I’m just back from a lively meeting of the Partick VIP book group -the members have varying degrees of visual impairment and listen to their books on CD. We launched during the West End Festival 2007, at an event with Tom Cotcher, the actor who played DC Alan Woods in The Bill. Tom came to the library to talk about another role – as the narrator of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus books in audio format. (There’s a lot more to narrating than any of us had realised and it was interesting to hear all the issues around continuity for example). Everyone went away with a copy of our first book –A Question of Blood by Ian Rankin, narrated of course by Tom Cotcher.
In most respects the group is the same as any other book group. We read a range of titles – today it was Corrag by Susan Fletcher (a novel set around the Massacre of Glencoe) and in the last few months we’ve read Kate Atkinson, William Trevor and Andrea Levy. For next month we have The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Generally the discussion covers the same ground as any other book group – the plot, the characters, the style – but what can make or break an audio book is the narrator, and there’s always a lot of comment about the clarity, how different characters are differentiated and the accents – there was one book set in Scotland (I think it was by Margaret Elphinstone), where the voice kept veering into Irish and that really annoyed everyone!
The group is led by two librarians, usually Susan and me. Leading a VIP group threw up some challenges that we hadn’t experienced in groups for sighted people. In most groups everyone can read the body language around the table, and can see who is waiting to speak and so on, but this doesn’t apply when people can’t see each other; so we talked it over with the group and decided that anyone who wanted to speak would raise a hand, then the sighted facilitators would let the group know who was waiting to come in, and give them all their turn. It was a steep learning curve for us….
We meet at Partick Library at 2 o’clock on the second Friday of the month. Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more.