A Word In Your Ear: The Garden; Six Wives: the Queens of Henry VIII

Click to follow

Gilliam Linscott's The Garden (Soundings, 13 hrs 30 mins, £19.99; mail order 0191-253 4155) is a haunting crime novel set in Edwardian Herefordshire, where a garden every bit as fabulous as Tim Smit's Heligan is being laid out for a wealthy woman. Her rakehell artist husband knows that the explorer and botanist masterminding the garden is his wife's lover. Add a jealous son, and an enchanting kitchen-maid with a taste for her mistress's cast-off finery, and a brilliant plot has lift-off. The tragic consequences are only uncovered a century later by a couple who happen on the derelict garden and, while restoring it, discover human bones in the pond. The parallel stories are both gripping, the characters in each sympathetically drawn, and the garden realised with impressive accuracy. Anne Cater reads with clarity and warmth.

The lucid historical narrative of David Starkey's Six Wives: the Queens of Henry VIII (HarperCollins, c. 6hrs, £12.99), written for his TV series as much as his book, lends itself well to being read aloud. Even so, I did not bargain for such a fascinating experience. Starkey chucks out the traditional take on Henry's women (Catherine pious and wronged, Anne suicidally randy, Jane Seymour saintlike), and draws six astonishing women with talent and charisma. Patricia Hodge reads: a cool and austerely feminine analogue of Starkey himself.

Comments