This post is long overdue. We always hear fans say, and cannot agree with them more, that Damian Lewis can read the phone book and they can listen to him all day. Having said that, why would we have to hear Damian read the phonebook to us as we have much better books out there he could read for us?
YES! Damian narrates Audiobooks! If you have not tried it before, it is a total pleasure to have him read you a story. It feels like the equivalent of CBeebies for adults, highly recommended for bed time but also for anytime, doctor’s orders! And Damian has narrated a good variety of books that it is really easy to pick a favorite.
As I shared with you in my fan story earlier, I “met” Damian Lewis through Homeland. Nicholas Brody, and I am not exaggerating at all, changed my life. He made me a Damian Lewis fan for life, and a blogger, too. I will never ever love any fictional character than I have loved Brody.
And the moment I found out Damian Lewis was narrating an original Homeland story of Brody’s journey to Venezuela, I knew I had to hear it right away! And I loved the idea that the show chose to fill the black box, we see Brody walking into the darkness at the end of Season 2 and then suddenly find him in Caracas at the beginning of Season 3 — with a short audio book. And, of course, Damian narrating the story is the most delicious cherry on the pie.
The kind of pain that feels like it is coming from a body part that is no longer there. It sounds like the pain of a man who is no longer there, doesn’t it? He may be physically alive, but he is, in fact, a dead man. This may be one of the first clues I had regarding what was coming our way at the end of Season 3.
Phantom Pain picks up at the end of Season 2 when Brody tells Carrie “this was love, you and me” and crosses the border to Canada. Nicholas Brody writes a letter to his beloved Carrie sharing with her about his journey, both physically and emotionally. It makes a wonderful and, in my opinion, a must-hear companion to any fan’s Season 3 viewing to have a better understanding of who Nicholas Brody is.
Phantom Pain is available on Amazon and free during your Audible trial. And here is an extract from Phantom Pain that you can hear NOW.
Once I heard Phantom Pain, I had to have Damian read to me more. He has such a soothing voice. And he has narrated a pretty good selection varying from Shakespeare to Le Carre that everyone can pick a favorite and let Damian read for them!
Now, if you love Shakespeare, what can be a better experience than seeing our favorite guy reciting Shakespeare?
Well, I would LOVE to see Damian as Antony in Julius Caesar one day. And, as much as I believe in “better late then never” I still regret that I did not know Damian back in the second half of 1990s when he worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and also did his Broadway debut in an Almeida production of Hamlet as Laertes. But then having him read Shakespeare as part of a full cast in completely dramatized recordings may well be the second best!
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Plot: The two gentlemen from Verona are Valentine and Proteus who are saying their goodbyes as the play opens. Valentine travels to Milan, where he falls for Silvia, daughter of the Duke. When Proteus later visits Valentine, leaving his fiancee Julia in Verona, he falls for Silvia as well. Shakespeare gives the classical triangle a spin in which Julia, dressed like a boy, heads to Milan to find her beloved Proteus.
Damian Lewis brings Valentine to life in the audiobook.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona is available on Amazon as an audiobook and free with your Audible trial.
Timon of Athens
Plot: The fabulously rich Timon believes all his friends are as generous as himself. He realizes the bitter truth when his wealth suddenly evaporates. His altruism turning to a bitter hatred of mankind, Timon retreats to the woods where he plots the destruction of Athens, the city that had formerly seemed to embody everything pleasurable and civilized.
Damian Lewis brings Alcibiades, a general and a good friend of Timon, to life in the audiobook.
Timon of Athens is available on Amazon as an audiobook and free with your Audible trial.
Diamonds are Forever
Leaving the classical world of Verona and Athens, Damian goes into the world of espionage with the most famous spy ever and narrates Diamonds are Forever.
Plot: Diamonds are Forever, Book 4 in Bond series, takes place a few months after Moonraker, Book 3 in Bond series, that ends with 007 taking a short vacation. M now tasks Bond with infiltrating a smuggling ring running diamonds from mines in Africa to the United States.
Damian tells GQ Magazine in 2012 about what drew him to narrating Bond books as well as about the first Bond book he read as a teenager.
“There is a campery in Ian Fleming’s Bond books which makes them so much fun. There is an intrinsic cruelty in all of them but at the same time Fleming is a bit of a performer and he quite likes the material to be elevated slightly beyond the plausible. You have to try and catch that spirit but at the same time remain true to the voice of a British gentleman. The second big challenge is if you’re going to read an entire novel and you’re going to have to make a decision about how you make the characters immediately recognizable to the listener.”
“The first Bond novel I read was Dr No. I think it was because at the time I mistakenly thought it was the first one he wrote rather than just being the first film that he made. I always remember the description of Bond arriving on Dr No’s island – there’s a description about spiders and creepy crawlies. It wasn’t particularly scary to a teenage boy but it was so detailed and graphic – he captured the dread of the island just perfectly. You know that Bond is going to spend time in this other reality. Ian Fleming is a page turner but he enjoys his more complex psychological moments and is always trying to imbue Bond with those characteristics.”
