Distance Makes the Ears Grow Fonder

On Handling Narrator Changes Within a Series

Sometime within the last year, it seemed that everyone began talking about Maisie Dobbs, a private investigator created by Jacqueline Winspear. There are many books and series that have a great deal of hype swirling around, but when some of my favorite book bloggers and publicists joined the fray, I couldn’t stay away, especially when I found out about the audiobooks.

There is an issue with books in a series that is peculiar to audiobooks: changing narrators. There is no guarantee that the narrator you begin a series with will continue on throughout. Although I knew that the series had several narrators going in, this was something I didn’t think would have much of an impact on my reading. I’ve discovered that I should never underestimate the power of change.

The first in the series, Maisie Dobbs, was narrated by Rita Barrington. I fell in love with her work immediately. In addition to the time and place, both Maisie and Billie Beal came to life through her skilled performance. I immediately downloaded the second novel in the series, Birds of a Feather. It is narrated by Kim Hicks. I started the book within a short period of time after Maisie Dobbs and I found that Kim Hicks just wasn’t Rita Barrington. Ms. Hicks’ Maisie and Billie felt off kilter to me and I sadly set it aside.

Months later, after finding myself in between audiobooks with my next listen at home, I picked it back up. I wasn’t expecting much, but I didn’t like the idea of losing all of that reading time. Much to my joy, my Maisie Dobbs ear memory had faded. Kim Hicks was no longer “not Rita Barrington.” I was able to enjoy the listen on its own merits. True, the story picked up shortly after I started listening again, but I was no longer focused on what had changed. I couldn’t recall what that was any longer, so I was free to focus on the story. Don’t you love that feeling?

As with the first novel, I ended Birds of a Feather enchanted by Maisie Dobbs and her world. Kim Hicks is an excellent narrator. My experiences with her and Rita Barrington have taught me a valuable audiobook geek lesson. This time, no matter how curious I am to see what happens next for Maisie, I’m going to give it some time before I pick up Pardonable Lies. I want to fully enjoy Maisie and the latest narrator, Orlagh Cassidy. Patience is a virtue, after all.

Maybe I should pick up an audiobook about developing patience while I wait…


  • At 2011.10.12 18:44, Lilian Nattel said:

    So interesting–I never gave a thought to that before. I like audio books when I’m tired–but haven’t ever listened to more than one of a series. I think Maisie Dobbs would be a perfect story for an audio book.

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    • At 2011.10.13 14:52, Literate Housewife said:

      First, thank you so much for dropping by. I really appreciate your comments. I whole heartedly recommend Maisie Dobbs in audio. Such a brilliant series!

    • At 2011.10.12 20:32, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

      Patience is a virtue, but I can never understand why they change narrators. They don’t understand how attached we become to one voice.

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      • At 2011.10.13 09:53, Karen White said:

        Kathy, often the print publisher and the audiobook publisher are not the same. And, as audio rights are sold separately and individually, the audio pub may not be the same from book to book. In the past, there was little crossover of narrators between audio publishers, due to geography and, I guess, loyalty. (This is how some narrators ended up with several different aliases – so they could work with different audio publishers!)

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        • At 2011.10.13 10:08, dogearedcopy said:

          Her ya go, some of the reasons an audiobook publisher changes narrators mid-series: http://tinyurl.com/3uqupr8

        • At 2011.10.12 20:41, JoAnn said:

          I’m so happy to read this post! Loved Maisie Dobbs, but after sampling the second book, it just didn’t sound right. A year has passed, so perhaps it’s time for me to try again, too. My ‘ear memory’ should have faded by now.

          • At 2011.10.12 21:18, Kailana said:

            I really like this series. I read them in close succession until I caught up and now I have to wait between each book…

            • At 2011.10.13 09:57, Karen White said:

              Again, I so appreciate your wise words, Jennifer. I think a lot of us narrators do pay attention to reviews, as they can be a useful form of feedback. But to do that, you have to develop a pretty tough skin. It’s so hard to hear that one is “just not so-and-so” because, really, there’s nothing one can do about that! I love that your opinion changed so drastically with time and an open mind.

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              • At 2011.10.13 23:01, Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting said:

                Narrators have a huge impact on my enjoyment of an audiobook. I listen to a lot of books from Librivox, and it can be odd when the narrator changes not just between books, but from chapter to chapter!

                • At 2011.10.14 10:42, Beth Hoffman said:

                  I’ve not yet listened to any Maisie stories on audio, but I think I should!

                  • At 2011.10.14 11:53, Debbie Rodgers said:

                    LOL – When I read the title of your blog, I thought there was a new Maisie Dobbs book – albeit strangely named.

                    I love Maisie and I think Birds of a Feather is the very best in the series. But I read them so can’t comment on the narration.

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                    • At 2011.10.26 12:13, #380 ~ Birds of a Feather said:

                      […] I posted earlier, I needed a little time to lapse between books due to the change in narrator. Aft that time passed, […]

                      • At 2012.09.15 20:13, Lucy Gowan said:

                        I am or so bothered about the change in narrator, bur I am terribly bothered by the lack of audio editing. Orlagh Cassidy makes so many mispronunciations that it detracted from the story. She as no idea of British idiom. The best was referring to a character being ‘in high dungeon” (dudgeon!) couldn’t they at least have chosen a British aerator? Sorry, but it spoiled a wonderful book!

                        • At 2014.07.03 05:05, Rita Barrington said:

                          Hello Jennifer

                          Thank you for your positive comments regarding my recording of the first audio book in the Maisie Dobbs series.
                          I very much enjoyed reading it although it was quite challenging with so many varied character voices.
                          I am encouraged by your comments, and just want to add that I was disapointed at not being offered the remainder of the series.

                          My best wishes, Rita Barrington

                          (Required, will not be published)

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