I’ve gotten quite into my audiobooks this past year – they definitely help me to read more. I can ‘read’ an audiobook during times when I couldn’t hold a print or ebook, like when I’m walking to work or on the bus or those rare times I’m doing housework. I much prefer unabridged books as I feel only they ‘count’ as having really read a title. I don’t think you can say you’ve read a book if it’s been heavily abridged and dramatised.
Anyway, I have an audible account (started off as a gift, then I took my free month and never got around to cancelling) so I always seem to have a few credits waiting to be spent. I just can’t seem to listen fast enough to have finished one book before a new monthly credit appears (not when I’m also borrowing audio books from my library…)
ANYWAY, to get to the point, I decided to have a go with the Famous Fives on audiobook. I’ve listened to most of the one-hour dramatised adventures (and reviewed them too) but I thought it was time to see what the full stories were like. And of course, I had to start at the beginning with Five on a Treasure Island.
Jan Francis is the narrator for the whole series as far as I know, which for me is a bit of a shame as I can’t say I’m a huge fan of her voice work. The standard narration is fine, I have no problems with her reading voice, it’s her attempts to do different children’s voices that I didn’t love.
On the plus side, she did manage to make the different characters identifiable and her occasional Timmy noises were much better than some we’ve heard on the dramatised versions.
She does makes Anne sounds rather overly-girly (very high-pitched) and Julian very stuffy and even more pompous than he really is. I can’t put my finger on it but they all just sounds very affected. You can listen to a free sample on the Audible site (I think you get about five minutes) so you can judge for yourself.
THE UNBRIDGED TEXT
While the text is unabridged, it is not unaltered. As far as I can tell these are taken from the 1997 cassettes with the TV cast on the cover, which doesn’t shed any light on why the updatings are so different to the ones in the 1997 paperback book. I can only imagine Jan Francis was reading from an earlier edition when she made the recording (or they made their own alterations, some based on earlier revisions).
Some surprising things are left in – such as Dick’s golliwog and many, many (maybe all) of the instances of queer. But the children wear jeans throughout instead of shorts, and the luggage-hole of the car has been updated to a boot. Comparing the first chapter I can now see there have been a few more changes than I thought. A couple – like pursing her lips rather than pursing up her lips could just be slight misreadings on the narrator’s part, it’s easily done.
There are definitely still references to spankings (rather than tellings off) in later chapters and things like putting the call through haven’t been changed. So it’s a slightly strange version of the text to me. Saying that, the alterations are not generally noticeable unless you’re the type to have obsessively memorised the entire book word-for-word. I’ve read it at least twenty times and even I don’t know it word-for-word.
Part of the reason I got this was for something to listen to while trying to get to sleep. A new book would have probably kept me awake trying to pay attention to a story, but this was familiar enough to let me doze off. I did rewind to where I left off every night so I did listen to the whole thing in the end (it’s only just over four hours but it lasted me more than a week that way). Probably not the biggest compliment you can pay a work – It helped me fall asleep! – but it’s true.
Mildly annoying voices aside I enjoyed listening to a familiar old favourite.