Fifty Words for Rain

Books on Tape. 2020. 1,314p. ISBN 9780593292327. $95. digital download. F
While Lemmie’s debut—about the tribulations of an illegitimate, mixed-race granddaughter of a cousin to the royal Japanese family—might not be perfect, she certainly deserves better than this lazy aural travesty. Floundering, misrepresentative audiobook adaptations have been rerecorded and rereleased—White Chrysanthemum, for example; perhaps Lemmie’s Rain might be provided such respect. Robin Eller, who narrates the bulk of the relentless 13-plus hours, reveals her unfamiliarity with Japanese in the opening sentence, turning Kyoto into a three-syllable Ki-yo-to mispronunciation. She often mangles “Onii-chan”—honorable dear older brother—into dear monster, ‘oni-chan’; misreads Miyuki as My-yoo-ki (just one of multiple garbled names), an error made more glaring when another narrator assumes control with the correct pronunciation as one section shifts into another; fails to convince with supposed-to-be-British English (turning the local meat pasty into nipple coverings is especially egregious). Eller is joined by five additional readers who over comparatively minimal airtime offer antidotes to her disappointments. Katharine Lee McEwan is genuinely British as noblewoman-to-be Alice; Jeena Yi can pronounce her charge’s name with accuracy. Beyond Eller’s inadequate performance, the director and executive producer surely bear greater responsibility for releasing such a negligent recording.
VERDICT Without an improved replacement, readers unquestionably should stick to the page.

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