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By Sunday, Feb 23, 2020 Arts & Entertainment

Families dysfunctional, loving and even humorous are at the heart of three audiobooks this week.

The Queen and I
Sue Townsend, read by Angela Thorne
Whole Story Audiobooks, seven hours and 23 minutes/ www.audible.com download, $16.21

The print version of this audiobook came out over 25 years ago but is still timely, considering the contretemps of today’s political arena. The British government has evicted the royal family, which is forced into council flats and all are living on the dole. Some members, such as the late princesses Diana and Margaret, fare better than others, while Prince Phillip goes mad and the queen displays a surprising pragmatic streak. This parody has aged well, so expect to laugh out loud. Narrator Thorne is a little broad in spots, but she shores up the humor. The reason this cheeky novel remains funny is that it is not mean-spirited, but instead is a clever look at working-class survival. Grade: A-minus

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers
Sara Ackerman; read by Carly Robins, Devon Hales
Harlequin Audio, 10 hours and 18 minutes/www.audible.com download, $28.51

Set in Hawaii during World War II, the home front is maintained by women struggling to feed their families while maintaining equilibrium amid racism and scarcity. This is merely a backdrop, however, for a murder mystery and a romance, as Violet provides for her daughter while hoping to learn the fate of her missing husband. Ackerman creates a time and place that ring true while Robins reads with credibility. As the young girl, Hales bring a youthful energy to her narration. Overall this is engaging, easy on the ears and handles the romantic interludes with class. Grade: B-plus

Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughter Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill
J. Randy Taraborrelli; read by Anne Marie Lee
Macmillan Audio, 16 CDs, 20.5 hours, $59.99/www.audible.com download, $41.99

As much as one wants to enjoy this production, it is a bit of a slog. This is Taraborrelli’s third audiobook about the Kennedys and their kin, so one can assume he knows his material. One could also assume that there would be less repetition and that some passages would sound less gossipy. Lee has a soft manner and reads rather precisely. She sounds somewhat patrician, which befits the material but also comes across as colorless. Only for those seriously interested in the Auchincloss and Kennedy families, the rest of us may find this dull. Grade: B

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