Books: Spoken Word

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The Independent Culture
England, England

by Julian Barnes

Random House, c.3hrs, pounds 8.99

It was uncanny to listen to Julian Barnes reading , an abridgement of his new novel, while driving around the Isle of Wight, as its plot involves a media mogul's repositioning of every English heritage site of note, from Big Ben to Anne Hathaway's Cottage, in order to create an essence of England on the island. The idea seemed all too possible, as the charabancs hurtled past to Shamalot and the Blackgang Chine Experience. But Barnes's novel is no mere conceit: it is a warning about the loss of identity consequent on an ignorance of one's country's history which made me want to read the full-length book, published next week.

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Short Stories from Ancient Egypt

Ivory Shell, 2hrs, pounds 6.99

Most spoken-word literature is read aloud. But Ivory Shell's substantial new series of folk tales, myths and fairy stories charms the listener in the same way as professional story-tellers do, by using music to accentuate the drama. In Short Stories From Ancient Egypt, Helen Suzman fills the tales of Sett and Osiris, Isis and Imhotep with high suspense and drama, and in Aboriginal Tales (2hrs, pounds 6.99), Stan Pretty presents the Aboriginal world view of Dream Times and Rainbow Snakes with wit and economy. Packaged in attractive gift cases, the series looks set fair to replace the Andrew Lang Fairy Books as a nursery staple.

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