At the end of last year, we were contacted by Alison Larkin, also known as The English American. Alison is a comedienne, an award-winning audiobook narrator of over 200 books and founder of Alison Larkin Presents, an exciting audiobook company based in Massachusetts. Alison kindly informed us of a promotion she was running - between December 2020 and June 2021, for any audiobook purchased directly from her website, they will donate a free audiobook recording to Calibre.
Obviously, we accepted this lovely gift with gratitude and a huge dollop of excitement. Because of this very generous offer, we currently have 7 new books donated by Alison making their way through production which will shortly be available for our members to borrow. The titles are listed below. But first a little bit about our very generous donor.
Alison Larkin is an actor who has appeared both on and off Broadway, playwright, T.V. writer, keynote speaker and has voiced numerous animated films and television shows. Born in Washington DC, she was adopted by British parents and grew up in England and Africa. Classically trained, she enjoyed success as both a playwright and actor in England. Then she found her birth parents in the US, moved to New York and became a stand-up comic.
As soon as you look at her website, her love of classic British literature is clear to see – from Dickens to Louisa May Allcott and Shakespeare to Agatha Christie, they are all there, beautifully bought to life by either Alison or some of the other celebrated actors she has engaged to read the books. Her appreciation of Jane Austen in particular led her to become involved with the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation and Alison has now recorded the entire collection of Jane Austen classics in one 81 hour audio edition.
In fact, after her recording of Emma by Jane Austen, Alison relates how she was privileged to meet Jeremy Knight, Jane Austen's fourth great nephew. Jeremy is dyslexic and had never read the novels of his famous ancestor. Hearing the stories for the first time after listening to Alison’s recording, he loved them so much that he introduced Alison to his daughter Caroline Jane Knight. From this introduction, Alison went on to narrate her memoir, Jane and Me, about being the last Austen descendent to grow up at Chawton house. This is one of the books that we are delighted to have been gifted from Alison.
If you're interested in finding out more about Alison and her audiobook company, you can visit her website here.
On Austen and her gift to Calibre Alison says:
You can imagine what an honor it was to have played a part in bringing the stories of his great aunt to him [Jeremy Knight] and the thought of bringing other stories to your listeners who might not have read them in print but can listen on audio is equally exciting. I have narrated over 200 audiobooks to date but am most passionate about bringing great literature out into the world, especially at a time when the world needs all the wisdom it can get. Today, the classics have never been more relevant. Whether we're connecting to nature during an epidemic or wanting to lose ourselves in a great murder mystery, we can turn to the books of the past to make sense of the present.
The English American by Alison Larkin
Alison Larkin’s wonderfully funny, deeply poignant debut novel that sprang from her autobiographical one-woman show of the same name. Inspired by Alison’s real life experience, this AudioFile Earphones award-winning recording is as funny as it is moving. The book tells the story of Pippa Dunn, a young English woman who discovers that her birth parents are Americans and decides to go to America to meet them, finding true love and her ‘self’ in the process.The recording also features an interview with Alison and a song performed by her.
Jane and Me: My Austen Heritage by Caroline Jane Knight
As a direct descendant of Jane's brother, Edward Knight, Caroline is the last of the Austen Knight family to grow up at Chawton House on the estate where Jane Austen lived and wrote. Caroline explored the same places around Chawton House and its grounds as Jane did, dined at the same table in the same dining room, read in the same library and shared the same dream of independence.
Friends for Life by Andrew Norriss
Sitting by himself on a bench during recess, fashion-loving Francis is joined by Jessica. He’s surprised when he learns that she’s a ghost and that he is the first person who has been able to see her since she died. When they become friends, then meet two more outsiders who can also see Jessica the questions arise: Why are they the only ones who can see Jessica? And how did she die?
The audiobook is followed by a candid discussion with three American teenagers about depression, anxiety, bullying, suicide, social media and the healing power of friendship.
A Shameful Murder by Cora Harrison
Set in Ireland in 1923, a country torn apart by the War of Independence and now in the throes of sectarian violence and severe flooding. But Mother Aquinas knows that not all floods cleanse the deeds of humanity. When a body washes up at her convent chapel dressed in evening finery, she immediately suspects foul play. Seeking justice for the girl, she refuses to accept the police conclusion of accidental drowning and determines not to let the murderer slip away unpunished under the cover of war.
The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
A young woman comes to London looking for adventure. But in fact, adventure finds her at Hyde Park Corner tube station when a thin man, reeking of mothballs, loses his balance and is electrocuted on the rails. The Scotland Yard verdict is accidental death. But Anne is not satisfied. Who was the man in the brown suit who examined the body? And why did he race off, leaving a cryptic message behind: ‘17-122 KilmordenCastle’?
How the Elephant Got Its Trunk by Rudyard Kipling
In this retelling of Rudyard Kipling's classic tale, a curious young elephant tries to find out what the crocodile eats for dinner. He ends up with a whole new look.
The Birthday Dinosaur by Alison Larkin
The night before his fifth birthday, a young boy who can’t wait to grow up receives a visit from the Birthday Dinosaur. Together they fly off on a magical adventure, high above the earth.
We already have many of the great Jane Austen titles in our library, so if you're inspired to read some of her classics alongside 'Jane and Me', they can be found here:
I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice