Tea or Books? #36: audiobooks (yes or no?) and two Furrowed Middlebrow novels

Ursula Orange, Elizabeth Fair, and audiobooks – it’s fair to say that people probably won’t know that much about the authors today, but they are both among the Furrowed Middlebrow reprint series published by Dean Street Press. Any fan of middlebrow novels should certainly hunt out this series.


Tea or Books logoFor the first half of the episode, we’re talking audiobooks – in a fairly uninformed way, it turns out, so do let us know if you have any suggestions for narrators or audiobooks that we should try. And suggestions for future topics, of course – we’ve had a few come in, and that’s exciting, and I keep meaning to write them all down in one place…

Head over to our iTunes page, should you so wish – we love the reviews we’ve been getting in (thanks!), which you can do through podcast apps or whatnot.

The books and authors we mention this episode (mostly in passing, as usual) are:

Arthur and Sherlock by Michael Sims
The Story of Charlotte’s Web by Michael Sims
Letters From England by Mollie Panter-Downes
London War Notes by Mollie Panter-Downes
The Pleasures of Reading: A Booklover’s Alphabet by Catherine Sheldrick Ross
Lives For Sale ed. by Mark Bostridge
Hillary Spurling
Ivy Compton-Burnett
Hermione Lee
Claire Tomalin
Ann Thwaite
School For Love by Olivia Manning
The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning
Elizabeth Jane Howard
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Cogheart by Peter Bunzl
John Green
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Agatha Christie
The Return of Alfred by Herbert Jenkins
The Provincial Lady Goes Further by E.M. Delafield
The Egg and I by Betty Macdonald
Chelbury Abbey by Denis Mackail
The Majestic Mystery by Denis Mackail
Tom Tiddler’s Ground by Ursula Orange
A Winter Away by Elizabeth Fair
Miss Read
Richmal Crompton
Barbara Pym
Angela Thirkell
To The North by Elizabeth Bowen
Put Out More Flags by Evelyn Waugh
Dorothy Whipple
A Wreath For the Enemy by Pamela Frankau
Mr Fortune’s Maggot by Sylvia Townsend Warner
The Lark by E. Nesbit
Rachel Ferguson
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee

34 thoughts on “Tea or Books? #36: audiobooks (yes or no?) and two Furrowed Middlebrow novels

  • April 3, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Just read all 6 novels by Fair–the first are the best and most deserving of comparisons to Thirkelll or Miss Read.The others not so special.

    • April 12, 2017 at 11:03 pm

      I’m not sure where this one falls in the list, but I will make sure to get to those first ones!

  • April 3, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Just read all 6 novels by Fair–the first are the best and most deserving of comparisons to Thirkell or Miss Read.The others not so special.

    • April 3, 2017 at 10:14 am

      First 2 are best i meant to type.

  • April 3, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    I like to ‘read’ longish books while I’m doing something else: sewing, washing up, cooking. It certainly relieves the boredom of everyday tasks to be soothed by a beautifully read Trollope, a complicated Henry James or even a dark Le Carré.

    One word of warning: I always listen to the sample reading. Some narrators are more than tedious. There are often mispronounciations of words in foreign languages, harsh or irritating accents. At least it’s possible to ask for a different book in place of one you have hated.

    On the other hand, there are readings by Juliet Stevenson, Stephen Fry and Sean Barrett. Riches!

    • April 11, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      Juliet Stevenson has narrated most of Jane Austen’s novels, and she is just brilliant. I’ve only heard part of Harry Potter narrated by Stephen Fry but I’m sure I would listen to him reading the telephone directory.

    • April 12, 2017 at 11:04 pm

      Sample reading is a great caution – thanks! And I have listened to a reading of Emma by Juliet Stevenson that I liked – she’s great at it, isn’t she?

  • April 3, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    I’m not so sure about audio books – which is odd, because I love hearing poetry read, or particularly striking pieces of prose. Possibly my problem is the fact that most of the things I’d like to hear read wouldn’t be available, or if they were would be badly done….

