I must confess that I find myself in a difficult situation writing this review, as I take the risk of not being reliable. People that have read this blog or my tumblr one lately may repute these lines as the product of simple fangirling. Nothing more far away from reality, as I am not a girl neither a fan. I don’t like this word as, deriving from “fanatic” imply the fact that the fan is something like a blind and mindless follower. I prefer to define myself an admirer.
And it is not possible to talk about the reading that Richard Armitage makes of this novel without admiration. I’ve had very sporadic experiences regarding audiobooks hearing, just small extracts, and most of times I have never been specially impressed of what I have heard, because they resulted rather monotonous and dull. I guess I can explain the reason why, comparing my memories with this work: the preparation behind it. It is evident that Richard Armitage has worked hard preparing this reading. He gives voice to, other than the narrator, fourteen different main characters, plus three or four servants. Even if in the text the characters are not described with precision, exception made of the protagonist, Venetia, they can be clearly “seen” when we hear them, each one of them with their own characteristics. We can clearly see Sir John Danny as a mature, plump overweight gentleman devoted to sherry, Lady Hendred as the upper class version of Jane Austen’s Mrs. Bennett, or Lady Steeple as a femme fatale, a mix of Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and Mata-Hari.
This audiobook is a clear example of the reason why Richard Armitage’s voice has become his acting trademark. He makes an incredible use of it, offering to the hearer a wide range of feelings, and making us “watch”, with a very little imagination, what he is narrating. There are absolute comical moments; for instance, the first dialogue of Lady Danny and Sir John, or Mrs. Hendred’s speeches of desperate commiseration for her niece, cannot be heard without a burst of laughing. There are others highly emotive and touching, as the beautiful scene between Venetia and Lord Damerel in the barn, or when he coldly salutes her before she leaves to London. And we absolutely forget that there are not two people acting, but just one. This moving moment in the narration is remarked by the music editing; the melancholic piano piece that closes the following scene, when Venetia’s brother Aubrey asks her of Damerel before she leaves to London, convey the pain Venetia feels after Damerel’s incomprehensible cold goodbye, and transport us to the following chapter, when Venetia wakes up in her uncle’s house.
This audiobook has increased my admiration for Mr. Armitage and also has made me discover the author. As this is an abridged version of the original novel that will be one of my next books to read.
Venetia by Georgette Heyer
Read by Richard Armitage
Abridged by Caroline Waight
Produced by Roy McMillan
Recorded at Motivation Sound Studios, London
Edited and music programming by Mike Shah
Naxos audiobooks (www.naxosaudiobooks.com)