Two years after his favorite uncle was blown to bits in a London Tube station, Tom has hit rock bottom. He’s quit school and turned his back on his music and everyone that once mattered to him, including the girl he can’t forget. Living with his single, pregnant aunt, working at the Union pub with his former friends, and reckoning with his grieving, alcoholic father, Tom’s in no shape to mend what’s broken. But what if no one else is, either?
I've never listened to an audiobook before. In the past I've flirted with the idea, and I even downloaded Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’ when it was on sale in iTunes for something like $1.99. But I'd never actually committed to listening . . . that being said, I held out a long time before caving and buying an eReader, so I suspect my hesitation came from an allegiance to flesh-and-blood books more than anything else.
But then I decided to approach audiobooks as I originally did graphic novels – start with what I know. Once upon a time I was a little hesitant and unsure of graphic novels (or ‘comics’ as I called them then). So I started with a prequel to one of my favourite urban fantasy series, Patricia Briggs’s ‘Homecoming’ set in the Mercy Thompson world. Once I got my toes wet, I went in to my ankles and tried another prequel to my favourite book series of all time, Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ with ‘The Exile’. I loved both of those, and now I am a complete graphic novel enthusiast. From ‘Saga’ to Raina Telgemeier, I love them.
So I thought I'd approach adiobooks the same way, and ease in with an old beloved.
‘The Piper’s Son’ is my favourite Melina Marchetta novel. I love all her books, don’t get me wrong, and when we talk ‘ranking’ there’s infinitesimal difference in my love. But Thomas Mackee holds a special place in my heart, and I still think Georgie and Sam’s relationship is the most heartbreaking and lovely contemporary romance I've ever read. And then there’s the fact that I see a lot of my family in the Finch-Mackee mob. So, it’s ‘The Piper’s Son’ for me, by a nose.
The run time is 9 hours, read by Michael Finney.
I downloaded from iTunes, and listened to the book while out walking my dog and on the train – which meant I was constantly laughing/crying/hiccup-crying in public while listening to it.
This audiobook is superb. Truly, it got to the point where I was excited to go for a walk or get back on the train just to get back to the Finch-Mackee’s and this story. I already know the book by heart, but I feel like it was opened up in new ways by this reading.
I may have developed a wee crush on Michael Finney . . . as evidenced by how much I talked and gushed about him and the audiobook to a friend;
But I cannot stress enough how much Michael Finney nails this book. He’s Australian, which I was so thankful for because I could not have fathomed Tom or Georgie’s voice in an American accent. ‘The Piper’s Son’ is told in third-person, but following Tom and his aunt Georgie’s stories – so the male narrator might have been a bit of a curveball, but having Tom’s voice in Finney’s is truly brilliant. It’s all those male voices which so dominate the book – Tom and Dominic, Ned, Will, Bill, Joe and Sam (ohhhhh, Sam!). But he also does the women’s voices brilliantly– he doesn’t turn on the heavy breathing or try high-pitched mimicry (thank god! I really wasn’t sure what to expect with audiobooks!). I have since started listening to Melina’s ‘Saving Francesca’ on audiobook, read by Rebecca Macauley, and I really don’t like it. She’s made Tara sound quite gruff, and Justine overtly mousy. After having Finney’s lilting baritone, I’m struggling to get into the Macauley audiobook.
I really knew Finney was something special during the phonecalls between Tara and Tom – when he seems to lean in a little closer, lower his voice to a rumble and really communicate the intimacy of these moments. It was wonderful to listen to. And he gets the beats down brilliantly – those pregnant pauses between Tom and Tara, Sam and Georgie. And my favourite scene of the whole book is done to perfection;
‘Am I hard work?’ she asks quietly.
Silence for a moment.
‘You could have hesitated in answering that.’
‘Why? I've never lied to you before,’ he says. ‘You do that all the time, you know. You ask me questions when you know the answer will piss you off. Ask me a question where the answer could be yes? Ask me if you’re worth the hard work? Ask me if in the last seven years of my life I've woken up in a cold sweat knowing I lost the most important person in my life apart from this kid I’m holding? Ask me if getting you pregnant has felt like the best thing that’s happened to me since my son was born?’
And he also bought lightness to Joe’s character, which is so at odds with the sadness of the story. But as we know, Joe was so happy. I loved that Finney bought out that joviality when recounting the ‘How to Make Gravy’ serenade moment, or read out Joe’s emails and the conversation he had with Tom about kissing Tara Finke.
I cannot rave about this audiobook enough. I loved it, and will be listening to it again and again. I’m only upset that Michael Finney apparently hasn’t narrated any other books, because I was all ready to download any and all of his readings (yes, I developed a wee crush from his voice alone). For now I’m sticking to the Marchetta audiobooks, but only because reading ‘The Piper’s Son’ made me crave more of her words . . . but after that I’m going to venture into the great audio unknown. I need some suggestions of books I haven’t read, but should listen to on audio. I loved anticipating all my favourite bits (and preparing to cry during the sad ones) while listening to ‘Piper’s Son’, but now I'd love to try listening to a book cold, not having read it before.