Diamonds are Forever is available on Amazon and free with your Audible trial. One SWEET surprise is that the audiobook includes a BONUS interview with Damian Lewis.
A Delicate Truth
Well, it seems Damian loves narrating about the world of espionage! In 2013, in the midst of his Homeland fame, he read John le Carré’s A Delicate Truth, abridged by Sally Marmion, for Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio 4 in 10 episodes, each episode being 15 minutes.
Plot: Set in 2008, A Delicate Truth has its protagonist Toby Bell, private secretary to the minister of the Foreign Office, who finds out his minister is hiding something important from him. Toby, an idealist, works to uncover “Operation Wildlife” a private military operation gone wrong in Gibraltar.
Damian compares Fleming and le Carré in an interview with Sunday Post:
“Fleming’s world of espionage is about fantasy and wish fulfillment, where as le Carré is interested in drawing stories from real time and culture.”
You can hear Damian read a 2-minute excerpt here and then hear him talk about the challenges of reading A Delicate Truth here. I am transcribing the latter below for our non-native speaker fans who prefer to read rather than listen.
“Reading John le Carre’s new novel A Delicate Truth was particularly challenging because in the opening 100 pages of the book that you are introduced to several characters and, for radio, of course, to distinguish between the characters was of course different cadence, different pitch, different accents, so switching between Belfast and Cardiff was quite challenging at times but hugely enjoyable.
The more public school educated characters, the diplomats, that’s the people who hold office, in these types of novels, can all tend to sound the same, and I think mine probably do, but I attempted at least two ultra pitch and cadence, you can tell kindness and you can tell cruelty on radio, I think, quite clearly. Si I played around with those different rhythms.
I have come to love John le Carre. I think what John le Carre famously does… he still manages to do better than any other writer in the form which is delve deeper psychologically into his characters and give a sense of person and place whilst at the same time ripping these fantastic yarns.”
In an interview with The Telegraph, Damian shares that he started reading le Carré a bit later than he read Fleming.
“My first recollection was sun-stained copies of Smiley’s People and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold at home. I flicked through them as a follow-on from Fleming and Franklin W Dixon’s The Hardy Boys and Desmond Bagley, Alistair MacLean and Willard Price. I really had not had anything to do with him for about 20 years and then, doing Homeland, it was clear there were many similarities, so I’ve just been dipping in and out on the loo.”
Hilarious! The interviewer asks Damian whether he is comfortable revealing where his reading takes place.
“I don’t see why not. Whether David Cornwell [Le Carré’s real name] will be happy with people thumbing his texts while in the throne room I’m not sure.”
A Delicate Truth is part of BBC 4 Radio Radio Book at Bedtime series and is not regularly available on BBC iPlayer. You can always check whether it is currently available here. And you may want to check regularly because of this review Radio Times gives to the recording:
“John le Carré’s latest novel gets the Hollywood treatment this week and next, with Damian Lewis lending his dulcet tones to A Delicate Truth. True to Le Carré form, we are treated to dodgy civil servants, bent lobbyists and intelligence sharing (or stealing), with Lewis flitting delightfully between characters and narration with ease. Indeed, listeners could be forgiven for mistaking him for an entire cast.”
In the meantime, you may want to hear Damian read an excerpt from another le Carré’s book, Our Kind of Traitor, in the film adaptation of which he also stars.
Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh
More recently, in 2014, Damian read Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, a biography by John Lahr that won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, and abridged by Richard Hamilton, on BBC Radio 4.
Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh is part of BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week series and is not regularly available on BBC iPlayer. You can always check whether it is currently available here.
The Love Book
If you prefer Damian to read you poems, say She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron, First Love by John Clare or Sonnet 130 My Mistress’ Eyes are Nothing like the Sun by Shakespeare, you always have the wonderful The Love Book, a brilliant collection of classic and contemporary love poems brought together by Allie Esiri in a book as well as in an app. It is not just Damian Lewis but also Helen McCrory, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hiddleston, Emma Watson, and Gina Bellman reading poems on the Love Book app. And you can hear them doing a beautiful jamboree of love poetry below. Please enjoy!
Keep on Running: 50 Years of Island Records
Finally, Damian narrated Keep on Running: 50 Years of Island Records, a BBC documentary about the story of Island Records, a record label built by Chris Blackwell, that celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009. The film features an in-depth interview with Blackwell as well as contributions from artists that recorded with Island Records including Grace Jones, Amy Winehouse, U2, Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens, Ian Anderson, PJ Harvey, Spencer Davis, Trevor Horn, and many many others. If you love music, I can guarantee you will enjoy this wonderful documentary that is currently available on You Tube!