Learned by Heart

Hachette Audio. Aug. 2023. 8:50 hrs. ISBN 9781668629376. $24.99. F
Inspired by 19th-century diarist Anne Lister’s extensive journals, Donoghue’s (Haven) latest imagines the blossoming relationship between heiress Eliza Raine and her delightfully bold roommate. Born in India to an East India Company surgeon and his Indian wife, newly orphaned Eliza is shuttled off to the Manor House School in York, living quietly until Anne arrives in 1805. Eliza, whom Lister calls by her surname, Raine, in the tradition of boys’ schools of the time, is drawn to the boisterous Lister; they soon fall in love and embark on a gloriously sensual, if short-lived relationship. Shiromi Arserio’s graceful narration takes listeners into the heart of this relationship, conveying the girls’ wonder as they explore each other’s bodies and minds. Arserio’s characterizations are outstanding, deftly capturing Lister’s no-nonsense directness and exuberant passion, along with Raine’s gently masked tenaciousness. Listeners will ache for Raine, who never finds her footing after Lister leaves and is later confined to the Clifton House Asylum.
VERDICT An atmospheric, coming-of-age tale for Donoghue’s many fans, those interested in Lister’s early life, and watchers of the HBO series Gentleman Jack, based on Jill Liddington’s Female Fortune and Nature’s Domain.
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