Post date: 
Thursday, 27 July 2017
Image shows Madeleine Brolly

Veteran narrator Madeleine Brolly talks about her love of the world of Talking Books with New Books’ Kim Normanton.

How did you get into narration?

I had heard from friends that Talking Books was a lovely place to work, there’s a sense of belonging and you get to work with the same faces over again, which you don’t often get with acting. It’s a bit like a family, so it was something I really wanted to do.

What was the first book that you read?

A Daughter’s Secret by Anne Enright. I was asked to do it because the main character is from County Down, and my dad is from Derry, so it’s virtually the same accent

She then travels to Birmingham and is surrounded by people from the South of Ireland – and that’s where my mum was from.

So, they needed someone who could narrate it in standard English, do a Derry/Down accent, and lots of Irish ones – I think that’s how I first got my ‘in’.

What’s your favourite accent?

I do love the Derry accent. It was the first accent I ever did as a child. My cousins were staying, and they wanted to know where their sandals were, and I thought their pronunciation was hilarious, so that was my first word in a foreign accent.

You’re best known amongst our Talking Book readers for your narration of Elena Ferranti’s popular Neapolitan series. Do you have to do accents in that?

No, it’s just read in an English accent. It would be very distracting to use accents. It’s set in a very poor part of Napoli, so I just add a little working class ‘colour’.

If you go over the top, you’re robbing the listener of the experience that a reader gets. When you read a book, you hear things in your head, and you don’t want someone to make a massive decision on your behalf, otherwise you’re producing it too much.

Tell us a little about the series

I had been recommended them, often by women, saying they’d never read books so well written about women’s friendships. This is definitely one of my top ten books.

It’s about the friendship between two girls and how they grow apart following different paths, trying to extricate themselves from the very male corrupt atmosphere of Napoli, post-Second World War. It’s brilliant and insightful; and I think men would love it too, just because it’s a story well told.

Do you need quite high energy for this kind of work?

The hardest thing with narrating books is actually the stillness and the level of concentration. Sitting still almost requires more energy than if you were moving about. You get a head fog, and you can get quite a stiff face, just from sheer talking.

This article originally appeared in Connect magazine - Summer 2017 edition.

More you might like

Best of Connect