Bookish Listens

Books about books get even more meta when narrators read them aloud.

Books about books get even more meta when narrators read them aloud.

Bauermeister, Erica. No Two Persons. Macmillan Audio. May 2023. 8:11 hrs. ISBN 9781250898357. $19.99. F

Bauermeister’s (The Scent Keeper) book-about-a-book explores the impact of one novel on its readers. The initial chapter, “The Writer,” presents the backstory and inspiration for what becomes the book Theo. In “The Assistant,” a manuscript reader flags Theo for a literary agent, thus launching the novel’s voyage through many lives. “The Diver” introduces a free-diver testing the sport’s extremes, with detrimental effects. “The Teenager” follows a student secretly living in a school shed until she is discovered. “The Artist” introduces a free-thinking designer of sea-glass jewelry who resists pressure to be more grounded. An ensemble cast brightens this audiobook, with notable performances by Braden Wright as “the Actor,” a former screen actor rediscovering himself as Theo’s audiobook narrator; George Newbern as “the Caretaker,” a widower finding solace in his wife’s notations throughout Theo; and Carol Jacobanis as “the Agent” who brought Theo to publication and is now nearing retirement. Bauermeister points to the deeply personal nature of reading, as each character reacts to and learns from Theo differently. VERDICT Though this work is billed as a novel, listeners may find that it rings truest when approached as a collection of interconnected short stories. For fans of contemplative, bookish books.—Kym Goering

Callahan Henry, Patti. The Secret Book of Flora Lea. S. & S. Audio. May 2023. 12:24 hrs. ISBN 9781797155982. $23.99. F

In 1939, 14-year-old Hazel and her five-year-old sister, Flora Lea, are evacuated from London to Oxford. There, Hazel tells Flora stories of Whisperwood, an imaginary, mystical place where she and Flora can escape the fear and uncertainty of war. The sisters visit Whisperwood often but never share its existence with anyone. All is well until Flora disappears without a trace. The police believe that she drowned in the Thames, but Hazel and her mother still hope that Flora is alive. In 1960, Hazel, who is now working at a shop selling rare books, opens a mysterious package. Inside is a manuscript titled Whisperwood and the River of Stars—the same stories that she shared with only Flora. Hazel drops everything to discover more about the author and the stories, hoping that she may be able to find her long-lost sister after all. The audiobook’s narrator, Tony-winning British actress Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple), provides a quiet, expertly paced performance of Henry’s (Once Upon a Wardrobe) latest, a novel that stresses the importance of storytelling and the need to be true to oneself. VERDICT An enchanting tale about sisterhood and stories. Listeners will be transported.—Joanna M. Burkhardt

George, Nina. The Little Village of Book Lovers. Books on Tape. Jul. 2023. 7:13 hrs. ISBN 9780593740118. $66.50. F

George (The Book of Dreams) brings to fruition the previously fictitious novel that inspired Monsieur Perdu’s floating bookshop in her best-selling The Little Paris Bookshop. After being accidentally touched by Love as an infant, Marie-Jeanne gained the remarkable ability to see others’ “southern lights,” the streams of light that connect soulmates. Traveling the French countryside with her foster father and his mobile library, Marie-Jeanne watches him match people to books as she matches people to each other. Eventually, however, she realizes that the gift that allows her to see love in others may be keeping her from recognizing her own match. George’s moving, magical relationship novel is full of pain and promise. Narrator Mary Jane Wells gives an enchanting performance with a wide range of accents and emotions; her presentation of the heartwarming narrative is not to be missed. Steve West is equally engaging in his brief prologue appearance, reprising his role from Bookshop. VERDICT Will appeal to listeners seeking an atmospheric, magical realism/relationship fiction mash-up. Recommended for fans of Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Rebecca Serle, and Sarah Jost.—Lauren Hackert

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