Monday, February 13, 2012

Narrator Spotlight: Davina Porter

I have a few voices in the audiobook world I'll follow around from author to genre, thanks to the excellence of their narration. Davina Porter is one. I first encountered her reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, which, if you haven't read it and you even a little bit like the idea of a time-traveling historical romance set in the Scottish Highlands, go check it out and thank me later. Porter also reads Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series, which also involves Scotland, but otherwise is an entirely different animal. Isabel is an editor of a moral philosophy journal, and frequently finds herself investigating problems for friends and acquaintances. 

Someone recommended Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon series. Porter narrates them, so I downloaded the first in the series, The Mistress of Magic. It's been a long time since the romance of the Arthurian legend spoke to my soul, and Morgaine was never my favorite of the bunch. Still, this retelling from her point of view is definitely intriguing in an anthropological-feminist sort of way. Perhaps my expectations were too high, given the solid recommendation and my weakness for whatever Porter chooses to tell me, but I was constantly drifting off during this book. I was frustrated by Morgaine's inability to apply rational thought to her situation, less than moved by the Greater Good type issues of her aunt, and not enchanted by the magical connection between Arthur's parents (her mother and step-father), who may have been fated from centuries of past lives, but aren't very good at noticing the relationships happening in front of them in their present. I'm probably too much of a completest with series (earlier today I read Ally Condie's Crossed, even though I spent half the summer making fun of the audio of Matched with my son and niece as we commuted to and from work.) But I think I'll stop at this point with this particular series.

Far more engaging for me is Nicola Upson's Josephine Tey Mystery series, also, of course, narrated by Porter. I may or may not have mentioned how much I've enjoyed discovering Tey's mysteries over the past year. Since I read them all, though, I was looking at a Tey-less future until I found out about Upson's series, in which she brings Tey to life as the heroine of her own detective stories. Tey teams up with her friend, Scotland Yard Inspector Archie Penrose, to suss out murderers in their world. Tey is Scottish, which suits Porter's voice so well, but Porter also accents all of the English voices beautifully, giving Penrose in particular a strong charm that enhances the difficult relationship between the friends.

The first novel, An Expert in Murder, is set in London's West End, where Tey's first successful play is ready to close, with murder in the wings. Tey is struggling with the changes in her life that the play's popularity has brought her, but her private issues don't stop her from diving into the investigation, to Penrose's mingled dismay and gratitude. Things between them are at an uneasy truce by the end of Upson's first novel, and as Angel with Two Faces opens, both are hoping that a holiday in Cornwall (Penrose's childhood home) will give them a chance to clear the air. Unfortunately, a murder right off the bat gets in the way, and Penrose is left walking a delicate line between local boy come home and Inspector in the midst. (There is a bit of a Lady in the Lake overtone to this novel, so all of that Avalon stuff was a good refresher, at least.) I thoroughly enjoyed Upson's twists and turns in this one, especially, and felt like I could walk into the village and name at least every third inhabitant by the end. I'm so looking forward to reading more by Upson, and have just downloaded the third in the series, which came out a week ago.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know that the Mists of Avalon came in 4 parts. I read the whole thing as a novel back in the day. I think its worth reading the whole thing.

    That Upson series sounds great. Thanks for the recommendation.