“ Author: Dave Pelzer / Genre: Biography „
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I've never really been one for audio books but when I saw this for sale at a really cheap price I just couldn't leave it. I had read the books but quite a few years ago and it was always one that I said I would read again (or listen to!).
The book made quite a stir when it was first released, and is quite a harrowing tale of the authors abuse at the hands of his mother who treats him savagely, playing emotional games throughout his childhood. Her unpredictable behaviour meant that as a child, Dave didn't have a clue if he was coming or going, and often was thought of as a slave, being made to sleep in the basement, and eating his meals from a dogs bowl. As a parent it is harrowing to listen to how a child could be treat in such an unforgiveable way. I do think that regardless of whether or not you have children, you would have to be heartless to feel a lack of compassion for an innocent child, but having children, you can really put it into perspective.
The book is covered over four discs in total, which isn't a problem for me. I didn't want to listen to the whole thing in one or two go's and instead preferred to take advantage of the short breaks. The breaks are around every 3 minutes and aren't long pauses but more like the end of a sentence or paragraph, and the pause is very short but gives you the opportunity to stop at a place where it can be easily picked up again. The audio book is unabridged which is essential for any audio book in my opinion as you don't want to be reading half a book. The total length of the audio book is 3 hours and 46 minutes.
Pelzer is American, so as you would expect it is narrated by an American, Brian Keeler. This wasn't an issue in the slightest and he was easy to listen to, and it was nicely paced. I've always been put off with audio books as I expected that the narrator may start trying to do different accents, etc when new characters start talking. As this biography is in the first person, it isn't really an issue and it's so easy to sit back and listen once you have got used to someone reading to you, after a while you begin to think that Keeler is Pelzer who is simply telling you his story.
Obviously the content is pretty horrific and graphic in places, so while I will recommend this audio book, I do so only if you are able to listen to something so upsetting and a tale that is most definitely not fictional.
There has been skeptism of Pelzers accounts and one New York Times article tried to completely falsify any claims Dave Pelzer made. This for me, only makes what Dave went through even worse, as he had the courage to tell his story. It is perhaps rather ironic that the New York Times questioned the accuracy of his account, yet the book spent over 175 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list (and was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize). How ironic!
There are three books that give his accounts, this being the first. All three books are available as audio books.
Available from Amazon for £9.95, but I paid under a fiver from a discount book shop.
Audio books have never appealed to me. I've tried, on several occasions, to see if there is something that could make me change my mind but, no matter how many different genres, narrators and authors I try I just haven't been able to see the appeal. Until now.
Dave Peltzer's "A Child Called "It"" caused quite a stir in literary circles when it was published a few years back. It details the life of the author as a child, growing up in California in the 1970s. Dave has no ordinary childhood. In fact, the account is of one of the most extraordinary childhood's. It starts in a fairly ordinary way, some would say the epitome of the American Dream, until something snaps. Suddenly, this young boy is thrown into a world and a way of life that we would not wish on anyone or anything. We crawl, with Dave, through this world, finding hope in the darkest of situations only to have that hope dashed again and to fall further into the pit.
Peltzer is, however, a survivor. The book would not have been written were he not.
I really do believe that the book should speak for itself, that Dave should be able to tell the world his story. For that reason, with regard to the "plot", I will say no more.
That I came upon this book in audio format, was a matter of much chance. I had this idea that my new MP3 player would allow me to listen to talking books as well as music, so, on a trip to the library, I decided to acquire an audio book to try. The range of books on CD was not that wide and so spotting "A Child Called "It"" and having read so much about the book, I decided to try.
The audio version is unabridged, a must in my eyes. It is split over 4 discs with the book broken into 3 minute tracks for ease. The breaks between the tracks are, for the most part, indiscernible. They feel like natural breaths and pauses in the story, rather than old, cassette-style pregnant pauses. The tracks make it very easy to stop and start the audio book on conventional CD players - for me, the track length was no issue as my MP3 player allows for continuous play and remembers where it was when you switch it off.
Narration of the book is by an American, Brian Keeler. Keeler has a typical (well, to me anyway) Mid-US style of narration. The pace is measured, the tone fairly low. Keeler has a comfortable voice and no annoying quirks that make him hard to understand. Even the US accent is not off-putting after the first few minutes.
One of my main gripes with audio narration is that it fails to allow me to put my own colour on things. I form, in my mind, voices for the characters. Audio narration does not allow for this. The thing that I think makes this book so suitable in audio format is the fact that it is written in the first person. We don't have characters to grapple with or speech patterns to recognise. This is Peltzer telling his story. It's not perfect though. It is somewhat disconcerting to hear the voice of a middle-aged man telling a story from the perspective of a 7 year-old. It takes a bit of getting used to. However, I did find that after a brief while I became used to the tone of Keeler's voice and the perceived age issue disappeared. Keeler became Peltzer, telling me his story.
Keeler does make some attempt to give character to the voices of Peltzer's family. This is done in a fairly naive way and to my mind fits with the character that he has created in Dave.
Listening through earphones I quickly found myself pulled into the world of Dave Peltzer. I found my heart racing with his, my tears flowing with his and my hopes dashed with his. Pressing the stop button was, for the 3.5 hours it took to listen to the book, often the hardest task of the day. I lived the book.
I would recommend this book in audio format - it is the exception, rather than the rule. My subsequent forays into the world of audio literature have not been so successful. I would not recommend it, however, if you are easily upset or sensitive. A book is far easier to put down; it is less invasive than an American voice in your ear that will not shut up.
Published by Clipper Audio this book is available in both cassette and CD format. The former is available to buy through Amazon. I've yet to find a UK supplier for the CD. As I said, mine came from the library.
Dave Pelzer's story is the story of a child brutally beaten and starved by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic mother: a mother who played tortuous, unpredictable games - games that left one of her three sons nearly dead. Dave had to learn how to play his mother's games in order to survive because she no longer considered him a son, but a slave; and no longer a boy but an 'it'. His bed was an old army cot in the basement, his clothes were torn and smelly and when he was allowed the luxury of food it was scraps from the dogs' bowl. The outside world knew nothing of the nightmare played out behind closed doors. But throughout Dave kept alive dreams of finding a family to love him, care for him, call him their son. It took many years of struggle, deprivation and despair to find his dream and then to make something of himself in the world. This book covers the early years of his life and is an affecting and inspirational look at the horrors of child abuse and the steadfast determination of one child to survive despite the odds.