Three great au­dio­books for a long hol­i­day drive

Star-Telegram (Sunday) - - Celebrations - BY KATHER­INE A. POW­ERS Spe­cial To The Wash­ing­ton Post


“The Spy and the Traitor” lives up to its sub­ti­tle, not least be­cause Ben Mac­in­tyre has no equal in por­tray­ing the­world of dou­ble agents. He has found gold in Oleg Gordievsky, a high-rank­ing KBG of­fi­cer who passed Soviet se­crets to Bri­tain’s MI6 for more than a decade. Sick­ened by the Soviet in­va­sion of Cze­choslo­vakia in 1968, Gordievsky re­solved to un­der­mine the op­pres­sive regime and be­gan to re­lay high-grade in­for­ma­tion to the Bri­tish. Ex­po­sure came when the CIA, miffed that MI6 would not share the spy’s iden­tity, be­gan their own in­ves­ti­ga­tions with the re­sult that Gordievsky, just ap­pointed KGB Bureau Chief in London, was outed as a pos­si­ble spy by CIA func­tionary and Soviet mole, Aldrich Ames. Called back to Moscow and in­ter­ro­gated, Gordievsky knew he would be ar­rested, tor­tured and ex­e­cuted. Thus be­gan his es­cape, a white-knuckle af­fair that is al­most un­bear­ably sus­pense­ful. John Lee, whose voice and dra­matic pac­ing are par­tic­u­larly suited to tales of der­ring-do, nar­rates with his usual panache. (Ran­dom House Au­dio, Unabridged, 13 1/4 hours)


The ear­li­est work by V.S. Naipaul, who died in Au­gust, is fi­nally avail­able as an au­dio­book. “Miguel Street” is a col­lec­tion of linked sto­ries set on a street in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad dur­ing the 1940s. Told from the point of view of a young neigh­bor­hood boy, the sto­ries are a gos­sipy, in­creas­ingly poignant chron- icle of the daily do­ings, small dra­mas and mis­for­tunes of sev­eral re­cur­ring, highly idio­syn­cratic char­ac­ters. The di­a­logue comes in the pa­tois of the Caribbean street, its ca­dence and beat beau­ti­fully ren­dered by Ba­hami­an­born, Amer­i­can ac­tor, Ron But­ler who cap­tures its hu­mor and Naipaul’s af­fec­tion to­ward the peo­ple of his Trinida­dian youth. (Black­stone Au­dio, Unabridged, 5 3/4 hours)


Women played vi­tal roles in the “Iliad.”Miss­ing from the poem, how­ever, is a sense of the women’s point of view, and that is just what is sup­plied in all its des­o­la­tion and heart­break by Pat Barker in “The Si­lence of the Girls.” Literary mas­ter of the trauma of bat­tle, Barker re-cre­ates the story from the fall of the Tro­jan city Lyr­nes­sus to shortly af­ter the death of Achilles. The greater part is told by Bri­seis, a young woman who has watched as her men­folk were slaugh­tered. She is awarded to Achilles as his “prize of honor,” and her ac­count is nar­rated by Kristin Ather­ton in a clear, soft voice that con­veys both the res­ig­na­tion to fate and the de­ter­mi­na­tion to main­tain per­son­hood of a woman re­duced from roy­alty to slav­ery. In time, Bri­seis’ ver­sion al­ter­nates with that of Achilles, pas­sages nar­rated by Michael Fox who lends them the proper moods of pride um­brage, and dev­as­tat­ing grief. (Ran­dom House Au­dio, Unabridged, 10 3/4 hours)

Black­stone Au­dio

Miguel Street

Ran­dom House Au­dio

The Spy and the Traitor

Ran­dom House Au­dio

The Si­lence of the Girls

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