Review of ‘Listen’ by Kris Bryant,
Audiobook narrated by Brittni Pope
This is a fantastic read, one of my favourites of this year, it’s such a compelling story about conquering fears and finding love. I absolutely loved this book so I decided to give a try to the audiobook version. ‘Listen’ is part of the ‘Senses’ series by this author along with ‘Taste’ and ‘Touch’. It’s the story of Lily Croft, a former Classical music’s child prodigy who quit music altogether unable to handle the pressure of her career. She now suffers from anxiety and works as an actuary trying to keep to herself. One day she hears beautiful piano music coming from The Leading Note, a music education charity. Slowly she gets drawn to the place and its founder, Hope D’Marco, who is a very talented musician. Will Lilly bring her walls down to accept Hope into her world or will her anxiety prove to be too much?
This novel is written in first person, as it is usual for Ms. Bryant, from the point of view of Lily. In my opinion, it is the right choice as the reader spends a lot of time in Lily’s headspace and can experience how anxiety affects her. The author, a sufferer of anxiety herself, has poured her heart out in this book. My understanding of this subject has increased exponentially from seeing it as an outsider to an insider perspective. It’s curious how Ms. Bryant stresses the role of music in calming her own anxiety and how music is the source of conflict for Lily.
After a childhood full of pressure to perform as the music prodigy she was, music for Lily is something to conquer, not a source of pleasure. By contrast, random surrounding noises calm her down. Hope understands this perfectly and prompts her to describe what she can hear in different life situations. That simple mechanism seems to bring about Lilly’s musicality without any anxiety. Ms. Bryant describes this soundscape with some exquisite metaphors, it’s true what they say that music is everywhere. The whole book is beautifully written and makes the reader’s heart to go out with people suffering from anxiety or any sort of mental health issue.
I have mixed feelings regarding the narration by Brittni Pope of this lesbian audiobook. This performer has a sultry low-tone voice which is beautiful but her pace is slow, almost lazy. In my opinion, it was too slow. I listened at 1.2x speed and it was fine. Her interpretation of the emotions was satisfactory considering that there are a few demanding scenes and some very intense ones.
However, the real problem for me was that the different characters’ voices felt too similar, especially Lily and Hope. In some parts, I found difficult to tell them apart, which made some dialogues confusing. The narration voice was also similar so it was hard to differentiate between what Lily was thinking and actually saying. Luckily, the novel is very well written so most of the time I could follow it but not without some conscious effort. It’s a pity because this book is almost perfect and deserved an equally outstanding audio version. Despite this, it’s worth a try. Length: more than 8 hours.
Overall, 5+ stars for the book, 3.5 stars for the narration. 4 stars average.