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Unlikely Pleasures

It was early 2010 and I was gifted a Twilight audiobook, a CD set with one of the most hated apples in the modern literary universe on the cover. I don’t recall if I had seen the movie with the ridiculous sun sparkles on Cedric’s face, but the combination of the universal tween obsession and critical panning of both the books and the movie made me raise my eyebrows at the present.

Back then I would drive to the office and back, and occupy the time behind the wheel immersed into a story told in a flowing voice of a professional narrator. I am one of those people for whom driving a familiar route takes zero mental effort. The eyes follow the road, the hands move the wheel, the instincts and habits anticipate the traffic long enough ahead to avoid surprises, and so the mind is free to wander. I used to listen to the radio, but music was not my thing, and CBC Radio One had been steadily declining in the quality of programming in the early 2000s, so I needed something else to fill the mind. And that’s how I almost completely switched from reading to listening. These days I do not drive to work, and do not even own a car, and I miss the time when I would turn the car key and get lost in a story, up until getting out of the car at the destination, having absolutely no recollection of the trip itself. My travel companions were quite eclectic, from Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth to Michael Valentine Smith. Some were as irritating as Cercei Lannister, others as hapless as Arthur Dent, yet others as clever as Sherlock Holmes, or as adorable as The Little Prince. And so I shrugged at the gift, and one day, with no other audiobooks at hand, I had popped the CD in, mostly to report to the gifter that I did, in fact, do my best to try to listen to that.

And so I heard Ilyana Kadushin narrating Bella. Whatever literary foibles the written text had, she made them disappear without changing a single word. I was transported into a world of a warm, confident and open 17 year old girl whose world was about to be turned upside down and inside out. The silly sparkles and the nothing-like-in-Bram-Stoker-stories vampires faded into the background as the story of a girl falling in love for the first time and struggling to deal with it unfolded in Ilyana’s melodic voice. Nearly every good story is about the protagonist’s struggling in their search for identity, though of course not every search-for-identity story is any good. Whatever else you may thing about the Twilight saga, the whole series is about Bella coming of age. The self-confident yet love-struck teen of the first book, the broken depressed girl of the second, the worrywart caretaker of the third, and eventually getting back the lost confidence, gaining in maturity and becoming an unlikely hero. And the leitmotif of the story is Bella’s reflex to self-sacrifice to protect others.

Sounds banal, doesn’t it? And yet. The narrator’s voice bewitched me. The story entranced me. The two CDs of the first book ended too soon. I needed more. The irony of an older dude hooked on a tween vampire fantasy did not escape me, and a part of me was cracking up at that other part, craving for more. More of the disarming flowing voice telling a story of a girl trying to survive and to keep safe those she loves, no matter the obstacles. The driving time was no longer enough to get the fix. I started sneaking out during my lunch break to get another 10 min of bliss. I had trouble pausing the story when arriving to my destination, usually back home, and instead was sitting in the car after turning the engine off, which earned me some sidelong glances and uncomfortable questions from the family. I had ripped the CDs and put the story on an MP3 player (I did not have a smartphone back then yet), and walked around the house with headphones. Like someone had cast a riddikulus spell on me.

And then I was done. The last book was finished. I knew how it ended. Yay, the spell is broken, right? Right?! Tough luck. I still had all the CDs in the glove compartment. And so back in goes the very first CD. Twilight groundhog day. At this point the smirking part of me just waved the imaginary hands and reached for popcorn to see what happens. By the end of the year I could probably quote whole paragraphs from any place in the story. Guilty pleasures. I contemplated driving to Forks, a whole day of driving each way. I will spare you the more embarrassing ideas I had. Or maybe even attempted. Well, I will spare myself, mostly. There are some things I am not ready to admit even to myself. And I have admitted a lot to myself lately.

The spell of this particular guilty pleasure eventually faded away. The incongruities in the story and the sometimes jarring writing style ended up standing out more and more, perfect narrating or not. And so when the car was sold, the pile of much overplayed CDs in the glove compartment finally got discarded. New car, new audiobooks. One thing I am grateful for though is that Ilyana Kadushin did not narrate Fifty Shades!

Wicked Wednesday… a place to be wickedly sexy or sexily wicked


  1. Marie Rebelle

    Oh this made me want to go to the library, grab some audio books and start listening to them again. I used to do this too, and actually stopped when I had no idea which book I wanted to listen to next. I love audio books, and have come across stories I would never have read, but really enjoyed listening to. Guilty pleasures indeed!

    Many thanks for joining in with Wicked Wednesday. Looking forward to reading more of your posts 🙂

    Rebel xox

    • Master

      It’s a very good point, Rebel! Some books are better as print, others as audio. Hope you pick up the habit and find an audio book or two you enjoy.

    • Master

      The mind wandering thing definitely can happen! Different formats work well for different people. And different works lend themselves better to different formats, too. Whatever does the trick for you.

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  5. Sweetgirl

    The Twilight saga is one of my favourite reads. I don’t think the film’s did them justice and as you say the hype around the sparkling Edward was annoying.

    Stephen Fry narrates the Harry Potter books very well – if you haven’t come across these yet…

  6. Ria Restrepo

    I haven’t listened the audio books, but I loved reading the Twilight books for all the reasons you mentioned. I also found the chemistry and banter between Bella and Edward addictive. Thanks for sharing! 😉

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