Magazine article The Spectator

Recent Audio Books

Magazine article The Spectator

Recent Audio Books

Article excerpt

Recent audio books

A clogged up motorway can provide the ideal conditions to play the balloon game; re-routed angst and venom will guarantee the ultimate cathartic experience. Raise your eyes to the heavens. The dot in the azure sky is a hot-air balloon heading earthwards at a disturbing rate. The basket dangling beneath the shrinking sac is crammed with every cad and rotter your imagination can concoct. There is panic on board. To maintain altitude human ballast is the only solution. Three passengers must be thrust overboard - quite possibly more.

There are stacks of candidates in Julian Fellowes' Snobs (Orion Audio Books. Abridged. 5 hours 20 minutes. CD £19.99. Tape £12.99). Fellowes is also the reader and narrator, but being hands-on doesn't grant him automatic immunity from the 'big push'. In his role of raconteur he plays a 'journeyman actor' and is entirely responsible for introducing Edith Lavery, an upwardly mobile minx, to the solid but wearisome Lord Broughton. Polyester meets eligible corduroy. And sparks really fly when Edith, bored rigid by flower shows, shooting parties and the woebegone Lord B, claps eyes on gorgeous Simon Russell, an actor pal of our misguided Cupid. She finds his thespian allure irresistible. Hardly surprising as we learn that Russell is being touted as 'the next Simon McCorkingdale.'

Fellowes' credentials are first-rate. He won an Oscar for his screenplay for Gosford Park and played the loveable buffoon Lord Kilwilly in the BBC television series Monarch of the Glen. Whereas in Gosford Park he ventured downstairs, here his domain is strictly the other side of the green baize door. His stentorian delivery never allows the plot to veer towards farce - far from it, as at times he sounds a bit too much like a Pathé News reporter commenting on a county show. If one attempts to encroach on Wodehouse, Waugh or Mitford territory, humour must be the driving force. Although persistently amusing, the laughs are in short supply.

There is a 'health' warning on the packet promising 'strong or sexually explicit language'. Sorry to be a killjoy but there's nothing here to make even the vicar blush although the wedding night doesn't quite go to plan, but they quite often don't. On the audio book fun-ometer the needle wavers between posh tosh and waspish satire. Rather like the car journey on which I listened to the tapes, Snobs is predictable but picturesque. …

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