As I’ve mentioned a few times I’m a big fan of audiobooks. They mean I can take in a book while doing other mundane tasks like hanging washing or cooking a meal. I can also listen while out walking – it’s very hard to read a physical book and walk at the same time. Not impossible, but definitely challenging.
Audible often has deals on so at some point in the past I bought The Island of Adventure but had never got around to listening to it. Then I had a visual migraine the other week while waiting for my Covid results (which eventually came back negative) so I went to lie down for a while and decided to start listening!
I have already reviewed the book in a fair amount of detail so I won’t go over all that again.
The audiobook isn’t exactly the same as the book I reviewed though, as it has used an edited/updated text. You can tell as it features Joe rather than Jo-Jo.
I have compared an early text with a later one in a series of posts and from what I can tell this is a very similar if not identical edition as it also has Kiki as white and yellow instead of scarlet and grey, and other changes I recognise too.
I am not a big fan of updates to Blyton’s works – some I accept are necessary and don’t greatly spoil the books but many are silly and some are downright idiotic – but as her works are in UK copyright until 2038 there won’t be an un-updated audiobooks here until then. Not legally, anyway.
The cover is an audiobook (ie square) version from the latest paperback and although I’m not a huge fan, it’s not the worst cover if you don’t look too closely at the children. Somehow it seem to matter less when it’s an audiobook (or ebook) even though I see the cover every time I press play/pause/skip back.
The narrator sounds a bit like the one from The Young Adventurers and The Cursed Castle, but is in fact Thomas Judd (and not Ciaran Saward.) Maybe there’s a school for audiobook narrators, or maybe Judd and Saward come from the same region.
Anyway, Judd has a pleasant, easy to listen to voice. Like Saward and Stephen Fry he reads at a pace I can comfortably listen to without speeding it up – and that doesn’t happen often.
His voices are not the best I have heard, but neither are they the worst. Uncle Jocelyn, Mr Roy and Bill are quite good, and you can tell them apart, but Joe unfortunately sounds like a Comic Strip Presents character played by Robbie Coltrane. As in the modern paperbacks he retains the speech patterns of someone who does not have English as their first language (I’ve seen it referred to as a Caribbean patois) but he speaks with a broad Cornish accent which is a little jarring.
Bill is quite jolly-sounding for the most part which works well, but on a couple of occasions he is supposed to be sharp and stern and that doesn’t really come across in his tone of voice.
Dinah and Lucy-Ann aren’t particularly distinguishable from each other, in fact Dinah sounds extremely insipid for her fiery nature, and neither Philip or Jack sounds noticeably different. Instead of sounding like a girl in a temper who is hitting her brother mercilessly, Dinah often sounds as if she’s about to burst into tears. Thomas Judd seems to think that all girls speak in quite high-pitched voices all the time unfortunately, which got a bit distracting at times. It wasn’t bad enough to make me stop listening, but I winced quite a few times. The Audible sample for this book is from the start and so doesn’t feature Dinah but the one for The Castle of Adventure does, so you can get an idea.
Kiki isn’t bad – I suppose it’s hard to voice a somewhat unrealistically skilled-at-human-speech parrot, but she doesn’t sounds very parrot-like. The Audible sample has Kiki’s first lines if you want to hear them for yourself.
It’s interesting to see (or hear) how differently parts of the book can be interpreted. In chapter three, Jack says Uncle doesn’t want us back… And Mr Roy doesn’t want us here. So it looks as if nobody loves us at the moment Lucy-Ann. I know the text says that he was looking so dismayed, and he’s dreading staying the rest of the holidays with Mr Roy, but it sounds like he’s about to burst into tears. Given the sort of stiff-upper-lip attitudes of the time I always read him as saying it a bit more matter-of-factly.
What’s also interesting, though I suspect this can apply whether you’re reading the same edition for the umpteenth time or on a new one, is how a re-read can suddenly throw up brand-new things. This time I had an epiphany about Jo-Jo (or indeed, Joe). He is not skulking around following the children just to annoy them, he wants to know who took them out fishing and into town, specifically because if there’s someone new around especially with a boat they could be a danger to the counterfeiting operation. How daft of me to never really think of that before!
Usually audiobooks either have special sound effects or they don’t. The Bad Beginning (the first A Series of Unfortunate Events book) had a great narrator in the form of Tim Curry along with a full cast of voice actors for the characters. Unfortunately it was almost un-listenable due to the constant background effect such as crashing waves and squawking seagulls etc, which almost drowned out all the dialogue. A sample is on the Audible site and has the sea sounds in the background.
Anyway, this one is odd as the only effect is that the phone call between Mr Roy and Aunt Polly has Mr Roy’s voice sounds as if it’s coming from far-away, or indeed down a 1940s phone line. It’s very well done – just a little unexpected as there are no other effects.
There is also some opening music that is, thank goodness not repeated every chapter as I find that incredibly tedious. It’s also terrible for people who like to fall asleep listening to audiobooks as it’s guaranteed to wake me up every time!
All in all this was an OK listen. Obviously the story gets five stars but the narration is probably only 3.5 stars. I don’t think I would spend another credit on others in this series as they are all narrated by Thomas Judd.