Audiobook App Offers Engaging Experience
Audiobooks seem to be divisive in the reading community, but I love them. For neurodivergent readers like myself, they can be a lifeline. While cleaning or doing other tasks, I’ve read more in the past year than I have in the past several because of embracing audiobooks again. So when offered a chance at the new Audrey app, I jumped on it.
Audrey is new, so it doesn’t have as huge a selection as some other big names yet, but with my English minor, the book I tried – “Bliss and Other Stories” by Katherine Mansfield – was still fresh to me. Honestly, diving into her work and her influence on the short story the hole in my education offended me, but that is a topic for another day.
About the Book
Loved by Ali Smith and envied by Virginia Woolf, in her brief life, Katherine Mansfield wrote many stories that would end up among the most important works of modernist and feminist literature. In these innovative and captivating short stories, you’ll find a housewife’s sexual and emotional awakening, an actress’s desperate search for work, and other vivid moments crafted in fine detail and sharply drawn characters.
Audrey Guide, Sophie Corser, is an academic and researcher of modern and contemporary women’s writing. In the guide to Bliss and Other Stories, she shares juicy facts about Mansfield’s own short but productive life, literary insights into the short story form, discussion questions provoked by the stories, beautiful images and, as in all Audrey guides, a brilliant playlist.
With hand-drawn illustrations by Rosie Leech.
Listening with Audrey is unlike any other audiobook experience. A voracious audiobook listener with an Audible account, who also uses the public library’s audiobooks, the inner workings intrigued me. One of the biggest differences is you can’t just binge a book. This was a collection of short stories, so it would be a little different with a book containing chapters, but the app stops at the end of each chapter. This gives you a pause, something we’re not used to in our fast-paced world. Then, notes pop up from your Audrey guide. Some of them are recorded and some written. This is a unique experience, almost like stepping back into a college discussion group – offering you the opportunity to actually think about what you’ve just read in a deep, meaningful way instead of simply consuming it and moving on with your day.
That said, if you hated college or high school English class, you might not enjoy this experience. But if you miss those debates about theme or symbolism, and you enjoyed learning the historical context for the book you’re reading – Audrey is absolutely for you.
As for the stories themselves, I’m sorry I didn’t find Mansfield earlier in my life. Honestly, it’s pretty clear why she wasn’t present in my Deep South schools. She explores themes of women’s liberation, and she bucks the norms. She wasn’t afraid to explore women’s sexuality or the desperate situations women often found themselves in during her times. Lesbianism, prostitution, and other taboo subjects filled her stories – though as a teen, I could easily see myself missing them, since they were sometimes subtle.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and this new platform. It so happened that I was listening to Pride and Prejudice separately with my daughter, and I often wondered what an Audrey guide would have to say. And when the Bennett family calls out to me again, I can find out because Audrey has that book as well. I will absolutely be back to explore Audrey, and I will look for more Mansfield as well.
If you enjoy having your mind challenged and exploring the titles you’re listening to, Audrey is a wonderful listening experience for you. Currently filled with classics, I’m not sure if Audrey intends to move into the more contemporary books. Books you can find elsewhere, like Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Siddhartha, currently fill the library, so keep that in mind. But the experience is definitely like no other.
A Note From Team Audrey
We have developed the Audrey app, where we curate classic and contemporary audiobooks and pair them with a guide, who helps the listener engage with the book in a more meaningful way. The guide provides insights, context, information about the author, photos of the real places in the book, thought-provoking questions, a playlist and more. We also commission bespoke illustrations, and each book comes with chapter recaps and character descriptions to help readers who may get easily distracted.
The folks over at Audrey gifted me a copy of “Bliss and Other Stories,” by Katherine Mansfield in exchange for an honest review of the listening experience.
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