Author: Franny Billingsley
Publication Date: March 17, 2011
Source: Purchased audiobook (audiobook done by Listening Library)
About the Book: “Romantic, mysterious, and wildly inventive. I adored every gorgeous word.”-Nancy Werlin, author of Impossible and Extraordinary
Briony has a secret. She believes her secret killed her stepmother, destroyed her twin sister’s mind, and threatens all the children in the Swampsea. She yearns to be rid of her terrible secret, but risks being hanged if she tells a soul. That’s what happens to witches: They’re hanged by the neck until dead.
Then Eldric arrives—Eldric with his golden mane and lion eyes and electric energy—and he refuses to believe anything dark about Briony. But he wonders what’s been buried beneath her self-hatred, hidden in Rose’s mangled thoughts, and whispered about by the Old Ones. And Briony wonders how Eldric can make her want to cry.
Especially when everyone knows that witches can’t cry.
A wild, haunting mystery and romance that is as beautifully written as it is captivating.
My Thoughts: This book was made to be read aloud. I know I’ve raved about audiobooks before but this one was perfection. The lyrical writing and amazing narration combine to create a remarkable listening experience. Seriously. It’s just wow. I went to the Listening Library website to find an audio excerpt so you can hear what I mean and I got sucked back in. I listened to all five minutes even though I’ve heard it before! Listen to the excerpt here. (I’ve also embedded it at the end of the review if you’d rather.)
I bought this book when it first came out simply because it had a blurb from Holly Black on the back cover. I adore Holly’s books and have enjoyed everything I’ve read that she has recommended. I must admit that I just couldn’t get in to this one. I started it and was interested but couldn’t seem to catch on to the cadence of the story. I felt a bit lost. When it was nominated for the National Book award I really wanted to try agian. I’m a huge fan of audiobooks so I decided to try it that way. Best. Decision. Ever.
Susan Duerden is one of the best narrators I have had the pleasure of listening to. She did a fabulous job with Briony and the other characters. Usually there is at least one character with a voice that I don’t like. Not so with Chime. Ms. Duerden gives each character a unique voice that is easily distinguishable from the others yet not irritating.
Her cadence was spot on. Franny Billingsley has written a gorgeous story and Ms. Duerdan brought it to life in such a lovely way.
Now, on to the story itself. Franny Billingsley is a genius with words. Period. The story was heartbreaking and beautiful and I couldn’t stop listening. It is set in a fictional village in England at the beginning of the twentieth century. Briony is telling the story as a sort of confession. (It starts out, “I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged. Now, if you please.“) We also get the inner dialogue of her talking to herself and the things she wishes she could say to people. Briony is such a fascinating character and so conflicted in how she views herself and those around her. The reader can tell that her story is slightly off and that she is missing or no telling something. Briony seems completely unaware of this. This makes the story incredibly intriguing and mysterious. Since we only have Briony’s side we have to wonder what isn’t she seeing?
Billingsley uses dialects and voice to enhance the story. Her descriptions of the swamp and the Old Ones were eery and delightfully creepy. There were so many times I would rewind the audiobook to listen again. Basically I could open this book up to any page and find something I love. Actually, I just did that.
The world shook herself like a dog. She tried to fling me off, but I clung to the nearest gravestone. This sort of second sight is never roses and moonbeams, but death and blood and the smell of fear. (page 66)
I completely fell in love with this story. Now that I’ve listened to it I am able to go back and re-read. I hear the words in my head and get lost in the story. Franny Billingsley has written a hauntingly beautiful tale that will not leave me for some time. If you’re an audiobook fan (or even on the fence) I highly suggest listening to this one!