Making an audio book of my Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde study guide

17 June 2020

I’m very excited to announce that the marvellous actor and audiobook reader Richard Bunn will be reading my bestselling study guide ‘Analysis and Study Guide: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’. The book has proved to be one of my popular books over the years and has continued to sell well. I was impressed by all the auditions I heard on ACX, where I invited actors to offer their interpretations of the first chapter of the novel.

I have to be honest here; it’s a tough book to read aloud! While it works on paper, things like the definitions of words, which are put in brackets in the main text, are very tricky to read aloud in a continuous fashion. In fact, as Richard quickly spotted, it’s almost impossible to deliver a good reading if you read the opening sentence straight. This is the offending sentence:

‘Mr. Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged (rough) countenance (face) that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty (small) and embarrassed in discourse (talk); backward in sentiment (feeling); lean (thin), long, dusty (old fashioned), dreary (boring) and yet somehow lovable.  At friendly meetings, and when the wine was to his taste, something eminently (very) human beaconed (shone) from his eye; something indeed which never found its way into his talk, but which spoke not only in these silent symbols of the after-dinner face, but more often and loudly in the acts (deeds) of his life.’

Woah! It’s a tricky sentence to read well anyway, full of subordinate clauses, and difficult vocabulary, but throw in all my definitions in bold, and it sounds extremely clunky! To overcome this problem, Richard created a glossary of the offending words for each section, and then read the text in a traditional style (listen below). Having surmounted that challenge, he was faced with reading the ‘teacher commentary’. Look at this first bit of commentary:

Simple explanation: Utterson is a lawyer for respectable people; he is quite a boring person but helps men when they are in trouble without judging them.Analysis: Stevenson begins the novel with a description of Utterson, describing him as an unappealing, down-to-earth, “dreary” individual who is both loyal and intelligent. It’s important in the context of what is to come that Utterson is very ordinary, but clever. Utterson becomes the detective figure in the novel, searching for the terrible truth about his friend Dr. Jekyll.’

Here, you have to shift your tone from being a passionate, engaged but traditional reader of this famous horror novel, to sound like a lovely, friendly, bouncy, energetic teacher, full of beans about interpreting the book! It’s quite a shift in tone! But Richard does it brilliantly! I think you’ll agree that his reading is a master class in varying tone in a plausible, fluent way. The skill involved here is considerable. Listen to his audition tape here:

So I am very excited to be working with Richard on this. I’ll keep you updated about we’re getting along. We’re hoping to make the full audio book available by the end of the summer, in time for the new term.

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