“The potluck of being an audiobook reader is great, you never know what’s coming next,” Bernadette Dunne told us. She’s just finished tackling some demanding nonfiction by Ayn Rand and earlier this year completed Joyce Carol Oates’s THE GRAVEDIGGER’S DAUGHTER. Her compassionate handling of Elizabeth Edwards’s memoir SAVING GRACES adds another biography to her successes. Given this variety, it’s not surprising that her audiography of more than a hundred books has a wonderfully eclectic quality. She’s done a range of mystery series (Dana Stabenow’s Aleutian detective, Kate Shugak, and Iris Johansen’s forensic scientist, Eve Duncan); comic novels like the unabridged version of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA; demanding fiction from Oates and Richard Powers’s National Book Award-winning THE ECHO MAKER; a clutch of contrasting biographies and memoirs by Ruth Reichl, Katharine Hepburn, and Sandra Day O’Connor. Bernadette has received numerous Earphones Awards and two Audies nominations.
After 10 years of audiobook narration, Bernadette thinks her assignments just seem to get better and better. However, she caught a winner early in her audiobook career with MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA in 1998. The AUDIOFILE review notes, “The cultivated refinement of her voice ranges effortlessly and credibly.” When the film version came out two years ago, Bernadette’s performance was once again in the limelight. She originally worked as part of the narrator cadre in Washington, DC, and notes the rigorous approach to audiobooks she learned from Flo Gibson and the inspiration she got from Kate Fleming’s passion for audio. At about the time she recorded her narration of A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN in 2001, Bernadette moved to New York and was able to expand her audio publisher contacts.
When Bernadette talks about her recent audiobooks, it’s clear that she cares about the underlying philosophy and approach of each author--whether in fiction or nonfiction. She notes that genre fiction--mysteries, thrillers, and romance--can be approached simply, with some emotional tone and a sense of structure of where the author is taking the sentences, and she tends to take a subtle approach to character portraits. “I’m more apt to use a hint or subtle shading than a broad stroke.” A project such as Kim Edwards’s stories in THE SECRETS OF A FIRE KING is a challenge with its dense sentences and intricacy in the writing. Bernadette’s success with the work clearly brings the story alive for listeners. She does the same with Oates’s THE GRAVEDIGGER’S DAUGHTER. “The characters were so real to me,” Bernadette says. “I wanted to stay with them.” Listeners feel the same.
--2007 Narrator Yearbook
In the late 1990s, Bernadette Dunne was among a group of actors in the Washington, D.C., area who were introduced to audiobooks and trained by the inimitable Flo Gibson, who, as longtime listeners recall, started her own audio publishing company to record and preserve literary classics. At the beginning of her audio career, “a new world would open up with each new book,” Bernadette told us from her New York City home. The narration of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA by Arthur Golden was one of Bernadette’s early successes, and her recording of A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith is a sentimental favorite. THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, also an Earphones winner, signals her versatility. Bernadette was recently an Audie Award Finalist in the biography category for Elizabeth Cohen’s THE HOUSE ON BEARTOWN ROAD. In this issue we celebrate another memoir—Ruth Reichl’s GARLIC AND SAPPHIRES, in which she convincingly delivers the author’s voice.