The Landscape of Love


“The written word goes from the eye to the brain; the spoken word from the ear to the heart,” said the storyteller Hugh Lupton in Radio 4’s Something Understood on Sunday. He was quoting an Indian mystic on the ways in which wisdom is passed down the generations. But it also makes sense as an explanation of the intimacy of the audiobook listening experience compared with the more objective turning of a printed page. There is no doubt that Sally Beauman’s Landscape of Love (Time Warner, 5 CDs, c 6hrs, £13.99; offer £11.19) is magically enhanced for being read aloud by two of the best voices in audio-publishing: Juliet Stevenson and Alex Jennings.

The first few chapters of the book are set in 1967, and since this part of the story is seen from the point of view of 13- year-old Maisie, the youngest of three unusual sisters, they are read by Stevenson. They live in Suffolk, in an abbey, and are being painted by a young artist. Then we jump 20 years and hear Jennings tell us the terrible aftermath of the summer from the point of view of Dan, a gypsy boy loved, in different ways, by all three sisters, but now a broken man. Finally, we shift point of view again, and hear more of what was really happening from the oldest sister, Julia. The experience, enhanced by music by Chris O’Shaugnessy, is enthralling. Time Warner deserves congratulations on the freshness and realistic pricing of its audiobook productions.

Christina Hardyment

The Sunday Times,19.2.05