From a sweeping Norwegian masterpiece to a humorist’s history, new audiobooks have something for everyone.
“Kristin Lavransdatter,” by Sigrid Undset; translated from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally. (Audible Studio, unabridged, 45 hours)
This all-absorbing masterpiece by Nobel Laureate Sigrid Undset has finally entered the audiobook universe in a truly superb, sensitive performance by Erin Bennett. Published in Norwegian in the early 1920s as a trilogy, the book is set in 14th-century Norway and covers the life of Kristin Lavransdatter and her journey from childhood to death through “the perilous and beautiful world.” She is seduced at 16 by a heedless knight while betrothed to another man and conceives a child out of wedlock in a society that insists on the “honor” of women. And that’s just for a start.
Bennett’s voice captures Kristin’s rapidly changing moods, her transports of love and anguish, her guilt, courage and exhilarated wonder at nature’s immensity. The story twists and turns, taking on greater and greater psychological complexity. It is rich in its portrayal of 14th-century material life and of the strain between Christianity and ancient, deep-seated pagan beliefs. The version narrated here is Tiina Nunnally’s award-winning translation, a rendering that eliminates the faux-medieval contortions of the 1920s version and restores Undset’s crisp direct prose style. This is a very long listen, but as you barrel down the final stretch, even as Black Death stalks the land and human sacrifice threatens, you will wish it went on forever.
“Bad Dreams and Other Stories,” by Tessa Hadley (HarperAudio, unabridged, 5 3/4 hours)
Most Read Stories
Emma Gregory reads Tessa Hadley’s spare, slightly chilly stories, capturing the listener in 10 seconds flat. The first begins: “Jane Allsop was abducted when she was 15, and nobody noticed. This happened a long time ago, in Surrey, in the 1960s, when parents were more careless.” What follows in this story, “An Abduction,” is not horror, but unease, misunderstanding and a poignant depiction of a huge event in Jane’s life — and nothing memorable in anyone else’s. The title story strikes another unsettling note: Here a little girl pulls a prank that her mother silently attributes to her husband, insidiously altering the tenor of their relationship.
Most of these 10 stories deliver cool…