Pretty Lizzie Higgs is gone, burned to death on her own hearth - but was she really a changeling, as her husband insists?
Albie Mirralls met his cousin only once, in 1851, within the grand glass arches of the Crystal Palace. But unable to countenance the rumours that surround her murder, he leaves his young wife in London and travels to Halfoak, a village steeped in superstition.
Albie begins to look into Lizzie's death, but in this place where the old tales hold sway and the Hidden People supposedly roam, answers are slippery, and further tragedy is just a step away.
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By Jim on 22-11-16
Great book, terrible narration and production
I should say first that this is a great novel. It deals ambiguously and sensibly with folklore and fairy belief and sets up a very plausible and fascinating period backdrop. It's compelling, interesting and poetic and it keeps the reader guessing. However my heart goes out to Alison Littlewood as her brilliant book has been savaged by the most ham fisted and lazy audio prouduction I've ever heard.
I don't believe the blame lies entirely with Paul McLaughlin, who is clearly not a British English speaker and turns in a fairly convincing accent (for the most part). However his slips in pronunciation go far beyond transatlantic differences. The producer demonstrates his or her incompetence from the start by allowing the narrator to open with a quote from W B "Yeeets". This sets he tone for what is to come, not enough to spoil the story entirely you might think. But then come the Yorkshire dialect sections.
Now at one point during the recording of this you would think that the actor or producer would have said, "Hey should we maybe take a listen to a recording of some Yorkshire people talking". Instead they insult listeners from all over the world by assuming they won't know the difference and opt for a kind of demented middle earth approximation of what they think a Yorkshire accent would probably sound like.
One of the great strengths of Littlewoods book is her use of real folk song in the story and its parallels and hints to the narrative that unfolds. Again you might expect an audio producer to direct an actor who had no knowledge of English folk song to simply speak the verse sections, or perhaps spend a little bit of time listening to some recordings if only to get a feel for traditional English song. Not a chance ! The voice actor instead seems to have been encouraged to guess at the sound of these songs by imagining a world where music had not yet been invented. If I'm wrong about Paul McLaughlin and he is in fact a native British English speaker then... well... Wow.
I don't mean to savage the voice artist here, I think he's been let down almost as much as the author. It's the producer who is simply not up to the job. If you somehow managed to ignore all the foregoing, the technical flaws and fluffs will certainly get to you. The whole thing is scattered with uncorrected edit points and repetitions. The funniest arises from the actors difficulty with the name Baraclough. In the earlier section of the book when the name crops up it has clearly been cut out and re-inserted with a modified pronunciation. The effect is rather like those automated telephone voice messages used by big cinema chains. When the name occurs in later chapters the producer doesn't bother with the edits and leaves in what was obviously the first guess, "Baraclo".
I persevered because I loved the story so much and have enjoyed playing sections of it to friends for laughs. Actually if you're from Yorkshire you might enjoy it more than you ought to for this reason alone. I don't imagine many listeners will get as far as the end though. The word changeling occurs a lot and for me became particularly irksome. Surely nowhere in the English speaking world people say "change-er-ling" do they ?
I'm sure the book would appeal to lovers of Jim Crace's Harvest, which unfortunately suffers in a similar way in the Audible version. Read the book if your a lover of nineteenth century mysteries, folklore, traditional song and carefully poised and compelling narratives This audio version is strictly for laughs or perhaps a useful guide for aspiring audio book producers on how not to do the job.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
By Debs on 12-12-17
What would have made The Hidden People better?
A different narrator would have made the story much easier to follow. The regional accent was dreadful. He placed emphasis on the wrong words and completely spoiled the flow of the story.
What was most disappointing about Alison Littlewood’s story?
The start of the story was quite good but I felt it never lived up to the early promise. I thought that the story was OK but could have been better.
What didn’t you like about Paul McLaughlin’s performance?
His voice was breathy and grated on the nerves. He was poor at accents. To be honest, he spoiled the story for me and I had to force myself to listen to the end.
What character would you cut from The Hidden People?
I am not sure that any of the characters could have been cut from The Hidden People.