10 discs, approximately 12 hours.
© 2000 J.K. Rowling, Listening Library
Performed by Jim Dale
Last week I finished listening to my first audiobook, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I don’t know why I started with book two instead of book one, but I did and that’s that. I enjoyed the experience well enough to try listening to the next book in the series, and I am even more impressed. Prisoner of Azkaban is one of my two favorites from the Potter series (the other being The Half-Bood Prince), and as I listened I enjoyed all the little things that add up to a wholly pleasant experience: the friendship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron; the concern their teachers have for them, the coziness and adventure of another year living and studying at Hogwarts among friends; the abounding humor; and the excitement of a Quidditch match. In Azkaban Harry learns more about his parents’ demise when the man convicted for betraying them, Sirius Black, escapes with the apparent goal of killing Harry to please Voldemort. Professor Snape’s background is also explored in more detail, and we begin to see him as a bitter and abused man who is capable of commanding both sympathy and disgust. Dale’s performance here — and it is a performance, not just a reading — is better than the last, with practically no sentences being read without what I thought was their appropriate emotional context, and the numerous characters allow Dale to show off his range of voices. Peter Pettigrew is an outright triumph for the narrator, I think.
Last week I mentioned that as much as I enjoyed the performance, I couldn’t see paying so much for audio books. They’re beginning to grow on me, though, and if I saw a good used price on Amazon I think I’d buy a set of CDs for my listening pleasure. The books are so lovely as a reading experience, but the experience only lasts a few hours — and is shorter still with the movies. Listening to the CDs allows for prolonged enjoyment of the story, and when Dale ended the presentation by thanking me for listening, I wanted to immediately start playing another CD. I will be continuing in this audio experience, no doubt! Very much recommended.