cover image When the World Was Steady

When the World Was Steady

Claire Messud, read by Shiromi Arserio. HighBridge Audio, , unabridged, 8 CDs, 9.5 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-6816-8667-7

Voice actor Arserio carries listeners along on the gentle flow of Messud’s fine prose in this new recording of her 1994 novel. Arserio has a pleasant voice, an unobtrusive British accent, and a knack for smooth transitions from emotion to emotion. Her pacing, pausing, inflections, and emphasis keep listeners involved in the parallel narratives: pious, introverted, dutiful daughter Virginia and her needy and extroverted mother, as they traverse Scotland’s Isle of Skye; Virginia’s estranged sister Emmy and her bizarre group of misfits and smugglers on the island of Bali; Virginia’s friend Angelica and the Indian student Nikhil, who is searching for his sister who eloped with a Scot. Each character expresses a similar type of imbalance, searching simultaneously for childhood innocence and adult freedom. Arserio’s smooth handling of the low-key drama of each life “somewhere between fear and triumph” makes this a strong and rewarding listen. A Norton paperback. (Sept.)