Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing the audiobook of The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean, which was narrated by Katie Erich.
Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.
Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories.
But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.
***Thank you to Macmillan Audio for providing a copy of the audiobook via NetGalley! My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading/listening experience.***
I was hooked on this book from the opening chapter. It was creepy and a bit horrifying, and I just knew I wanted to know about this woman and the reasons for the choice she made. The stunning prose and rich characterization kept me entranced as this incredibly unique tale unfolded.
I loved the structure of the story. It had a split timeline similar to the structure in The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons, which I also really enjoyed. The chapters alternated between the past and the present until the narratives came together in the end, and it was a fascinating way to slowly reveal the motivations of the characters while keeping the story moving forward at a good pace.
This felt like a very personal story. Despite setting a great backdrop of inter-family drama and a complex society, the story largely focused on how those things influenced the character of Devon. I enjoy a great epic fantasy as much as the next person, but I loved that this story was more about the effects of all the drama on one person, rather than having explicit focus on all the machinations of the families. It brought a level of visceral emotion to the story that I don’t think would have been possible if the author had taken a wider lens.
The book also explored quite a few powerful themes. At its heart, this was the story of a mother’s love and the lengths she would go to protect her children. This led to some very interesting ethical dilemmas. The story also acted as a strong critique of the patriarchy and illustrated the negative impacts on women when society views them as objects or commodities. Furthermore, it showed the power of the media we consume in shaping how we approach the world, including desensitizing us to systems based in oppression by framing them as ‘normal’ or ‘ideal.’ In general, the characters were realistic, morally grey individuals doing their best to survive in a system that exploited most of them in some way. I enjoyed the ending a lot, as well. It was realistic with a good balance of hopefulness and disappointment, much like real life.
The narrator did a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life. There was a ton of nuance to the performance, and I could tell the difference in the age of Devon by how the narrator read her. The audiobook also had an interview at the end with the author and narrator, which was a treat to hear.
Overall, this was one of my favorite books of the year so far. I’ll definitely be adding a hard copy to my shelves at some point because I absolutely want to read it again. The audiobook was fantastic with a brilliant narrator, though. So, if audiobooks are your thing, you can’t go wrong with this one! Therefore, I rate this audiobook 5 out of 5 stars.