Audio books: True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey<br></br>In Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamond Lehmann

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The Independent Culture

The story of the legendary Australian Robin Hood, Ned Kelly, has never been told more powerfully or sympathetically than in Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang. It is written in the form of a letter by Ned Kelly himself to his daughter, safely "at pasture in San Francisco" with the love of his life, so that she will know what sort of man her father really was. All Carey's Kelly's book-learning came from Lorna Doone and Shakespeare, so his writing is full of echoes of both, woven in and out of ungrammatical bushranger slang. The words tumble out with a passionate intensity, peppered with abbreviations and circumlocutions that present an "adjectival challenge" to any reader. But Rupert Degas (billed as a "voice artist") rises to it magnificently, and the book's effect is considerably magnified by being read aloud.

Rosamond Lehmann is enjoying something of a revival, thanks to Radio 4's current classic serial The Weather in the Streets. The earlier history of its heroine, Olivia, is now also available. In Invitation to the Waltz (Chivers, unabridged, c6hrs, £16.50, mail order 0800 136919), she is just 17 and preparing, half with agony and half with ecstasy, to go to her first formal dance. No Mr Right appears, but she learns much about human nature. It's a subtle, perceptive book, and Joanna Lumley is the perfect choice as its reader, able to shift from Olivia's clear-headed and prickly innocence to the wearily sociable women – and men – of the world she meets during the evening.

Penguin has used its familiar original green-and-white livery to provide strikingly smart covers for its audiobook classic crime series, and three new titles (all 3hrs, £8.99) have been released together: Margery Allingham's Tiger in the Smoke, the high point of her Albert Campion series; Dorothy Sayers's Strong Poison, starring Lord Peter Wimsey; and Erskine Childers's Riddle of the Sands, a superb yachting thriller that predicted the Germans' invasion preparations for the First World War with eerie accuracy. Abridgement may seem almost lèse-majesté, but there's plenty there to enjoy – whether you're nostalgically revisiting or reading for the first time.

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