Jeremy Northam is proving to be an interesting travelling companion. In 2008, after first splitting our time between languidly idling among the dreamy spires of Oxford and staying at an imposing stately home in the English countryside, we flitted off together for a brief sojourn on the Venetian lagoon, before later wandering the souks of Morocco. In 2009, we ventured farther afield to the heat and chaos of Cuba but this year, rather fittingly for the austere times we now live in, we stayed closer to home and roughed it for a while on the streets of Paris and London.
Lest you worry that Mr Northam has fallen on hard times and is reduced to wandering the streets of two of the world’s iconic cities, and before you get jealous that he’s chosen to do so in my company, all these journeys and, more importantly, my rather wonderful travelling companion can be yours as well – all for the very reasonable price of an audiobook. You see, Jeremy and I made these trips together while I was out walking the local lanes or pounding away the miles on a treadmill. He has transformed my growing fondness for audiobooks into a shout-out-loud love for them.
The wonderful people at CSA Word, a specialist independent provider of audiobooks and spoken word, reunited us, after they snapped him up in 2008 to read Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel Brideshead Revisited. He’s since gone on to narrate Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana and George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London for them.
Although Jeremy has only started reading for them fairly recently, CSA Word’s Clive Stanhope first took notice of him probably around the same time that I did: “I first came across Jeremy Northam as a reader when he read an abridged version of Emma– he appeared in the film. I contacted the company that produced it and they thought his reading was excellent. That was in 1996 and Jeremy played Mr Knightley.” I have that same Emma audiobook. Back in 1996, it was a twin cassette pack but thankfully it’s now available as a download from audible.co.uk (or audible.com, if you’re in the US).
Fast forward twelve years and Clive “remembered him and when [Jeremy] was available in 2008 [CSA Word] pounced on him for Brideshead Revisited…” And I’m very glad they did, too. He’s taken me places I might never have ventured without him as a guide. If it hadn’t been for Jeremy narrating it, I might not have given Brideshead a chance listen. I’d always resisted reading it because the central premise of Charles Ryder’s infatuation with an aristocratic family that brings him and them into conflict with their Catholic faith never greatly appealed. Jeremy’s sympathetic reading helped me overcome that prejudice and, as a result, I’m more open to attempting other books or authors I’ve similarly avoided in the past.
Like Graham Greene, for example, whose Our Man in Havana Jeremy narrates with positive relish, brilliantly conjuring up a comic cast of characters and their diverse accents. Through CSA Word’s clever use of music, the story shifts seamlessly between the atmosphere and feel of pre-Castro-era Cuba and the old-school intelligence network back in London. Even Down and Out in Paris and London might not otherwise have got a look in. I’ve read both 1984 and Animal Farm but George Orwell’s account of his time spent among the poor and destitute in those two cities didn’t sound as enticing. These three books, each very different, have all been well worth getting to know and a rewarding listen.
Now that Jeremy is filming a new TV show, Miami Medical, for CBS in America, he won’t be reading any books for CSA Word in the immediate future, but they have such a great catalogue of titles and such well-matched readers that I won’t have to stay at home drumming my fingers, waiting for him to come home to the UK. There are plenty of other travelling companions and I’m excited about getting to know them and seeing where they’ll take me. I won’t be straying too far from Jeremy to start with though. Clive Stanhope mentioned that Jeremy “did at the time [of recording Brideshead Revisited] say he would have preferred to have read Vile Bodies as that was one of his favourite Waugh books and we were due to record that too.” So, I think I might start by kicking up my heels and partying with the smart set. What about you? Where will you let an audiobook take you today?
All the above audiobooks read by Jeremy Northam, together with Vile Bodies, which is read by Emilia Fox, Tobias Menzies and Nathaniel Parker, are available through from all good bookstores and online retailers, as well as being available as downloads from either audible.co.uk and audible.com.