    • April 12, 2017 at 11:04 pm

      There is that! Though the gems on audible/librivox came as rather a surprise.

  • April 4, 2017 at 4:12 am

    I was lucky enough to find 2 books by Ursula Orange in a secondhand bookshop a couple of years ago. I immediately read Ask Me No Questions (the USA title for Tom Tiddler’s Ground) and loved it! I am now reading the second one, To Sea in a Sieve. I’ve also read several of Elizabeth Fair’s novels including A Winter Away. I was able to get her books through the interlibrary loan system. A Winter Away was one of the best ones and I thoroughly enjoyed it but I would agree that Tom Tiddler’s Ground was even better. I will definitely look to get the other 2 novels by her from Furrowed Middlebrow Books.

    • April 4, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      Funny i thought WINTER AWAY was the worst of her 6 books and much preferred the first 2 and the last one!!

    • April 12, 2017 at 11:05 pm

      Gosh, that IS very lucky, finding those, Lynaia! I’m definitely going to be getting the other Furrowed Middlebrow Ursula Oranges sooner or later.

  • April 4, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    I’ve come around to audiobooks – but I’m a bit picky. I tend to prefer non-fiction and especially comedic memoirs or essays read by the author! I highly recommend audiobooks by Mindy Kaling x2, Tina Fey’s, Amy Poehler’s, Aziz Ansari’s, etc…
    The *best* audiobook I’ve ever experienced is One More Thing, short stories by BJ Novak, read by the author along with a host of incredible voice-talent. (Book trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FxhTn9cEhI)

    • April 12, 2017 at 11:06 pm

      Oh, I did love the Mindy Kaling audiobook – and I’ve wondered about the Novak on audiobook too, so that’s a great suggestion. Thanks Samara!

  • April 4, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    I’m definitely for audiobooks, mostly so that I have something to listen to while drawing.

    Particular favourites: radio 4 extra Agatha Cristie dramatizations, “Paradise Lost” read by Anton Lesser, David Attenborough reading his autobiograph “Life on Air”, Philip Pullman reading “His Dark Materials”. I really enjoyed “Bleak House” (read by Sean Barrett And Teresa Gallagher) – I’m ambivalent about Dickens, but I get on much better with the style when it’s read aloud.

    Ideas for future podcasts (some of them silly):
    19th or 20th centuries
    Genre or non-genre
    Hardback or paperback
    Male or female authors (have you done this one before?)
    Happy or sad endings
    Bookshelf ordering: alphabetical or not
    I’d listen to trains or boats!

    • April 11, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      I agree about Bleak House, I’ve listened to that version and I love the two narrators. I’ve also listened to Dickens narrated by Anton Lesser but I’ve forgotten which one.

    • April 12, 2017 at 11:07 pm

      Oh, thanks very much for the recommendations! We have done Happy/sad endings, but I don’t think we’ve done the rest.

      I love Dickens but seldom read him, because they’re so long, but an audio version could be interesting – either great or awful depending on who’s doing it.

  • April 5, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Trains or boats could be Murder on the Orient Express versus Murder on the Nile!

    • April 12, 2017 at 11:08 pm

      The plot thickens!!

  • April 6, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    I’m slightly worried by how many people think trains v boats is genuinely a good idea…Simon, clearly we need to get reading!

  • April 7, 2017 at 4:13 am

    I appreciated your comments on audiobooks in this podcast…I too have struggled to really enjoy them or not let my attention drift away. When I picture the words as being printed on a page, and then “read” them in my imagination while the narrator speaks, I feel more inclined to like the book. I suppose it’s a simple truth that if something is printed, it’s designed to be READ, not listened to!! That being said, there are definitely some proficient narrators out there, and I do appreciate that for some books it was the only feasible way I’d get to experience them.

    • April 12, 2017 at 11:08 pm

      Glad we’re not on our own, Alisha – I thought we might be lynched after this ep!!

