Spoken Word

<i>The Magic Toyshop</i> by Angela Carter, Read by Miriam Margoyles; <i>Shape of Snakes</i> by Minette Walters, Read by Caroline Goodall
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The Independent Culture

The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter, Read by Miriam Margoyles (Chivers, 7hrs 12mins, £14.95, mail order 0800 136919) The untimely death of Angela Carter at the age of 52 in 1992 deprived us of one of the most original of modern novelists. The Magic Toyshop was Carter at the peak of her powers, its evocation of 15-year-old susceptibilties mesmerising. Melanie flits through the garden of her home in the moonlight, clad only in her absent mother's wedding dress; she has been, literally, trying on womanhood for size. The front door slams and she has to shin up the apple tree to get back in. Torn and bleeding, the frock in tatters, she tumbles on her bedroom floor. Next morning, a telegram announcing her parents have both been killed in an aircrash arrives. How could it not have been her fault? The three orphans are taken in by their mother's terrifying brother, a toymaker in the mould of the Pinocchio puppeteer, but life is made bearable by the sweetness of his Irish wife and her two

The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter, Read by Miriam Margoyles (Chivers, 7hrs 12mins, £14.95, mail order 0800 136919) The untimely death of Angela Carter at the age of 52 in 1992 deprived us of one of the most original of modern novelists. The Magic Toyshop was Carter at the peak of her powers, its evocation of 15-year-old susceptibilties mesmerising. Melanie flits through the garden of her home in the moonlight, clad only in her absent mother's wedding dress; she has been, literally, trying on womanhood for size. The front door slams and she has to shin up the apple tree to get back in. Torn and bleeding, the frock in tatters, she tumbles on her bedroom floor. Next morning, a telegram announcing her parents have both been killed in an aircrash arrives. How could it not have been her fault? The three orphans are taken in by their mother's terrifying brother, a toymaker in the mould of the Pinocchio puppeteer, but life is made bearable by the sweetness of his Irish wife and her two brothers: fascinating Finn and melancholic Frankie. Time and again, I rewound the tape to enjoy Margoyles's superb reading of Carter's elegant cadences, haunting in their truth to human nature.

Shape of Snakes by Minette Walters, Read by Caroline Goodall (Macmillan, 5hrs, £9.99) Minette Walters is one of the best and most satisfying of modern thriller writers, and her latest novel of endemic human fraility, read with verve and versatility by Caroline Goodall, is as long and tightly-layered as a leek. The deceptions travel 20 years back in time: it was 1978 when Annie died, a black women who suffered from Tourette's syndrome - she couldn't help saying out loud the thoughts most of us would die rather than utter. Die because she spoke them she did - but which of her many accusations made their target murderous? The cover-up was complete, an unholy alliance of corrupt policemen and adulterous, thieving neighbours and a crime which would today be thought of as racially motivated, but was then given very low priority. But now Mrs Ranelagh has returned from 20 years in Australia armed with disturbing evidence. What drives her, though? The fact that she was allowed to spiral almost into insanity because of the disbelief of her nearest and dearest when she discovered Annie's body, or a more personal agenda?

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