New Audio Books to listen to now

We’re swapping podcasts for audiobooks this January. These are our favourite new listens:

Anne Glenconner, Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown

If you caught Lady Anne Glenconner on Graham Norton recounting her honeymoon in Paris (via a down-at-heel brothel) to the shocked delight of Olivia Colman, then you’ll know just what a wonderful storyteller she is. More of the same in this hugely entertaining memoir made even more appealing for being read aloud by Lady Glenconner herself in a distinctively grand drawl. We’re swept from a seemingly idyllic childhood at Holkham Hall – where Anne and her sister Carey would play in the attic making dens out of Old Master paintings deemed too louche to be hung on the walls – picnicking on the beach and eating boiled eggs for tea, perfectly cooked in a bain-marie in the time taken to walk from kitchen to nursery, so large was the house. From there to London and life as a debs delight, swirling around ballrooms and swerving the handsy NSIT’s (not safe in taxi’s) and the start of life as a royal aide as Maid of Honour at the Queen’s coronation in 1953. Later, as portrayed in The Crown season 3, she was to play Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret to whom she remains loyal to throughout, talking fondly of her hoots of laughter and their travels together. The role offered respite from a testing family life with three sons struck by tragedy and a colourful marriage to the wild and wayward Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner, a character so reckless he bought the island of Mustique without ever having stepped foot on it and later left his fortune to his manservant, Kent. A stiff upper lip and a ‘just get on with it’ attitude keeps the spirited Anne Glenconner marching onwards through the extraordinary events of her life, that really do make for an excellent story. £10.99 books.apple.com

Anne Patchett’s The Dutch House narrated by Tom Hanks

Post-war Philadelphia and Cyril Conroy is on the up. Acquiring The Dutch House – so-called not because of its architecture but thanks to its previous inhabitants, the Van Hoebeeks, now bankrupt – the family move from a ‘postage-stamp’ sized rental to the grandeur of a suburban home complete with deep peony beds and a wide lawn. Amongst all the Van Hoebeeks furniture and paintings things begin to unravel; Cyril and Elna’s marriage falls apart and the entrance of a chilly stepmother spells trouble for siblings Maeve and Danny. Fans of Patchett’s clear, confident prose won’t be disappointed by Tom Hanks’ rendering of this grown up fairytale. Narrating through the eyes of Danny across five decades he manages to achieve a child-like lightness as well as soft restraint that strikes just the right tone for the story. £18.99 audible.co.uk

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women narrated by Laura Dern

We’re all mad for Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. For those wanting more, Laura Dern (who plays Marmee in the film) narrates the book along with a full cast in this new recording from audible. Listen to Louisa May Alcott’s story and you’ll spot all the genius ways that Gerwig’s adaption adjusts the characters for current times. For example, Jo’s match, Friedrich Bhae is described as ‘rather stout’ and ‘plain and odd’ in the book, and he’s also middle aged. Casting Louis Garrel in the role presents an altogether more attractive proposition; hurrah for Jo who gets to have it all, her writing career as well as true love. Similarly, we notice the nuance brought to Amy, a somewhat spoiled and churlish character in the book. The last minute addition of Amy’s speech to Laurie about marriage as an economic proposition was something Meryl Streep supposedly nudged Gerwig to include, allowing us to understand Amy’s motives for marriage and letting us sympathise with her in a way we hadn’t previously. Louisa May Alcott’s original text is told chronologically as the girls grow into women, unlike the choppy film. It’s charming and heart-warming and perfect January listening. £19.99 amazon.co.uk

— Daisy Allsup
8th January 2020