Monday, August 28, 2006

Soundly on Track

Julian Barnes
Metroland (Read by Greg Wise)
London: Chivers Audio, 1999. (6 hours)
ISBN 0-7540-0375-0

Julian Barnes’s first novel Metroland depicts the life of Christopher Lloyd from his formative teenage years through his college days and into middleclass life in the suburbs of London. More importantly, the novel reveals the development of Chris’s relationships with his best childhood friend Toni, his Parisian lover Annick, and, as he settles into middle age, his wife Marion. The novel is expertly constructed and finely balanced between these three time periods in Chris’s life. Barnes uses French liberally throughout the novel and includes numerous references to works of literature and art. The novel is highly intelligent, humorous, and strikingly touching as Chris is forced to decide whether the life he is leading as a husband and father is an abandonment of his childhood values and beliefs and, if so, whether he should accept his life or leave Metroland to pursue the dreams he once had.

In presenting the novel as an audiobook, Greg Wise does more than simply read the words Barnes has already finely tuned. Wise relays the tones and inflections of the characters, adding additional clarity to their statements. Importantly, Wise paces his reading well, stammering when the characters stammer and pausing slightly when the absence of sound might allow the reader time to absorb the meaning of the story. The many French passages are handled with a qualified accent, which adds to the overall enjoyment of the novel.

The Chivers packaging consists of 6 cassette tapes running approximately six hours in length.

-- Ryan Roberts, November 2001

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