British actress Juliet Stevenson's love of reading aloud is obvious to anyone lucky enough to hear her, and be instantly transported to another time and place.
And it's not something she takes lightly. She prepares meticulously: first to understand the writing style of the author and match her delivery and tone. "If you're reading JANE EYRE , there's a certain kind of narrative style, which you need to drive that enormous, elaborate, labyrinthine prose," says Juliet. "But if you're doing a minimally written modern novel, then you find a different style."
Then she prepares characters, which is tricky when you have to jump from one to another in the same scene, so she casts them in her head. "I find somebody I know in real life, or someone fictional, and base them on that person. So in my head I've got a quick image to jump to when it comes to their dialogue." After making character sketch notes and marking up the dialogue, she has her fingers crossed that recording will go smoothly, without too many producer or engineer interventions, as "a fluid read is always a good thing!"
Not that she needs much direction, unless there are difficult characters or accents to master--like reading a Catherine Cookson novel with 47 characters, all with Geordie accents (from northeast England). "I struggled to do one accurately," laughs Juliet, "let alone 47."
Her latest audiobook readings have been a joy--especially E.M. Forster's classic ROOM WITH A VIEW . "It's a work of such dazzling, quiet brilliance," enthuses Juliet, who reckons you understand even more when you read aloud. "Sometimes," she says, "resonance will be given to a sentence simply by the rhythm it contains when you read it out loud, beyond its literal sense and the meaning of the words--and Forster's rhythms are amazing; his economy, subtlety, and precision are phenomenal. And he constantly surprises you, in plot and character."
As for BEST OF WOMEN'S SHORT STORIES, VOLUME 3, Juliet loved reading her four tales, from Wilkie Collins to Louisa May Alcott. "I wouldn't otherwise have read them--they're not on everybody's bookshelves." Similarly, she didn't know LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and found it not only well written but good fun to read. And, as with the best audiobooks, she says, "It really keeps you guessing."--Helen M. Jerome
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