When I listened to the audiobook of Code Name Verity, one of the things I noticed was the sense of performance. This makes a lot of sense given the themes of the book, and who the narrator is, and the games she’s playing.
I listened to the audiobook of Rose Under Fire recently, and it’s a little different, which also makes sense. There’s one narrator, apart from a few letters in the middle of the text. Whereas with CNV, I noticed how well the narrators did the accents, in this case, I forgot I was listening to a performance. It was like Rose was speaking to me. Although she does accents, of course, Roza and Irina and Lisette, what I primarily felt was a sense of naturalism.
Perhaps a bit more eerily, occasionally Rose sounds like very, very much like my Nana, who is also from Pennsylvania and who was born about five years before Rose’s (fictional) birth. I noted in my original review of RUF that “Rose is a bookish American who loves England, with German heritage, from the Midwest”–that I felt a kind of distant kinship with her. The audiobook reinforced this; these moments when her voice sounded so distinctly like someone I know.
One of the marvelous things about Sasha Pick’s narration is how well she voices the delineation between pre-Ravensbrück and post-Ravensbrück Rose. In the beginning, she is effervescent, earnest, and naive. She is touched by things, but she hasn’t really lived through them, as she herself knows. After Ravensbrück, she is still Rose, but she has a gravity, a weight to her narration that signals how much has changed.
(She is also excellent at reading poetry, just at the perfect balance of emotion without dramatics, which matters so much for this character. Hearing this Rose recite Millay, recite her own poems, is intensely beautiful.)
As I’ve said before, for me the narrator can really make or break an audiobook. In this case, the result is a wonderful, heartfelt rendition, giving life not only to Rose, but to all of her family from Block 32. It feels personal rather than performative, filled with Rose’s experiences and words, her attempts to tell the world.