The audiobook of J C Miller’s marvellous novel, The To-Do List, had me chomping at the bits to know more of her work, particularly under the deft hand of narrator Sara K Sheckells.
Heliotrope is an earlier work and set in an earlier period that’s harder to relate to in today’s more enlightened age but, after a relatively slow start, the novel kicks off to become almost as engrossing.
It’s the 1970s, an age when morals were more rigid, homosexuality was still taboo and dyslexia was just starting to be recognised. Father and estranged husband, Jonathan, is a best-selling author, college lecturer and closet homosexual. His star student, Kit, forms a romantic attachment to him which sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to expose his secret and set Kit on a path of redemption and self-discovery.
J C Miller once again excels in developing detailed and believable characters who are driven by their own foibles but who are striving to be better. While the plot of Heliotrope is slow to start, the intricate relationships between Jonathan, Kit and several other main players soon pushes the storyline into a dramatic conundrum where there’s much to lose if the characters don’t choose the right path.
Ann Simmons does a fine job as the narrator, with enough variation to make the characters distinct and their motivations believable. There’s nothing to dislike about her narration but nothing exceptional to latch onto either. Unlike many other narrators who embody the moment or the characters, her work is not memorable. I recall, for example, the first time I heard Steven Pacey and Rupert Degas narrate audiobooks. I was so blown away by their talent that I actively sought out any other books they’d narrated. Ann Simmons does the job and she does it very well but, by the end of your next audiobook, you won’t remember her name. It’s the difference between being good and being notable. “Good” is more than acceptable but it’s not exceptional.
The audiobook of Heliotrope runs for just under 9 hours. It was self-published by the author in October 2016 and is available through audible.