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AUDIOBOOKS: Plenty to occupy ears on shorter nights

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By Saturday, Feb 9, 2019 Arts & Entertainment

One classic novel, an addictive biography, an elegantly written mystery, and a novel about impassioned choices give us plenty to occupy our ears as the nights grow finally begin to grow shorter. 

Lauren Hillenbrand; read by Edward Herrmann
Random House Audio; 11 CDs; 14 hours; $24.99; www.audible.com download, $35.93

This compelling audiobook recalls to our collective memory the suffering of those who endured World War II prison camps and the fortitude it took to rebuild their lives. Hillenbrand, the author of “Seabiscuit,” chronicles the ordeal of Louis Zamperini, a juvenile delinquent who became an Olympic runner and then a World War II airman whose bomber crashed in the South Pacific. Surprisingly suspenseful for nonfiction, the story is rife with memorable characters and well-researched history, though the family anecdotes in the beginning sound a bit sketchy. Narrator Herrmann has a mellifluous voice and a well-seasoned delivery that maintains a perfect pace and just the right amount of energy to keep the story humming along. Grade: A

The End of the Affair
Graham Greene; read by Colin Firth
Brilliance Audio; one MP3-CD; six hours and 28 minutes; $9.99; www.audible.com download, $19.95

This production of one of Greene’s famous Catholic novels won the Audie for 2013 Audiobook of the Year. Greene parses our love of self, love of another, and our love of God in this existential romance that plays out after an extramarital love affair has ended. Set in London during and after World War II, it follows a solipsistic writer as he seeks answers about the woman he loves and why their love affair ended. Beautifully written and quite touching, it is made all the more emotionally compelling by Firth, who is invested in the material and brings out all the nuance of Greene’s elegant prose. Grade: A

The Long Way Home: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel
Louise Penny; read by Ralph Cosham
Macmillan Audio; 10 CDs; 12 hours; $39.99; www.audible.com download, $27.99

Enjoying his retirement in the village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former chief inspector of homicide with the Sûreté du Québec, finds his life disrupted when a friend disappears. Investigating for the first time as a private citizen, he must give up control but, at the same time, deepens his friendships with the world-weary and often witty friends who help him find the missing painter. This is Cosham’s 10th outing as Gamache and he seamlessly slips into each character’s vocal personality, all the while flawlessly skipping from French to English, pulling us into the former chief inspector’s world of art, envy and murder. Grade: A-minus

The Light Between Oceans
M.L. Stedman; read by Noah Taylor
Simon & Schuster Audio; nine CDs; 10.5 hours; $19.99; www.audible.com download, $21.50

It is 1926 and Tom is the lighthouse keeper on a tiny island nearly 100 miles off the Australian coast. The only other inhabitant, his wife, Isabel, is grieving over the loss of a third pregnancy when a wailing infant girl washes ashore in a small boat, accompanied by the dead body of a man. They keep the baby, only to discover a couple of years later that the mother is alive on the mainland. Though it lingers occasionally in melodrama, this is mostly a solid tale with much food for thought. Narrator Taylor is a problem, as he speaks too softly, sounds depressed throughout the entire production and sometimes lowers his voice so much that one cannot hear him. Grade: B

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