Books: Spoken Word

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A Patchwork Planet

read by David Morse

Random House, 5hrs, pounds 12.99

THERE'S AN old country-and-western song called "Gentle on My Mind" which sums up the subtle charm of Anne Tyler's novels: you feel the wiser for reading, or in this case, hearing them. David Morse's husky, resigned voice is the perfect medium for Barnaby Gaitlin, supposedly the black sheep of a philanthropic family, in fact the only one of them to have a true understanding of kindness. Miraculously (and this is a book about angels), he and an endearing cast of needy but sassy wrinklies show us how to cope with the inevitable imperfections of the world.

Cold Comfort Farm

read by Eileen Atkins

Penguin, 3hrs, pounds 8.99

ALTHOUGH FEW people now read Mary Webb, the author whom Stella Gibbons was parodying in Cold Comfort Farm, the book remains an evergreen classic. It seems a shame to miss a word of it, but this is an exceptionally successful abridgement, guaranteed to dissipate the most recalcitrant gloom. Eileen Atkins thoroughly enjoys herself as she reads Flora Poste's lines with brisk, Roedean-accented competence, smoulders as Seth, preaches hellfire as Amos and querulously complains of "something nasty in the woodshed" as matriarch Ada Doom.