A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar
Narrated by Susan DUERDEN
Published by Tantor Media in 2012
Audiobook received from Tantor Media via Edelweiss
THIS BOOK COUNTS FOR THE FOLLOWING READING CHALLENGES
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
I liked very much the mix and clash of characters, of the periods and places, of cultures, and the way their connection gets slowly revealed to the reader. The idea of writing a travelogue on a trip by bike was attractive. Lizzie reminded me a lot of the dad in The Poisonwood Bible (which you absolutely need to read if you have not yet done so), though her moral weakness was a surprise to me; I found it a bit bizarre, and I’m not sure it added really anything to the novel.
The stuff concerning the cult of the mother was also weird, and the passage on the cutting of the tongue too graphic to me. It looks like this was/is (?) really practiced in Asian religions. Ouch!
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THE AUDIO PRODUCTION
Awful! With a different narrator, or if I had read A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, instead of listening to it, my Eiffel Tower would have had a bit more of color! That will teach me to always check other audiobook reviews before trying one myself, and even requesting it! Even Audiofile is pretty clear about the poor quality of the narration:
Susan Duerdan [sic!!] narrates from both women’s perspectives and vocally differentiates between the two effectively. Eva’s voice is almost sickeningly sweet, however, which detracts from her story, the more interesting part of the plot. Duerdan’s portrayal of Frieda is more appealing, but her story at times seems superfluous. These weaknesses lead to an audio experience that doesn’t quite work.
Interestingly enough, Tantor Media, on its page for this audiobook, does not even mention anything about the narrator.
I just could not believe my ears when I started listening to it. Apart from the sickening sweetness mentioned by Audiofile, the problem for me was that Duerden adopts the same intonation for all of her narrating sentences, with her voice rising at the end of each. I’m not exaggerating. This sounded like a grade school reader to me, and I was ready to slap her. Her voice for dialogues is good, even very good, as she conveys well the difference of characters, but the problem is, there’s an awful lot of narrating passages. As I has requested the audiobook, I had to finish it, plus I was at the same time already reading so many books on paper, that I could not add it quickly to my list. But it was really painful. So this is my advice: always check what authorities have to say before launching into an audiobook, or try an excerpt.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
It is 1923. Evangeline (Eva) English and her sister Lizzie are missionaries heading for the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar. Though Lizzie is on fire with her religious calling, Eva’s motives are not quite as noble, but with her green bicycle and a commission from a publisher to write A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, she is ready for adventure.
In present day London, a young woman, Frieda, returns from a long trip abroad to find a man sleeping outside her front door. She gives him a blanket and a pillow, and in the morning finds the bedding neatly folded and an exquisite drawing of a bird with a long feathery tail, some delicate Arabic writing, and a boat made out of a flock of seagulls on her wall. Tayeb, in flight from his Yemeni homeland, befriends Frieda and, when she learns she has inherited the contents of an apartment belonging to a dead woman she has never heard of, they embark on an unexpected journey together.
A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar explores the fault lines that appear when traditions from different parts of an increasingly globalized world crash into one other. Beautifully written, and peopled by a cast of unforgettable characters, the novel interweaves the stories of Frieda and Eva, gradually revealing the links between them and the ways in which they each challenge and negotiate the restrictions of their societies as they make their hard-won way toward home. A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar marks the debut of a wonderfully talented new writer. [Goodreads]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I live in a small, Sussex coastal town with my husband and two tiny children. We have embraced its English seaside charm, the pier, the blustery promenade and best of all, the rock pools.
I work part-time organising international literature projects for the British Council. I travel widely, and over the past ten years have travelled and worked across most countries in the Middle East and in China, Russia and Western and Eastern Europe. For several years I specialised in projects focusing on the Arabic speaking world. I am interested in international literature and… well, stories from anywhere in the world that grab me.
The rest of the time I write. My next book is inspired by the Art Deco Shoreham Airport in Sussex, and is about early female pilots, inter-war London and the establishment of the British Mandate in Palestine. I combine working on this with studying for a Ph.D in Creative Writing. Writers I admire include Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, Jean Rhys, Vladimir Nabokov, EM Forster, William Faulkner, TS Eliot, Lawrence Durrell, AS Byatt, Marilynne Robinson, Janice Galloway, Carson McCullers, Olivia Manning, Freya Stark, Graham Greene, Alice Oswald, Sinead Morrisey, H.D., Stevie Smith, Ann Quin, Sylvia Townsend Warner. [from her beautiful website]
She’s also on Twitter @suzyjoinson
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