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4 audiobooks about families

Families of various kinds are at the heart of four audiobooks this month.   

'The Queen and I' is by Sue Townsend.

The Queen and I, by Sue Townsend, read by Angela Thorne
(Whole Story Audiobooks; seven hours and 23 minutes; www.audible.com download)
The print version of this audiobook came out more than 25 years ago but is still timely, considering the contretemps of today’s political arena. The British government has evicted the Royal Family, which is forced into council flats, and all are living on the dole. Some members, such as the late Princesses Diana and Margaret, fare better than others, while Prince Philip goes mad and the Queen displays a surprising pragmatic streak. This parody has aged well, so expect to laugh out loud. Narrator Thorne is a little broad in spots, but she shores up the humor. The reason this cheeky novel remains funny is that it is not mean-spirited but is a clever look at working-class survival. Grade: A-

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones, read by Sean Crisden and Eisa Davis
HighBridge Audio; seven CDs; eight hours and 59 minutes /www.audible.com download
This pick for Oprah’s Book Club is a realistic and well-told tale of a marriage destroyed by the wrongful incarceration of a black man in the New South. Roy is upwardly mobile, educated, and a loving husband, but few marriages can endure the separation and stress of incarceration. Davis and Crisden read so naturally, and with such feeling, that the production takes on a heartbreaking intimacy. Jones illustrates the strengths and flaws in both these people and the judicial system, resulting in a story both relevant and cautionary. Though not blue, the material is adult. Grade: A-

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, by Sara Ackerman, read by Carly Robins and Devon Hales
Harlequin Audio; 10 hours and 18 minutes; www.audible.com download
Set in Hawaii during World War II, the home front is maintained by women struggling to feed their families while maintaining equilibrium amidst racism and scarcity. This is merely a backdrop, however, for a murder mystery and a romance, as Violet provides for her daughter while hoping to learn the fate of her missing husband. Ackerman creates a time and place that ring true, while Robins reads with credibility. As the young girl, Hales bring a youthful energy to her narration. Overall, this is engaging and easy on the ears and Ackerman handles the romantic interludes with class. Grade: B+

Jackie, Janet & Lee: The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill, by J. Randy Taraborrelli; read by Ann Marie Lee
Macmillan Audio; 16 CDs; 20 hours and 15 minutes/www.audible.com download
As much as one wants to enjoy this production, it is a bit of a slog. This is Taraborrelli’s third audiobook about the Kennedys and their kin, so one can assume he knows his material. One could also assume that there would be less repetition and that some passages would sound less gossipy. Lee has a soft manner and reads rather precisely. She sounds somewhat patrician, which befits the material but also comes across as colorless. This is only for those seriously interested in the Auchincloss and Kennedy families; the rest of us may find this dull. Grade: B

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