I’ve been listening to a variety of audiobooks as I try to figure out what does and doesn’t work for me. So far, I’m much more likely to be able to pay attention to nonfiction in that format, but every once in a while, I hit upon a fiction winner. A recent one was Rooftoppers, a middle grade novel written by Katherine Rundell and read by Nicola Barber.
As soon as I heard Nicola Barber read the first sentence, I was hooked on the story.
“On the morning of its first birthday, a baby was found floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel.”
That baby is picked up by the scholar Charles Maxim, fellow passenger from the wrecked ship Queen Mary, and he names her Sophie. He becomes her guardian despite the disapproval of the National Childcare Agency (NCA) and surrounds Sophie with music and books while saying “you should never ignore a possible”. Twelve years later, the NCA say they must find a new placement because it’s time for Sophie to learn to be a young lady, and Sophie decides she needs to find her long-lost mother. That decision moves the action from London to Paris and introduces us to the rooftoppers from the book’s title.
Charles and Sophie have such a lovely relationship that I wish I could have heard even more of their conversations. Nicola Barber’s voices and accents for all the characters were so engaging that I was shocked by how quickly the time passed as I listened. Sophie reminded me of Pippi Longstocking with her spunky nature and way of interacting with the world, and Charles came across as a delightfully dotty British bachelor. They were a whimsical pair, and I loved spending time with them.
“I know these sorts of people. They’re not men. They’re mustaches with idiots attached.”
“You have been the great green adventure of my life. Without you my days would be unlit.”
“She hated official letters. They made her feel nervous. The people who wrote them sounded like they had filing cabinets where their hearts should be.”
“Perhaps, she thought, that’s what love does. It’s not there to make you feel special. It’s to make you brave. It was like a ration pack in the desert, she thought, like a box of matches in a dark wood. Love and courage, thought Sophie — two words for the same thing.”