I haven’t been sleeping well these last six months or so – and I won’t need to tell readers of my blog why that is. I don’t usually have a problem getting to sleep, but I often find myself awake at four or five am. That is when audiobooks are such a godsend. I prefer books that I already know – doesn’t much matter then if I drop off and miss a bit – and I prefer them unabridged. And of course it is of paramount importance that the voice is right for that particular novel.
I’ve been enjoying the work of four wonderful actors. It goes without saying that David Suchet is perfect for Murder on the Orient Express, but Hugh Fraser is pretty damn good as a reader of other Christie novels, such as The Hollow and Nemesis. Ian Carmichael couldn’t be better in the dramatisations of Dorothy L. Sayers’s Wimsey books, reprising the role he played so well on TV. But the absolute queen of the audiobook is for me Prunella Scales, first with Mrs Gaskell’s Cranford, and then with Wives and Daughters. This last in particular has just been sheer bliss and toward the end I was listening to it even when I didn’t have insomnia. Her characterisation is so perfect, her understanding of the nuances of the novel so complete – and what a marvellous novel it is, full of insight into human weakness, but full of compassion too. I could listen to her forever.
If there are other listeners to audiobooks out there, I would really welcome suggestions for other good readers – particularly of the classics or of golden age crime fiction. Please let me know your favourites.
So at last it’s over. After twenty-four years David Suchet’s magnificent run as Hercule Poirot came to an end last night – and what an end. The last few episodes had been a bit disappointing, but last night’s was a return to form and I loved it. It had an appropriately elegiac and autumnal feel. The script-writer was Kevin Elyot, who did a fine job, sticking fairly closely to the book with most of the story seen from Hastings’ viewpoint. The cast included some stellar names and Hugh Frazer as the loyal, grieving Hastings was pitch perfect and it was touching to see how the end of their friendship was played out.
Although it is Poirot’s last case, it is mid-period Christie, as she wrote it in the war and didn’t allow it to to be published until 1975, when she knew she wouldn’t be writing any more Poirots. What a gift to her readers. It is a brilliantly audacious plot, and reminded me of what she could do at her best. The Crime Writers Association recently voted her the best crime-writer ever, and really there is no-one like her.
Poirot has a special place in my heart. When I first met my husband around twenty-years ago, and got to know his children, one of the things we did as a family was to watch Poirot on Sunday evenings, all snuggled up together on the sofa. Happy days.