I am massively behind the times. I know there’s a point in your life when technology does something crazy and you decide it’s too much and then you lie down and let society advance without you, but I think I may have given up a little prematurely. It’s like I’m not even trying to keep up which, given my inherent laziness, seems unsurprising, but this year has been a revelation. I am still a fan of DVDs and CDs, you’ll never be able to pry my hands away from those shiny technicolour discs, but I have decided to be more open to trying new things that for a long time I have labelled ‘Absolutely not’.
One of those things is audiobooks. I’ve never listened to an audiobook, unless you count the cassette tapes we had when we were little, but at the end of June I decided to take the plunge and get an Audible subscription. Or a free trial which I could cancel after my first book because I was convinced I would hate it. It took me a while to decide which book to start with and then I remembered that I’ve wanted to read A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue for a while and without any prior knowledge or experience decided that this would translate well into an audiobook. This is what I learned:
Listening is hard – I’ve always thought my attention span was good but listening to the first ten minutes of an audiobook made me question whether this was actually true. I found my mind drifting off occasionally and looking at things while I was listening was a little distracting, but it seemed to happen less the more I listened.
Audiobooks take more time than normal books because you read faster than you talk but I actually found myself getting through A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue much quicker than I do with normal books because I could listen at times when I wouldn’t be able to read. Walking to and from the station in the mornings, going to get lunch, getting ready for work – I felt like a superhuman. I was a multi-tasking pro. Although it turns out your book will be drowned out by the sound of the Tube no matter how loud you crank up the volume.
The narrator is everything. This might be a personal thing, but I feel like the narrator’s voice is crucial to your enjoyment. If you don’t like how they sound then I can’t imagine you would want to sit through eight hours of them talking in your ear. Chris Coulson was great though, and I like the inflections he added to his tone to suit different characters; the amusement in Monty’s voice, the softness of Percy and the seriousness of Felicity.
It’s relaxing – audiobooks take the strain off your eyes. You can literally lie down and close them while you listen. I fell asleep twice doing this, not because it was so dull it lulled me into unconsciousness, but because I felt relaxed which was particularly helpful on the nights it was so hot that I couldn’t get comfortable.
I was expecting to enjoy A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and not much else, but I was completely charmed by Monty’s wit and his affectionate heart. Felicity was strong and uncompromising, finding ways to educate herself when society frowned upon it. There adventures were entertaining and their quest to find a cure-all raised some interesting questions about acceptance. Although it has a historical setting the discussions of sexuality, racism, identity and abuse are all relevant now. I’m curious to see where these characters end up.