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Listening Corner

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, `She' Children's Classics. Pounds 6.99 Hodder Headline Audiobooks, 388, Euston Road, London NW1 3BH.

The real star of this cassette, of course, is the book itself a wondrously told tale of lost love, of keys which open lives as well as gardens, and of ultimate redemption. But when I thought about why this recording succeeded so well in capturing and holding my attention, I decided that it had a lot to do with pace and rhythm.

The standard is set by the narrator, Richard Pasco. His opening narration, which goes on for quite a long time before another voice is heard, brings to life vividly those dramatic events in India which form the background to all that follows. Then, when the other voices appear, they work superbly together, delivering the text with great clarity, and moving the story on unhurriedly with careful attention to changing mood and developing tensions.

I liked, too, the Yorkshire accents authentic to my native ear, and unself-consciously delivered, particularly by Judy Bennett in the two roles of Dickon and Martha the young housemaid.

Perhaps the most flattering thing I can say about this recording is that it has the potential to increase the enjoyment of the young listeners, in particular top juniors, not only by just telling them the story, but by opening up for them its subtler layers of meaning.

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