Ages and ages ago, when I had moved to Oxford after finishing University, I found Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus in the county library and I fell in love. The world was intoxicating – as visual artsy person, I loved how visual the writing was and how much it engaged the senses. I adored the night circus as a setting, and the magic, and Poppet and Widget. Fast forward a few years and The Night Circus, narrated by Jim Dale, popped up on my audible deal of the day.
Reader, I bought it.
Unfortunately, I bought quite a few audiobooks, several of them for books I had not read before (I’ll be listening to Susan Calman next. I love her) and so the books I had read got pushed to the back of the listen pile. That is until I was faced with several hundreds of hours spent traversing New Zealand and Australia in a coach. Then it’s quite nice to have something familiar. I picked The Night Circus to listen to because it was familiar – I wasn’t expecting to fall even more in love with the story than I did before!
Honestly, if reading the book (devouring might be a better world) had me sweeping around imaging illsions and how I would create it as part of a film, the audiobook near enough swept me away right into the middle of the Challenge, and left me there to soak up the story – like a curled up on a bus sponge. It was intoxicating, it was decadant, it was so unbelievably sensory.
I think The Night Circus is definately one of those books that are designed to be read to other people – it’s construction leant so perfectly to being spoken aloud. In some respects, all books ae like that but there are a few where the listening experience becomes almost transcendent. And for me, The Night Circus was one of those. I was taking several buses over several days to get from Wellington to Paihia and there was one day where I was so caught up in the Night Circus being established that I hadn’t noticed that everyone had gotten off the bus. My mind was swirling along white and black checkered pathways, peering into tents and admiring Ceilia’s costumes (I want to make a whole series of black and white dresses now. Send help!)
Even now, sat in Australia, I find myself thinking of the intense visuals that listening provided, of the things I missed in the story – this is why I like audiobooks I think. I notice things I never noticed the first time I read a book. Sometimes I wonder if I read too quickly, because when I listen I have more time to process the words and construct the world.
I’m rambling, but I’m still thinking about it. I am now listening to another book I’ve loved before (Six of Crows) and again I’m recalling things I hadn’t realised I’d forgotten. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention how much I love the audio for the Guersey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – there are whole sections which come to life in the audio that I just read when reading the book (if that makes sense).
Audio books are an alternative and still uniquely portable kind of magic, but they’re a different kind, full of tone and pacing. I am trying to justify re-starting my audible membership to get Phillip Pullman’s new novel, The Secret Commonwealth because it’s read by Michael Sheen (Who is a gem of a human being) but I also want to be able to read the book myself first (Generally significantly faster) before listening. I like picking up on things in audio that I didn’t in reading.
Do you have any audio books that you utterly adore? Do you read print copies and then listen or do you prefer to just listen?
P.S has anyone read The Starless Sea yet?? I can’t wait to read it but it’ll have to wait until Christmas (my mum asked me what I wanted so now I can’t buy myself)