reviews of Story Circle productions


What the critics have said about...
Midsummer Moon

From Audio Gals, May 2013

To sum up, Midsummer Moon is an audiobook I have absolutely no hesitation recommending unreservedly. The story is full of humor and tenderness and the characterizations throughout are superb. We have an eccentric but winning heroine, an honorable and upstanding hero (who is often endearingly bewildered by her), grumpy old retainers, a very discerning no-nonsense dowager, and a peripatetic hedgehog. The whole thing moves along at a rattling pace.

Nicholas Boulton’s performance is, quite simply, flawless – and I suspect he may have ruined me for all other narrators! He brings a real depth of feeling to the scenes in which Ransom and Merlin are arguing or loving, and I think that anyone who finds Ransom to be too coldly manipulative on the page might find their opinions revised after listening to Midsummer Moon. By Caz.

Manuscript Found in Accra, by Paulo Coelho, read by Jeremy Irons

From AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine, April 2013

In 1099, in the ancient city of Jerusalem, the townspeople await the imminent invasion of the Crusaders. Fearing the mayhem and bloodshed to follow, a group of city-dwellers assembles to hear the words of the wise man known as the Copt. The Copt provides a series of platitudes meant to assuage the fears of those gathered. Listening to Jeremy Irons makes one forget everything but his voice. This works well for Coelho's latest, since the novel offers little in story. Coelho's language is lush, and his rhythmic archaic sentence structures ring true to the period, but were it not for the gravitas of Jeremy Irons's impeccable performance, listeners would be left feeling unsatisfied, as if a feast had been promised and only an appetizer served. S.J.H.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

From Time Out, London, September 2008

'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a day' ... is impossible to switch off. It is intelligently read by Frances McDormand, who also stars in the film. Exquisitely packaged, as ever, by tiny London publisher Persephone, (it) is a treasure.

Once Upon a Time in the North

From Jessica Moyer, WorldCatLibraries, June 2008

Set 35 years before The Golden Compass (1996), Pullman's latest tells about the first meeting of Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby and armored bear Iorek Byrnison. Lee and daemon rabbit Hester fly on a cargo balloon, landing on a small island in the Arctic with little money or food but with a strong sense of right and wrong. Pullman effectively uses several elements of classic westerns, turning Lee into an Arctic cowboy and the prickly and pessimistic Hester into his loyal sidekick. Pullman's outstanding audio performance (he serves as narrator) is equal to the professionally trained actors in this multicast performance. Reading in his strong British tones, Pullman maintains a perfect level of tension and emotion. From the desperate Dutch accent of Captain van Breda (played by Tim Bentinck) and the northern tones of Lieutenant Haugland (portrayed by Paul Panting) to the twangy western speech of Lee Scoresby (read by Nigel Whitmey) and the cold alien voice of Iorek Byrnison (played by Sean Barrett), the dialects match the characters. Listeners are unlikely to miss the book illustrations as the outstanding cast personalizes the text. This is an appealing choice for most fantasy and historical-fiction fans, including adults. An essential purchase for audiobook collections.

The Story Circle Multi-Voice Recordings

From Publishing News, London, July 14th, 2006

Click here to read the article.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

From Bookwatch, USA, July, 2006
Produced for Naxos Audiobooks by The Story Circle Ltd.

Mark Twain's classic southern novel, The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, is superbly narrated by Garrick Hagon in the Naxos Audiobooks unabridged edition as part of their "Modern Classics" series. Deftly read and flawlessly recorded for a fully creative and original presentation, The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn carries readers through one of America's best loved and most enduring comedies set in the antebellum, slave owning south. Featuring Mark Twain's delightful cast of characters, The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn is very strongly recommended for personal, school, and community library audiobook collections. (9 CDs, total time: 11:24:04)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

From Christina Hardyment in The Times, on July 1st, 2006

A new multi-voiced unabridged Alice in Wonderland (Naxos, CDs, £13.99, offer £12.59, for 10+) is the best I have come across. Fine performances from Andrew Branch as an anxious White Rabbit, Christopher Scott as a dozy Dormouse, David Timson as both Dodo and Mock Turtle and Anne Rosenfeld as a haughty Duchess. Jo Wyatt as Alice strikes the right balance between childishness and shrewd good sense.

