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I spend between 3 and 4 hours every week driving to and from Eastbourne to see my boyfriend. I actually really relish this time alone in the car, with my music and my own thoughts, but recently decided that it needed to be spent more productively. As a result I came up with the idea of listening to children's audio books to reconnect myself with those books I loved and those which I've yet to discover. This was one of the ones I picked up in the shop I work at and I'm going to tell you what I thought of it.
The CD is a dramatised version of Kenneth Grahame's classic children story, 'The Wind in the Willows'. I was actually expecting a reading of the original story rather than a dramatisation (always read the back carefully!) and was initially a little disappointed that this was a slightly abridged version. By that, I mean they have cut out the majority of the narration and instead focused on the dialogue which is read by a selection of different actors. There are also a great deal of sound effects in this version to add to the sense of atmosphere. As well as the sound effects there is also music composed especially for this version which again adds to the reading and emphasises certain parts.
If you don't know the story then you absolutely must go out and buy a copy, right this minute. It really is one of my favourite children's books and one I read when I was younger ad thoroughly enjoyed. I also have vague recollections of watching an animated version at some point, which I also really liked. Being familiar with the story helped as it meant I could fill in much of what was missed by excluding the narration. If you don't know the story I would read it first, or opt for an unabridged version as this one does not use the entirety of the original text.
The audio books is read, in part, by Alan Bennett who produced the immensely popular stage adaptation at the National Theatre in 1990. This theatrical version captured the imaginations of a generation unfamiliar with Grahame's excellent stories and writing and as a result was extremely popular. This recording uses the voices of many of the original cast members of the National Theatre production. There are notable performances from Richard Briers, Leslie Phillips and Terence Rigby, as well as Alan Bennett of course.
The reading is on 2 CDs and is roughly 3 hours long. The fact that there are only two CDs is a positive for me as the slimline case makes it easier to store than many of my other audio books. I also thought the general design for the CD and case was very appealing, mainly green and blue illustrations of the characters. The reading was definitely enjoyable and reconnected me with a story I loved as a child in a thoroughly imaginative way.
I do, however, have a couple of slight problems with this audio book. I wish they had stuck entirely to the full text and not taken out parts of it in favour of dialogue. I can understand the purpose of doing this as it gives a sense of continuity but for me it was to the detriment of the reading as what I really wanted to listen to was the original text in its entirety. I also think that if I was sharing it with children, though this is an enjoyable version, I would opt for an unabridged reading to give them a real sense of Grahame's writing. I also found the sound effects and music really very distracting, they took away from what I thought were excellent performances from well respected actors. I think some sound effects are good and music in parts can help create a sense of place in audio books but this CD actually gave me a headache after a while!
This CD set cost me £10.20 from the store that I work in. I am glad I have listened to it and certainly will again, though I might pause it in places to give my brain a rest!
Overall, I did enjoy this audio book but the sound effects and music were too much for me.
Many of the original cast from Alan Bennett's acclaimed National Theatre production appear in this special dramatisation for BBC Radio 4, including Richard Briers as Rat, Adrian Scarborough as Mole and Terence Rigby as Albert with Alan Bennett as the narrator. This is a wonderful, highly-acclaimed dramatic performance of a classic novel.