The Land of Laughs

  • by Jonathan Carroll
  • Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini
  • 8 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Award-winning author, narrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman personally selected this book, and, using the tools of the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), cast the narrator and produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.
A few words from Neil on The Land of Laughs: "I chose The Land of Laughs for Neil Gaiman Presents because I love Jonathan Carroll’s books and want to bring them to as wide an audience as possible. I suspected the character of Thomas Abbey would be both a challenge and an opportunity for the right narrator. Edoardo Ballerini conveys a certain wistfulness and vulnerability underneath Abbey’s grumpiness."
Thomas Abbey is a man stuck in a rut. An English teacher in a small Connecticut prep school, Abbey is in a crisis. His career is unfulfilling, he has no social or love life to speak of, and he cannot break out of the shadow of his famous father, the actor Stephen Abbey. To kick-start his life, he takes a sabbatical to work on a biography of his favorite writer, Marshall France. France's books were the only thing that kept Abbey sane during his childhood, and though he was renowned for his lyrical and imaginative children's books, nearly nothing was known about the writer's life.
Although Abbey has been warned that France's daughter, Anna, has blocked all previous attempts at her father's biography, he and Saxony Garder - an intense woman also obsessed with France's life - head to Galen, Missouri, with high hopes of breaking down Anna's resistance. They are surprised to find Anna the soul of small-town hospitality and quite excited about Abbey's proposal - even eager to get the project finished as soon as possible.
Even stranger than Anna's behavior is the town of Galen itself. On the surface, all is as a small Midwestern town should be. But the people of the town seem to know what their future holds - freak accidents and all - down to the hour and are as eager for Abbey to finish the biography as Anna is.

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What the Critics Say

"Edoardo Ballerini perfectly captures the hesitant and faltering Thomas Abbey, a schoolteacher who wants to write the biography of his favorite children’s author, the mysterious Marshall France. Thomas’s story starts out realistically enough, but when he and his girlfriend take a research trip to France’s hometown in Missouri, things begin to veer into the bizarre. Ballerini makes the listener sympathize with Thomas, even as he begins an affair with France’s daughter, Anna, a woman obsessed with her dead father. Ballerini’s command of Thomas’s character and his spot-on voices for the secondary characters ground the story as it becomes more fantastical and the listener learns that either things aren’t what they seem or Thomas is not entirely sane. An unsettling examination of obsession." (AudioFile)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Laugh? No. Be disturbed? Yes.

I had not read or even heard of Jonathan Carroll before I came across this suggestion from the estimable Mr Gaiman. And I am very glad that I did because this book is so compelling, so enthralling, and at the same time quite, quite disturbing, that one is hooked from the very start.

It seems a trait with Carroll's work that the story itself, the real meat as it were, never really gets going until about two-thirds of the way through. The last third is where the action is at yet the rest is about the fleshing out of the characters, the setting of the tone, the background, everything that makes a masterpiece what it is. And despite all this apparent extraneous padding you still want to hear it. You want to know what makes the characters tick, their faults, their foibles, because I have yet to come across anyone who better portrays real people, complete with hang-ups and doubts, as does Jonathan Carroll.

The title of this book is the title of a fictional book by an author much admired by the main protagonists. That so much detail of this fictional book is included makes one wish that it was for real, so fantastical are the characters and clues to the mythical text.
The end, when one eventually gets there, is fairly predictable. You can sense how things are going to pan out and yet it is still a surprise when the inevitable happens.

Edoardo Ballerini narrated this story impeccably and, as a result, will have me hunting down more of his work.

Buy, listen and be beguiled.
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- Paul Snook

A brilliant listen from a fantastic writer

Any additional comments?

This debut novel by Jonathan Carroll deserves to be discovered by many more listeners. If you love a story that slowly slides from reality into fantasy and horror then this is the audio for you. Introduced and recommended by Neil Gaiman it also had a host of fantastic reviews at the time of its release, including Ruth Rendell.

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- Laurence

Book Details

  • Release Date: 25-10-2011
  • Publisher: Neil Gaiman Presents