be inspired by a Thomas Cook advertisement, is packed with incident as Fogg makes his way around the globe – the race against time (with a wager of £20,000 at stake) heightening the tension.

Nowhere does the oft-recited maxim that truth is stranger than fiction apply more than to two fascinating accounts of unusual real-life journeys.

In 1963 Dervla Murphy, who died earlier this year, set off from Ireland on her bicycle (named Rozinante after Don Quixote’s horse), heading for India. Full Tilt, based on the daily diary she kept, tells the story of her journey through Persia, Afghanistan and over the Himalayas to Pakistan and India. Undaunted by snow in alarming quantities, and using her .25 pistol on starving wolves in Bulgaria and to scare off lecherous Kurds in Persia, her resourcefulness and the blind eye she turned to personal danger and extreme discomfort were remarkable. Read by Emma Lowe, this is a fascinating account of the Middle East in the 1960s and stands as a fitting testament to a redoubtable human being.

The climbing temperature forms part of the background as the plot escalates, ending in a ferocious thunderstorm

No less impressive was Ted Simon’s four-year journey on his Triumph Tiger 100 500 cc motorcycle, which encompassed 126,000 km across 45 countries. The first half of the journey (1973–77) took him the length of Africa, from Tunis to Cape Town, then around South America, from the tip of Brazil to the Argentine Pampas, and from Chile north through Panama to California. This was then followed by travels around Australia, and from Singapore overland to Europe through India, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey. This momentous adventure, an inspiration to later bikers (including Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor), is narrated in Jupiter’s Travels by Rupert Degas, with an introduction read by the author.

Back to fiction and the four ground-breaking novels known as The Alexandria Quartet, by Lawrence Durrell. The four books – Justine (1957), Balthazar (1958), Mountolive (1958) and Clea (1960) – present four perspectives on events in Alexandria in the 1940s. Personal narrative alternates with the political, against a background of luxuriant scenery and bohemian behaviour. Narrated by the acclaimed Nicholas Boulton, the audiobooks, first published last year, represent an outstanding achievement.

With good reason, Greece remains a popular holiday destination, and the Greek island of Phraxos provides the setting for John Fowles’s The Magus. To escape an unsatisfying relationship, the narrator Nicholas Urfe takes a teaching job on a Greek island only to become drawn into a twisted and dangerous friendship with a wealthy Greek recluse, Maurice Conchis. Reality and fantasy become blurred as the book turns increasingly dark and serious. Again it is given a superlative reading by Nicholas Boulton.

Lastly, and closer to home, is L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between. Set in Norfolk during the very hot summer of 1900, it is an achingly beautiful story of the coming of age of a young boy, Leo Colston, who gets caught up in a love affair between two people from different classes. The climbing temperature forms part of the background as the plot escalates, ending in a ferocious thunderstorm as the story reaches its tragic conclusion. The story is told from the perspective of the older – and emotionally damaged – Leo, and it would be hard to think of anyone better than Sean Barrett as a reader.

 • Latest Entry • The NAB Blog Archive •