  • April 9, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    I knit and audiobooks are a great treat to hear while trying to finish that next baby blanket! There are some whose readers are just wonderful and audiobooks became my preferred method of “reading” them. The Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, for example, are splendidly read. Also there is at least one Thomas Hardy book read by Alan Rickman.

    • April 12, 2017 at 11:09 pm

      Thanks for the recommendations! I can’t knit, but audiobooks might encourage me to paint more. Though I just always turn to podcasts instead…

  • April 11, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    I do love audiobooks in the car or while walking the dog, it makes me exercise longer. I have a hard time in the house doing chores because I’m moving around too much, also most kitchen activities are too loud and I miss too much. I find that re-reads are really good for audiobooks because if I already know the plot, I can relax and not worry about missing something; also, it forces me to slow down and listen to the writing instead of racing through a novel to find out what happens, of which I am often guilty. (I’m a fast reader, like Rachel, and I usually have a print copy of a book as well, if I can’t wait to find out what happens, though this is mostly for first reads).

    And a really good narrator does make all the difference — Alan Rickman did narrate at least one book, The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. It was so wonderful I put up with Hardy who is not my favorite writer. I’ve also listened to audiobooks wonderfully narrated by Juliet Stevenson, Colin Firth, Lenny Henry, and Martin Jarvis — his Three Men in a Boat by Naxos is brilliant. There are definitely some narrators who are utterly boring or sound like they’re reading to small children. I’ve been known to check multiple versions of the same audiobook from the library by different narrators and sample them all before I settle on one (usually this is only an option for classics). I haven’t tried Librivox but I’ll have to look for the hard-to-find books. It never occurred to me that this was a possibility so thank you!

    • April 12, 2017 at 11:10 pm

      I hope you enjoy Librivox and find what you’re after, Karen!
      Thanks for your recommendations :) (Martin Jarvis has a wonderful voice, doesn’t he?)

  • April 16, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Hi! I have only just listened in after reading Tom Tiddler’ s Ground. It was highly entertaining and I loved the two main women as you both did. Lavinia infuriated me but I laughed at her alone in the hotel room. I have just purchased a box of furrowed middlebrow books which I would be blind to if I had not discovered this wonderful podcast. As for audio books, they make me sleepy so I am not the best listener!
    Somebody suggested preference between make male and female writers? That would be a great topic for me. I read 90 percent female authors and can’t really pinpoint why….. other than being female myself. However, John Fowles wrote my favourite book so I don’t know about that! Have a lovely Easter.

    • April 17, 2017 at 9:43 am

      The best books by men are FORTNIGHT IN SEPTEMBER and LOVE FOR LYDIA.Otherwise i only read women authors.

  • April 17, 2017 at 9:42 am

    “Begin Again” is Ursula Orange’s first and best book.It is funny and well written tale of young ladies growing up in the 1930s.

    And audio books are essential for the blind or visually impaired,something obvious but not mentioned.

    • April 17, 2017 at 10:02 pm

      We did mention that in passing – unless I cut that bit – but it’s a great point.

  • April 17, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    A random thought as an idea for a podcast topic: omniscient narrators vs. unreliable narrators? I am fairly new to your podcast, so it might be that you’ve touched on the topic already in an episode I haven’t heard, but I don’t think you’ve ever done it as the main topic. (I’m currently binge-listening to your entire back catalogue, so I’ll probably now discover that you have actually done it already!)

    • April 17, 2017 at 10:03 pm

      Oo I don’t think we’ve done quite that – we’ve talked about 1st person vs 3rd person, but we could certainly go into more detail about 1st person narrators.

      And yay, hope you’re enjoying the back catalogue!

      • April 19, 2017 at 11:25 am

        It would necessarily be quite spoiler-y on the unreliable narrator side of things, but potentially quite interesting. I’m thoroughly enjoying the back catalogue!

  • April 24, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Ursula Orange–her first BEGIN AGAIN was brilliant but the other 2 were not so entertaining.
    “Company in the Evening” was dull and flat— a real disappointment.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: