AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Caleb’s Crossing (Geraldine Brooks, read by Jennifer Ehle, Bolinda)

It is possible to listen to this audiobook on a busy commute, while preparing dinner or washing the dishes. But it is preferable to listen to it as you would read the print book: without distraction. Geraldine Brooks’ fictionalised account of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard University has been reviewed in a previous issue of this magazine. It is a fascinating story, told through the eyes of Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of a minister and missionary to the native inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard, and the childhood friend of Caleb, son of a local chieftain. This is as much a story of Bethia’s thwarted ambitions—she is denied an education owing to her sex—as it is of Caleb’s extraordinary academic achievement. The audiobook is narrated by Jennifer Ehle, best known for her role as Lizzie Bennet in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Her enunciation is impeccable, with subtle changes in rhythm and register to distinguish the characters in dialogue. Finally, one of the benefits of hearing (rather than reading) this story is Ehle’s assured pronunciation of the ‘Wampanoag’ language, including such names as Nobnocket, Nahnoso, Tequamuck and Nanaakomin. I know I would have stumbled over them myself.

Andrea Hanke is the editor of Bookseller+Publisher. This review first appeared in the July issue of Bookseller+Publisher. See Portia Lindsay’s book review of Caleb’s Crossing here.