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Encouraged by the brilliant audiobook The Haunting by fellow TV personality Alan Titchmarsh, I decided to give Fern Britton a go in the hope of listening to something equally pleasing and easy. But where Titchmarsh's work was charming and utterly absorbing this was just all rather underwhelming. The central character Helen is likeable and the story sounds as though it has promise. A bit of pizzaz that should be offered by the arrival of Helen's best friend and the TV crew planning to film what they hope will be a hot new TV series in the Cornish village Helen has recently moved to, fails to grip and the locals, all of whom have absurd pastiche west-country accents, just sound a bit thick thanks to Fern's risible attempts at Cornish enunciation.
One of Helen's potential love interest's is so callow and feeble, however 'good' he might be and despite being told he has a great body thanks to surfing, he just seems dull and deeply sexless. And, aside from my narration issues, that's the main problem with this book, it's just all a bit dull. I don't like bitchy characters and I'm after escapist happy ending-style audios but it is possible to fulfil these criteria whilst still instilling elements of pathos, realism and pace. This wasn't so bad that I gave up and some listeners may enjoy this but I'm afraid my mind wandered. I didn't relish listening to it and there was zero suspense or intrigue. The latter was meant to be provided by the sub-plot surrounding the tin box Helen finds that gives the book it's title but this storyline felt rather clumsily tagged on.
I have been listening to audios from the age of four and during six years of illness have worked my way through hundreds of titles yet I have never encountered a narrator who didn't take a pause at the end of a chapter to read out the number of the next chapter. This may seem like a nit-picking point but besides loathing the narrator Jilly Bond, I almost always enjoy narrators bringing the books I listen to to life. But the combination of Fern, who has a nice voice, rushed pace and zooming from chapter to chapter at absurd speed along with the terrible accents, certainly did not do this title any favours.
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