Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Audiobook Review : The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzman

  • Release Date: August 6th 2013
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
  • Audiobook Hours: 12 hours 46 minutes
Synopsis: Sisters Natalie and Alice Kessler were close, until adolescence wrenched them apart. Natalie is headstrong, manipulative—and beautiful; Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds. During their family’s summer holiday at the lake, Alice falls under the thrall of a struggling young painter, Thomas Bayber, in whom she finds a kindred spirit. Natalie, however, remains strangely unmoved, sitting for a family portrait with surprising indifference. But by the end of the summer, three lives are shattered.In The Gravity of Birds histories and memories refuse to stay buried; in the end only the excavation of the past will enable its survivors to love again

I chose this audiobook for two reasons; 1.) I think the narrator, Cassandra Campbell, is amazing and 2.) I wanted to read more adult "literary-ish" novels.

The Gravity of Birds is told in  somewhat converging timelines; starting in the 1960's when  adolescent sisters, Alice and Natalie Kessler, meet the rich, young and burgeoning artist Thomas Bayber. Flash forward to 2007 where Bayber is a world renowned  artist but in poor health. With one trick left, he sends his only friend (and biographer) Prof. Dennis Finch and expert art authenticator, Stephen Jameson, on a journey to find a lost painting...of the Kessler sisters. Along the way, the men uncover Bayber's history and family secrets that have been  hidden for decades.

This novel has a lot of plot twists and reveals, so it can be hard to talk about without giving away too much.  While I  found most of these reveals  predictable, a few still managed to catch me off guard.

When listening to an audiobook it is hard to linger appreciate the writing but, from the snippets I've seen from the print version, it's very obvious Guzeman has an excellent writing ability. This book focuses on art and she has this great way of describing the pieces so the reader can "see" them.

The dynamic characters  bring a lot to a plot that could have easily been generic. Of all the characters, I found the somewhat socially unconscious art authenticator  Stephen Jameson to be the most interesting. Learning about the process of art authentication and the things people can tell from something as small as an artist's signature got me interested in reading more books about art. This has left me wanting to check out The Art Forger by B.A Shapiro for my next art themed  read !

Cassandra Campbell does a wonderful job with the narration which is no surprise as she has over 300 voice credits .  All of her different voices just flow so well together.One of the things I like about her is the versatility in her voice. This novel has a majority male characters and Campbell creates these really authentic male voices, there were times when I forgot it was a woman's voice. But then on the flip side of it, she can do an array of teenage girl or little boy voices.

Reviewing this book as someone who primarily reads YA is difficult. Often, when  YA readers talk about adult books we tend to focus on how the book has YA crossover appeal, but I don’t think this book is that kind of book. There aren't very many of the usual tropes and qualities of YA in this book, which made it refreshing for me.

 I'm learning that one of the things I like about adult books is they have an wiser perspective. YA novels tend to function on the notion that the most important and finite moments in life happen to you when you are a teenager and then that’s it. While adult books tend to linger and show a span of a character's lifetime (Joyland, The Night Circus, Water for Elephants), which puts everything, including the characters adolescent  in perspective. As a post-college reader this was  a nice change.

*Audiobook provided by Simon and Schuster


  1. I struggled a bit with this one, though I think it might have been the timing for me more than the book itself. I was having a hard time getting into the story at first and wasn't feeling patient waiting for the reveals that came toward the end. But you're definitely right about how wonderfully the art was described.

    If that's something you enjoyed and you're looking to get into more adult novels, I'm going to recommend one that seems super ambitious because of it's size (it's lonnnng), but Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is centered around art in a similar way and hooks you from the beginning. It's not out until the end of this month, but it's absolutely one of my favorite books this year.

  2. Yeah, I had a hard time getting into it as well.

    I will definitely take your rec of Goldfinch and let you know when I get to it ! I'm always looking for more adult books.

  3. I haven't listened to a Kate Rudd audiobook yet, but I'll keep a lookout !


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