How To Be Both

8 CDs. 8:30 hrs. Recorded Books. 2014. ISBN 9781490664415. $123.75. 1 MP3-CD, Playaway digital, digital download. F
Smith's (Artful) new novel is made up of two parts—one section called CAMERA, from the point of view of George, a current-day teenager who has just lost her mother, and another section called EYES, from the point of view of a 15th-century artist who seems to have come back to George's time and location as a ghost. With her characteristically playful love of language, Smith has written a book that was designed to be produced in two versions, so the section that comes first depends on a listener's (or reader's) particular copy. What results is a challenging listen, as bits of each story reveal themselves from one section to the next, presuming the listener's intelligence and yielding a pleasure in the puzzle that elevates the book beyond passive entertainment. The theme of art as both charm and balm weaves through both sections and is masterfully balanced with lovingly drawn characters and dialog that rings true regardless of its setting. The choice of a male reader, John Banks, is interesting given the prevalence of female characters and works well given the themes of the book.
VERDICT This work is inventive and thought provoking but best of all moving and beautiful as well. ["Smith presents two extraordinary books for the price of one": LJ 11/15/14 starred review of the Pantheon hc.]
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