Review: Mari Strachan – The Earth Hums in B Flat (audio book)

Mari StrachanI love listening to audio books around the house and when I’m out and about. However, I rarely listen to book that I haven’t first read in print. This is mainly because, multi-tasker that I am, I like to listen to audio books and do something else. However, occasionally a book seems an ideal read in audio format and review that appeared on the Remembering Petrona website by Eurocrime‘s Laura Root had me downloading it from my Audible account. The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan is a very unusual novel and a delight to listen to and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Gwenni is the narrator of events that take place in a small Welsh village in the 1950s. She dreams of flying around the place at night and her strange ways are tolerated and looked on with amusement by the locals, although her mother warns her that she is in danger of being considered ‘odd’. Family forms the centre of Gwenni’s world – her acerbic Mam who becomes increasingly depressed, her supportive Taid and her smug older sister Bethan. But she also forms a close friendship with the Evans family, even though her naivety prevents her from seeing the abuse that Mrs Evans is suffering. When the patriarch of the family, Ifan, is found drowned in the reservoir she tries to put her investigative skills to the test to discover what happened.

I don’t think I’ve read a bad review of this book and with good reason. It’s beautifully written and the narration in the audio book by Jenni Lea-Jones is absolutely spot on. It’s not really a crime novel, but a narration of events by a child, whose ‘quaintness’ may well be a medical condition (aspergers?). But it is a delight to see the world through her eyes and her take on what are clearly grim events.

The incidental moments are a joy to read. Mrs Llywelyn-Pugh wears a fox fur that Gwenni can’t abide and hides it in a cake tin for her mam to find; Alwenna is her best friend who has just discovered  boys and doesn’t want her odd friend accompanying her on her assignations. The death of Ifan isn’t really at the heart of the book but the insularity of small villages, that allow open secrets to gather momentum, is.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that my family are Welsh and it was great to hear the accents and colloquialisms used in the audio narration. I’d like to read other books by this author and, if you get a chance, I would put this one to the top of your list.

Bernadette’s glowing review at Reactions to Reading also prompted me to download the book.

17 thoughts on “Review: Mari Strachan – The Earth Hums in B Flat (audio book)

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book too Sarah – and thrilled to know that the audio book is a good one. Unlike you I rarely listen to audio books that I have already read in print but I did buy this one and will listen to it soon – if for no other reason than I will be able to make sense of all those Welsh names that made no sense to me in print :).


  2. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – Oh, I’m glad you enjoyed this too! I’ve got this coming up very soon on my own TBR and your review has whetted my appetite for it.


  3. I’d like to read or listen to this one soon, but I have problems paying attention to an audiobook. I’m either distracted or I’m impatient and pick up the print copy instead. I hope to carve out some time for it soon!


  4. Anwen

    I’ve heard good things of this via the Welsh Book Council, and I’m glad to read your review. I’ll have to keep an eye out for this. Thank you!


  5. My other half is Welsh and we were talking just the other day about how he so rarely reads books that are set there and doesn’t know any good Welsh authors. I’ll have to give him a heads up about this one. I am still yet to try out the world of audio books! I keep meaning to find out how I can listen to them in the car and then I’ll give it a try.


    1. Thanks Marie. I’ve definitely read more books set in Scotland than Wales which is a shame given is rich writing tradition. Listening to audio books in the car makes the journey go quicker I find….


  6. I like the time period and your review is very convincing. I will have to give this one a try. I haven’t experienced audio books, but this is one that sounds worth listening to.


  7. kathy d.

    I loved this book, especially the character of Gwenni Morgan. I didn’t think her “odd.” I thought of her as 12 1/2, still a child in many ways, naive but quite smart and quick to learn about the people in her life. Unfortunately, she had to learn about some sad and ugly situations as part of her growing understanding of the world and her own family.
    I’m not an audio book person. I like to hold books, turn pages, put the books down while I get tea or check the email or use the phone — and then rush to get back to the story.
    Hopefully, Mari Strachan will write more fiction soon. I’d love a sequel about Gwenni.


  8. The Little Reader Library

    I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time, I’ve seen some great reviews for it. I really enjoyed her second novel Blow on a Dead Man’s Embers. I’m glad you enjoyed this one in the audio version and with the accents.


  9. Pingback: The Best of May’s Reading | crimepieces

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