Tuesday, December 4, 2018

What have I been reading?

I think I've mentioned a time or two already my fondness for audiobooks. They are my go to companion on solitary drives or train rides. I even invested in a pair of decent Bluetooth earbuds especially. This last couple of months has been no exception, and my principle point of call is, as ever, good old Nora Roberts.

As an aside, I read a blog by Nora in the last couple of days bemoaning the actions of a newbie author who accused her of plagiarism for ‘stealing’ a book title. Clearly the ripples of Cockygate have not quite reached all corners of our profession, But, I digress.

Public Secrets, narrated by Renee Raudman, charts a quarter of a century, following the fortunes of up and coming rock legend Brian McEvoy and his illegitimate daughter, Emma.

The product of a brief and disastrous liaison while he was still a teenager, Brian takes the three-year old Emma into his home when he realises she is in danger from her abusive mother. His pregnant girlfriend, Bev, is not best pleased, but these are basically decent people who open their hearts to a vulnerable little girl. As Brian’s band, Devastation, soars into the upper echelons of rock royalty, Emma learns what it is to be the pampered darling of a wealthy, doting father.

The story follows Emma, Brian and the band through the roller-coaster of the 60s pop scene where drink and drugs are the norm and it seems money really can buy everything. Then tragedy strikes, and the utter powerlessness of wealth in the face of mortality strikes at the core of their lives. The family shatters and in a desperate attempt to keep his daughter safe Brian packs Emma off to an exclusive boarding school in the USA.

But Ms Roberts is the queen and queen mother of ticking time bombs, and that’s what this story is essentially all about. Emma knows who killed her baby brother but has erased the memory. Sooner or later something will cause that suppressed memory to re-surface. We have to wait a quarter of a century, but the explosive climax is all I could desire.

I never fail to admire the way in which Ms Roberts can write dark, but without seeming to. The murder of a child, how much darker can it get? Somehow, she remains mainstream and her popularity never wanes. Something to aspire to.

If I had one complaint about this audiobook it would be the les than stellar interpretation of a British Cockney accent – at least, that’s what I assume it was meant to be. Narration of audiobooks is something of a dramatic art and on that score this one fell short.

On a lighter note, if you’ve never dipped into Sue Townsend’s brilliantly funny books about an alternative, parallel universe for the British monarchy I can heartily recommend them.
The Queen and I was written before the untimely death of Princess Diana and viewed from the current day standpoint the follow up book, Queen Camilla, is stunningly prophetic. The blurb says it all:

When a Republican party wins the General Election, their first act in power is to strip the royal family of their assets and titles and send them to live on a housing estate in the Midlands. 

Exchanging Buckingham Palace for a two-bedroomed semi in Hell Close (as the locals dub it), caviar for boiled eggs, servants for a social worker names Trish, the Queen and her family learn what it means to be poor among the great unwashed. But is their breeding sufficient to allow them to rise above their changed circumstances or are they really just like everyone else?

We accompany HRM to the social security office, bristle over Prince Philip‘s refusal to accept this change in circumstances and sympathise with Diana’s attempts to fit in with other young mums on the estate. And the whole tale is spun so convincingly, you can actually imagine it happening…
An absolute must if you enjoy irreverent satire. I wonder what Ms Townsend would do with the whole Brexit saga?
The Queen and I, Sue Townsend

Queen Camilla, Sue Townsend

1 comment:

  1. So, would an American understand Sue Townsend's work, and find it funny?