The trouble with audiobooks

Published December 23, 2020

White headphones

I’ve listened to more audiobooks this year and delving into the world more has opened up a few surprises.

I was hugely looking forward to the audiobook of Troubled Blood, the fifth book in the Cormoran Strike series. I’ve exclusively listened to the first four books via Audible because Robert Glenister’s narration is so good, and the content is so detailed and dense that having it read to me helps me not to miss anything. Hooray!

The fifth book had a bit of a problem, though, and that was with Robert’s pronunciation of the name Ilsa. Up to now and in line with how it’s spelt, he’d pronounced it Ill-Sah. But for whatever reason, this time round, he went for the slightly different Eye-Lah. Now, audiobook pronunciation is a whole topic in itself. One of the greatest pleasures of reading books is being able to create and visualise and hear that whole new world in your head. Handing over control of that to a narrator has benefits but also comes with the caveat that if they say a name differently to how you thought, that’s not their problem. In some of the early Harry Potter books, Stephen Fry puts the emphasis on the final syllable of the surname Malfoy and at first it was infuriating to me, but then I sort of grew to love it.

Anyway, the reason pronunciation became an issue in this instance is that firstly it was flat-out wrong and secondly, Robert has read the first four books of the series and whilst Ilsa isn’t a huge character, she does pop up every now and again and I think is mentioned in every book. So it’s weird to suddenly change.

Audible and the producers took that feedback on board and made an update to the audiobook with the correct pronunciation - until this year, I didn’t know that was a thing that could be done but it makes total sense. I re-purchased the audiobook after returning it and got to the end of the story. All’s well that ends well.

The reason I bring this up now is I spotted this tweet that talks of how the producers decided to re-record an entire book with a new narrator due to customer feedback. Recording an audiobook is a lengthy process so I can’t imagine what kind of terrible feedback they’ve been getting! But still, it makes me feel lucky that so far all I’ve had is a mispronounced word or two… we’ll see what adventures next year brings!

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