A Word In Your Ear: Fallen Angels, His Dark Materials

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The Independent Culture

Tracy Chevalier's Fallen Angels (HarperCollins, c. 4hrs, £9.99) is told from the point of view of many different characters. It's a structure that always lends itself well to being read aloud, especially when the readers are as sensitive and versatile as Isla Blair and Jamie Glover. The novel is set in the 1900s, opening with the death of Queen Victoria and ending with that of Edward VII. Death is relevant, as the backdrop of the story is a fashionable London cemetery where two very different families own neighbouring graves. Chevalier excels in making past times powerfully present.

A new way of approaching Philip Pullman's hugely feted His Dark Materials trilogy was introduced by Radio 4 over the last three weeks: three 2hr 30 minute dramatised episodes, one for each book, broadcast on Saturday afternoons. Now you can buy each one separately (£10.99, CD £12.99) or as a boxed set (£30, CD £36). Terence Stamp is a chilling Lord Asriel and Emma Fielding a sensationally feline Mrs Coulter, and there are compelling performances by Lulu Popplewell and Daniel Anthony as Lyra and Will. The wonders of the original are conjured up magnificently, but people unfamiliar with the complete books should also try the unabridged versions, narrated by Pullman and also available from BBC Audiobooks