cover image Offcomer


Jo Baker, read by Nicola Barber. Dreamscape Media, , unabridged, 6 CDs, 7.5 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-63379-332-3

Baker’s reissued debut novel follows the life of a young Oxford graduate who suffers from depression and low self-esteem. Claire, who lives in Belfast with her overly critical and unloving boyfriend, Alan, begins cutting herself to deal with her pain. Despite Barber’s admirable narration, this novel is not well suited to the audio format. There is very little dialogue, and most of the scenes are long, minutely detailed descriptions of Claire’s activities: she enters the house, she takes off her coat, she crosses to the bed, etc. Narrator Barber does an excellent job conveying Claire’s state of mind, especially considering most of Claire’s interactions with other characters consists of short replies such as “Oh” and “Sorry.” Barber says these words in a soft, vulnerable voice, as though apologizing for simply existing, and wishing she could disappear. But the long descriptions that fill the book become tedious to listen to, and Claire’s self-effacing depression makes her flat and lacking personality—she is a character to be pitied, but it’s hard to actually like her or find her interesting. [em]A Vintage paperback. (Dec.) [/em]