This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes

From Kati Nicholl in the Daily Express, on April 20th, 2007

It’s a month of great readers! Garrick Hagon, one of my favourite producers, is also a fabulous reader – and never more so than in A.M. Homes THIS BOOK WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE (Hachette, 6 hrs, £15.99 CD, £11.99 digital download from Here wealthy, solitary Richard Novak faces a life crisis when a hole appears in his lawn and an excruciating pain takes him into the ER of a Los Angeles hospital. Then he becomes friendly with doughnut-maker Anhil, and soon there are people everywhere in his life. Exploding with warmth and hope, this book may not save your life, but it might just open you to the possibility of it!

Plato's Symposium

From Christina Hardyment in The Times, on February 4th, 2006

‘Tell me the truth about love’ nicely summarises Plato’s Symposium thanks to the liveliness of Tom Griffith’s translation. Spirited readings from David Shaw-Parker as Socrates and a strong supporting cast make the listener feel that they, like Apollodorus’ friends, have a seat at the most famous philosophical dinner party of all time.’

The Sixth Lamentation by William Broderick

From Sue Gaisford In The Independent, May, 2005

“William Broderick’s masterly debut, The Sixth Lamentation, is also enhanced by beautiful music, in this case the Faure beloved of the old lady whose dying forms the ground-bass of this story. It travels from spiriting Jewish children out of occupied Paris to taking sanctuary in a contemporary Augustinian priory, and is sensitively read by Nathaniel Parker and Diana Bishop. When, with the final unexpected revelation, the reading stopped, I found myself starting all over again, ready to scoop up all the clues I’d missed before.”

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

From Sue Baker In The Bookseller, December, 2004

Adjoa Andoh's recordings of the Mma Ramotswe novels are a good example of how audio can augment the written word. This is no run-of-the-mill recording, but a performance that enhances the books. Her honeyed tones, and the voices she gives to the characters, make this six hours of pure enjoyment. Audiobooks don't come much better than this.

Classic Tales of Ghosts and Vampires

From Christina Hardyment In The Times, August 21st, 2004

"From ghouls and ghosties and long-leggety beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord deliver us!" runs the old Scottish prayer.

Wish them on yourself with a vengeance with one of the most imaginative and original audiobook collections that I've heard, Classic Tales of Ghosts and Vampires (BBC Audiobook Collection). A glance at the list of authors was enough to have me grabbing this one from the shelf: Ambrose Bierce, E.Nesbit, Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson and many more. These are 19th and 20th-century tales by British and American masters, and mistresses of the art of storytelling who have set out to make your eyes pop, your jaws slacken and your muscles set rigidly. These chillers are, to me at least, largely unknown. . . . The music and sound effects intensify the atmosphere, and the readers are both distinguished in their own right and well matched to the stories; they include Sean Barrett, Liza Ross, Stephen Thorne and Garrick Hagon.

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

From Interzone Magazine, October 2001

The Subtle Knife, the second volume of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, ended on one hell of a cliffhanger, and many of us waited many months for The Amber Spyglass to appear. When it finally came out last year, I promptly devoured it… and was left feeling a bit cheated.

Given how strong on logic and consistency the previous books have been, the (admittedly mostly minor) lapses in the final volume proved more irritating than might have been the case in a lesser work. The theological axe-grinding is way too unsubtle, and far too much hangs on a completely arbitrary revelation near the end of the book.

Nevertheless, the book's virtues vastly outweigh its faults. I was delighted to be reminded of this fact when the Story Circle Production version arrived on my doorstep as a boxed set of ten audiocassettes. As with the previous volumes, Philip Pullman himself narrates while a cast of actors perform the dialogue. There are more than forty actors this time, many reprising their roles, none of them putting in a duff performance. It may be trite to say that they bring the story to life, but it's one thing to imagine the President of the Consistorial Court as someone to be afraid of - quite another to feel one's blood chill on hearing Alex Norton's portrayal of the character.

