Friday, March 30, 2007

The Undomestic Goddess

My friend Suzanne has been telling me for years that I must read Sophie Kinsella’s books, and I’ve just never gotten around to it. But earlier this month I had to make a long car trip, so I dashed into the library and checked out the audio version of Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess (a departure from her more well-known Shopaholic books) to entertain me on my journey. (Trust me, when you’re driving for hours. . . and hours. . . and hours along I-70 into western Kansas, you need entertainment.)

And Suzanne was right. The Undomestic Goddess was a hoot—funny and fresh, with a feisty, often clueless, but totally sympathetic main character named Samantha Sweeting. And somehow, even though a summary of the plot sounds far-fetched (high-powered London attorney makes a mistake that costs her firm and her client a fortune, runs away in a mortified daze, and, even though she can’t cook and doesn’t have the first idea about cleaning, accidentally lands a job as housekeeper at a country estate and, of course, falls for the gardener), Kinsella makes the whole thing pretty believable.

As I said, this was on CD, and although I haven’t listened to enough audio books to even pretend to be an expert, I do know that a good narrator can truly enrich a story. I recently listened to one narrator whose voice was so cloying, I could barely finish the book. This version of The Undomestic Goddess, however, is narrated by Rosalyn Landor, a British actress and true voice pro (a quick Google search tells me she’s done lots of voice work for animated TV shows and movies, including “The Incredibles”). Landor gives each character a distinct voice perfect for that individual. It’s worth listening to the CD just to hear her nasally interpretation of Trish, Samantha’s newly wealthy manor-house employer.

Ed Asner, who does the audio versions of many of Carl Hiaasen’s books, is another terrific narrator. He slips easily into each character’s voice without drawing attention to himself, and his voice has a sureness that lets you sink into the book and relax, knowing you’re in good hands. He’s so good, you forget you’re listening to somebody read. He’s so good, I’d listen to any book he narrated, no matter who the author or what the subject.

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