Barbara Pym, Eileen Atkins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Georgette Heyer, Ian Holm, Jane Austen, John Westbrook, Juliet Stevenson, Prunella Scales
Reading our own work aloud to ourselves is one of the pieces of advice handed out by creative writing tutors. At the proof-reading stage it’s an efficient way of picking up errors because it slows us down and reveals the camouflaged nasties that get missed by the skimming eye. It’s also effective for spotting all those other faults to which we can remain curiously blind – an awkwardly constructed sentence, ungraceful rhythm, accidental rhymes.
But when we read our novel aloud to other people, say in a writing group, we will inevitably include our own choice of intonation and expression to convey what we intend future readers to experience for themselves, what we as authors hear clearly in our own head. But future readers won’t have this add-on. Our written words must do all the work. Which is why it might be a very good idea to get another member to read for us. For only then will we be made aware of possible ambiguities of meaning, unconvincing dialogue, slips in point of view, confusion over who is speaking …
More work, there always is, but it could be sustained by a pleasant daydream about who we might choose should our novel ever be turned into an audiobook … Unsurprisingly my own wishlist would include Juliet Stevenson and Eileen Atkins (marvellous at Barbara Pym novels and everything else too) and Prunella Scales (I can’t imagine another voice who so perfectly captures the wit and spirit of favourites like Jane Austen’s Emma and Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters.
And then recent listening reminds me of Ian Holm’s wonderful reading of The Woman in White and for ultimate comfort when feeling tired or ill, John Westbrook provides the perfect restorative with Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy …
Listening to a good novel read aloud by someone in perfect sympathy with the text: one of life’s greatest delights. Does anybody have any recommendations?