Sean Barrett makes a welcome return both as Iorek Byrnison the armoured bear and as Lord Asriel, characters we haven't seen since Nothern Lights. This time we're treated to a lot more interplay between Asriel and Alison Dowling's wonderful Mrs Coulter - they are great together. The between-chapter bits are impressive too, with powerful readings from Blake, Milton, Marvell and so on, and with an appropriately eerie soundtrack accompanying Lyra's dream sequences.

The trilogy is generally regarded as fantasy, but there's a healthy dollop of top-notch science fiction in there as well. The quantum theory and modern cosmology are put to good use, the environmental consequences of conjoining worlds are dramatically explored, and the Mulefa are among the best-realised aliens I've come across in a long time.

This audio presentation is a wonderful enhancement of something that was already great. It's nearly fifteen hours long, but the time flies by. Chivers Press and everyone else involved in this deserve a standing ovation, and everyone who loves intelligent fantasy should do themselves a favour and buy the complete trilogy on tape.

- Paul Beardsley

Other comments include...

"The author's own voice is impressive as the narrator and conveys mystery and power, while the supporting cast greatly enhances the drama and pace. Brilliant."
The Observer, UK, June 3, 2001

"As the assured, silver-tongued narrator weaving amongst the excellent work of approximately 40 British actors, Pullman extends an impossible-to-refuse invitation to listening adventure on this splendid adaptation of the much-anticipated conclusion to the His Dark Materials trilogy."
Publishing Weekly, May 14, 2001

"The production, recorded with so many characters, and with such care and sureness, is a masterwork. Don't even try to drop into this world unprepared; start with The Golden Compass and savor every word."
AudioFile Magazine, June 2001

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

"Listeners will quickly realize they are in for a sumptuous feast...This splendid blend of Dickensian and the daemonic deserved the very best audio interpretation possible, and this production certainly fills the bill."
The Horn Book, USA, March, 1999

"The dialogue is performed by a cast of not less than 15 actors (plus six children)...Even if you're already familiar with His Dark Materials, it's still an excellent listening experience."
Paul Beardsley

"Philip Pullman's soft voice and perfect timing draw the listener into this enthralling story...There are excellently produced pieces of dramatisation that break up the telling...A great gift for children aged nine and above."
Angela Macpherson in Talking Business, November 1999

"This is an example of a full-cast recording at its zenith...a dazzling audio production."
Audiofile Magazine, October 1999

"Philip Pullman's masterfully rendered fantasy-adventure... captivates from the start on this vibrant audio production."
Publishers Weekly, July, 1999

"I found myself totally caught up in it. So, inevitably, did the excellent cast."
The Independent, November, 1999

"Forget The Golden Compass and other pale travesties, Pullman reading with an impressive cast of the real thing.."
Sue Arnold in The Saturday Guardian, March 2008

"These stunning unabridged recordings are partially dramatised; Pullman’s narrative voice is powerful and beguiling, while a full cast presents the dialogue. The mix works brilliantly..."
Rachel Redford in The Observer, March 2008

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

"It's hard to imagine a better audiobook performance. Pullman reads the narrative with utmost clarity and the professional British actors who read the dialogue provide all the drama the story commands."
Claire Rosser in KLIATT, September, 2000

"The superb production of this fascinating fantasy epic makes it a heart-thumping listening adventure."
Audiofile Magazine, June 2000

Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall

"In an outstanding performance rich in pride, compassion and vulnerability, Jane Goodall introduces the listener to the world of the Gombe chimpanzees she studied for 25 years...With an even pace, an expert abridgment and perfectly selected music dividing each chapter, this work comes to life..."
Audiofile Magazine, February, 2000

Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver

"Unabridged narration by Ian McKellen gives huge added value to Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother... This is not just a gripping story, but also a convincing re-creation of an ancient way of life."
Christina Hardyment in The Times, June 2005

"McKellen's reading is so seamless that he blends into the background, leaving the characters themselves and the magical story to shine. He clearly enjoys what he’s doing, and so does the listener."
H.L.S. in AudioFile

"McKellen is an enchanter, and this recording is one of his great professional achievements."
The Independent, August 2005