Saturday, August 10, 2013

Chime (audio book) by Franny Billingsley, read by Susan Duerden

Chime is a mix of fantasy and historical-ish fiction. The description interested me, and I liked the audio sample.

The story: Briony seems like a model preacher's daughter. After her stepmother hurt her spine, Briony stayed with her to care for her rather than going off to get an education. Because her father had selfishly left them all to go do other things, Briony was the only one there to take care of her stepmother and her twin sister Rose, who was never the same after a head injury some time earlier. However, Briony has a terrible secret: she's a witch, and she's the reason Rose hurt her head and stepmother damaged her spine and eventually killed herself. Briony knows it's her duty to hate herself and devote herself only to taking care of her sister, but then Eldric arrives. Eldric seems determined to be her friend, and Briony finds herself wanting to tell him things she should never tell anyone.

What to say about this book... I suppose I'll start by giving an overview of my listening experience:

Discs 1-2: Briony's “voice” is very different and interesting. It's a little melodramatic and takes some getting used to, but I think I like it.

Discs 3-6: Ok, there is such a thing as being overly lyrical. Get on with the story, please. Please.

Disc 7: I still feel frustrated with Briony's “voice,” but at least things are finally happening.

Disc 8: ...This ending is pretty good. ::sniffling back some tears:: Except for one action on Eldric's part, which kind of ruined the romantic storyline for me.

What this all means is that, no matter which Goodreads rating I choose, it won't feel quite right. Discs 1-2 were decent, and Disc 8 was really, really good, but most of the stuff between was so much of a slog that I had to fight to stay interested and continue listening.

I have a feeling that many, if not most, reviews of this book include the word “lyrical.” Briony's POV was...different. Why say things with mere words when you can say them with word pictures? For example, people did not blush – instead, blood boiled to their faces. “Shoulder blades” were “shoulder wings.” And, early on, when Briony wished for her sister to scream so she could find her: “Go on! Jab your screams into my ear squish!”

This sort of thing only ever stopped during dialogue, and this was not a dialogue-heavy book. I liked it, at first, but it became extremely frustrating as the book progressed. I felt like Briony's overly-lyrical way of thinking slowed down the story. Even worse, this style made the book's few (but important) action scenes very confusing.

I spent much of the book suspecting that Briony's version of events was not correct – certain details didn't quite add up or make sense. My suspicions were later confirmed, although I didn't manage to guess everything. Even though some of the big reveals were pretty obvious, the final disc was still really good. Some of the things that frustrated me earlier in the book turned out to be more important than I realized, so I guess they were necessary, but... As much as I liked that final disc, I'm not sure all the slogging I did up to that point was really worth it. I enjoyed how all the pieces of Briony finally came together and how the truth was revealed, but the level of frustration I felt up to that point means that I doubt I'll ever reread/re-listen to this book again.

Although I thought Susan Duerden did a good job reading this, I can't shake the feeling that I might have enjoyed this book more if I had read it rather than listened to it. I could have skimmed some of the passages faster than Duerden was able to read them, and maybe I wouldn't have felt quite as frustrated.

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