That is, the audiobooks are narrated by Stephen Fry. Not this blog post. Unfortunately.
A few months ago, I started a new job in anticipation of moving to North Carolina. Unfortunately, though the job was in North Carolina, we were still living in South Carolina for a few months. Even though I was able to crash at my uncle’s house during the week while I was working, I still had two three-hour trips to take each week. Now, I love me some driving music, but I knew I would need something else in order to keep me awake after a while.
Everyone suggested audiobooks. For years, I’ve avoided audiobooks because I have no patience to be read to; even when I was a kid, once I could read on my own, I couldn’t stand the plodding pace of most out-loud readers. (I even read ahead in church—by the time the first reading is over, more often than not, I’ve already read the Gospel and I’m on to next week’s readings. Sorry, God.) So I’ve always been skeptical of audiobooks, but thought if I was going to try it, I should try something familiar, and what better than Harry Potter?
I managed to get the Stephen Fry versions through a friend and downloaded them to my iPod (RIP, sigh). I listened to about thirty seconds of the first chapter of the first book and thought, “Oh no, what am I getting myself into, he’s reading sooooo slowly…” But I was rushing out, so I tossed my iPod in my bag and left.
I finally put on Harry Potter a day or so later, and I’m incredibly glad I did. Here are a few reasons why:
Turns out that listening to an audiobook while sitting at your computer is much different from listening to an audiobook while you’re driving (or in the shower, or doing dishes, or folding laundry). When I had something else to occupy my mind and wasn’t just staring into space, the pace of the audiobook seemed perfect, and soon enough I forgot how slow it felt that first time. (That feeling came back, though, when I realized that some chapters were an hour long or more!)
I think I’ve been spoiled having this as my first audiobook because it was so freaking amazing. Stephen Fry does perfect voices for almost every character—it’s a little confusing at first, but by the time I got to about the fourth book I could tell who was speaking (most of the time) before it was specified. I particularly enjoyed Hagrid’s, Dumbledore’s, and the house elves’ voices. Umbridge’s will make you want to stick sharp objects in your ears, just FYI.
My commutes went by much faster when I was occupied by a story. Sometimes I couldn’t believe how soon I was home, even after my three-hour commute; my commute now is only an hour (“only”), but I still found myself surprised to be pulling into my driveway some days. I usually didn’t mind stopping in the middle of a chapter, as long as I waited to pause my iPod until the end of a sentence, but I definitely sat in the parking lot at work or in my driveway finishing a chapter once or twice. Andrew, on the other hand, who’s gotten into them as well, has been known to drive super slowly, drive around the block several times, or sit in the driveway/garage to finish a chapter.
I’m still so surprised at how caught up in the story I got just listening. I’ve never been much of an auditory learner—you can find my picture next to the definition of the idiom “in one ear and out the other”—and maybe it had something to do with the fact that I already knew the books so well, but I didn’t feel at all like I was losing out by listening. It was even enhanced by the voices and, of course, the British accents (which for some reason sound terribly fake to me in the movies).
It (ironically) got me reading the books again, because by the time I got to the fourth or fifth books, I didn’t want to wait until I was getting back in the car to listen to more of the story. Since I only work three days a week, I was coming home on Thursday evenings and not listening again until Tuesday mornings (because I didn’t usually put it on when running errands since the drives wouldn’t be very long) and in terms of the later books…that’s just way too much of a gap in time, even though I know exactly what happens. I think I only listened to…maybe five chapters of Deathly Hallows, tops. At that point it was all about finishing, however I had to do it.
Stephen Fry, bless him, brought a whole new dimension to a beloved story for me. The bottom line here is that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the audiobooks, and how connected to the story they made me feel. Narration doesn’t usually do that for me; words on the page do. But thanks to Ms. Rowling and Mr. Fry, I’ve become an audiobook believer.by