All audiobooks run the risk of the actor's voice being irritating rather than seductive. Juliet Stevenson's lisping, sibillant rendering of Penguin's Villette scuppered poor Lucy Snowe. Stevenson's in much better form with To the Lighthouse, well suited in its symphonic structure to the CD format (Naxos pounds 6.99). The Naxos books use music, in Woolf's case Greig and Delius, to great effect. Brian Cox gruffs his way through Aubrey's garrulous Brief Lives to the accompaniment of Orlando Gibbons, and best of all, young actor Benjamin Soames thrills to Tales from the Norse Legends, with Mahler, Grieg and Smetana.
A Shakespeare audiobook, out from Hodder in November, called The Prince's Choice, features Prince Charles playing Prince Hal to Robert Stephens' Falstaff. The POW consulted a voice coach, but Stephens cooed: "You don't need to do that, because you're the Prince of Wales playing the Prince of Wales." Funny, he's always seemed pretty inauthentic at that, too.
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