Atonement by Ian McEwan read by Isla Blair

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The Independent Culture

Having recently recommended Jenny Agutter's unabridged version of Dodie Smith's wonderful novel I Capture the Castle, about two sisters in search of romance real and written, I had a strong sense of déjà entendu when I listened to Atonement, Ian McEwan's story of the novelist as a young avenging angel. There are echoes too of L P Hartley's The Go-Between and Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. But as always, McEwan's pastiche tribute emerges as a new-minted form. Having enjoyed every word of the book, I did regret the loss of some of the novel's telling details, but this is a first-class abridgement, and Isla Blair's reading illuminates and intensifies McEwan's words.

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The English, written and read by Jeremy Paxman, Penguin, abridged, 5hrs 45mins, £12.99. Disappointing book by a clever man who has got too much into the habit of carping. On audio, it has its amusing aspect: Paxman's typically over-sarcastic delivery effectively sends up his own opinions.