Editor’s Audiobook Pick: Cry To Heaven

I’m a fan of Anne Rice, but after reading the first three books in her Vampire Chronicles series I was a little vampire-d out. Still, I’m a HUGE fan of historical fiction as well and when, some years later, I came across the Audible audiobook edition of her Cry To Heaven (4.5/5 stars average Amazon review, currently priced at $10.22 or one Audible Listener Credit) AND saw that it was narrated by the inimitable Tim Curry, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up.

At just three hours in length, this abridged version of the book is a quick listen. Many reviewers have complained about the abridgment, but I never read the book in a print or ebook edition and didn’t feel that it seemed as if anything were missing from the story in the audiobook edition. I have had that experience before, of things seeming disjointed in an abridged audiobook, but not with this one.

Amazon Book Description:

Best-selling author Anne Rice reveals the dark, eerie beauty of the 18th-century Italian society of the castrati: the castrated males – sterile yet sexually functional – who were celebrated and adored for their glorious soprano voices.

Of the hundreds submitted to the knife at an early age – some sold by their parents, some brought by well-meaning maestros to the conservatoria of Naples to serve the music of the Church and State – few will achieve a voice so sublime, so crystalline, so pure that they will gain entrance to the mysterious, haunting world of the castrati. Here, they will know boundless fame and incredible luxury…but also know grueling dedication and sacrifice – and the tremendous pain of being despised as half-men, freaks. And as you are drawn into the castrati’s strange and luminous world, Anne Rice also brings you into the sweep of 18th-century Italian life – its extraordinary decadence, opulence, and brutality.

My Take

Cry To Heaven is a fascinating, if somewhat florid, peek into the world of the castrati. Of course, fans of Rice already know her style can be a little baroque and melodramatic at times, but those qualities are a perfect fit for this story, which takes place in the glittering world of entertainment for the wealthy and privileged of the Baroque era.

Tim Curry’s narration is fantastic. He perfectly captures and distinguishes each character, male and female alike. He voices the protagonist, Tonio, from boyhood through manhood, with a gradual but never complete deepening of tone, and this makes sense since Tonio is a castrato soprano.

Tonio’s story is both heartbreaking and soaring. His vocal gift gives him entree to the halls of nobles and royal courts, but to get there he had to pay a terrible price as a boy. He finds himself an object of adoration for women and men alike, yet an object only, and this makes him yearn all the more to be accepted and loved as a whole person—even if his body is no longer whole.

In listening to this book, I felt I was transported to the world of 1700’s Italy; I could picture the gilt and marble, imagine the enormous performance halls and ballrooms. Curry, with his elegant and emotive voice, was the perfect fit as narrator.

I rate this book 4/5 stars. I’d have given it 5, but occasionally the dialog and prose were a little over the top for my taste. Even so, I highly recommend this audiobook and have listened to it repeatedly myself.

New To Audible?

If you’ve never purchased an Audible audiobook, or want more information about how Audible books are set up to work with your Fire, see this post.

Personally, I’ve found it worthwhile to become an Audible member. As a chronically busy person, I’ve found there’s just no other way for me to get much reading done. With audiobooks, I can listen while I’m doing household chores, at the gym, driving, knitting or crocheting, etc. With my “Platinum Member” account, I get two Member Credits per month for $22.95 per month, which works out to a little less than $11.50 per book. That’s often half off or more than half off the regular, retail list price.

While in the case of Cry To Heaven, which happens to be on sale for 30% off right now, my Member Credit means I paid about a dollar more than if I’d bought it outright, that’s not usually the case. The unabridged edition of Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, for example, has a runtime of over 14 hours and has a retail list price of $27.99; even currently on sale for 30% off, this audiobook is priced at $19.59. I’ve been a Platinum member for many years, and have found that the 20-60 hours of entertainment I get each month for the price of membership is a bargain.

Members also get access to monthly, free, members-only content. For example, one holiday season Audible offered Tim Curry’s reading of A Christmas Carol free to members; it’s one of my favorite audiobooks to this day, and I’ve listened to it many times. That same audiobook is now available for purchase at a price of $9.95 / 1 Member Credit, so you can see these monthly freebies are not fluff.


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