I requested Over the Fence for review largely on the strength of Tatiana Sokolov (aka Tanya Eby) being one of the two narrators. I always enjoy her performances. The blurb looked quirky and interesting too – two neighbours start interacting literally over the fence between their properties – for a significant portion of the book, they never physically meet.
The first thing I need to say is that the bulk of the book is told from the hero’s point of view. Out of the 34 chapters, John Lane narrates 33 of them. Tatiana Sokolov only shows up in Chapter 29. She made Nathan seem a lot sexier than Mr. Lane did so I was pretty bummed that there wasn’t way more of her in the listen. If, like me, Ms. Sokolov is the big draw, maybe choose a different book to listen to is my advice.
Nathan Fraser is a IT guy who drinks too much beer and eats too much takeout. When a new neighbour moves into the house next door, he is soon salivating over the delicious smells wafting over the fence from her barbeque. He can’t help but exclaim about how good it smells. To his delight and surprise, Kourtney Whyte, aka “Chef Girl”, places a paper plate of food on the top of the fence for him. Thus begins their romance.
I wavered in between thinking that the interaction between Nathan and Kourtney was sweet and that he was a big jerk for taking shameless advantage of her. Just when I thought he was super grasping, lazy and entitled, there’d be a mention that he had offered to pay for groceries or something like that and I found myself thinking he was sweet again.
It is quite some time before Nathan and Kourtney meet face to face. It is clear that Kourtney avoids this for the longest time and it was equally apparent that it was an issue with her appearance which was the driver behind it. Whereas Nathan describes her as “voluptuous”, Kourtney thinks of herself as “fat”. (She is a “size 16, sometimes 18” for those who would like a mental image.) Her eyes are also unusual but by no means ugly. In fact, some very famous people have had similar eyes and it was never a barrier to their level of attractiveness so far as I’m aware.
When Nathan finally meets Kourtney, he discovers that she has a past riddled with abuse from her father and brother – some of which was physical (though none sexual), most of which was emotional. As Kourtney’s past is slowly revealed, I couldn’t help but think it was overkill. Kourtney has self-esteem issues and spends a lot of the book feeling ugly, unworthy and unlovable. She became something of a caricature; a kind of Cinderella but not as pretty.
Nathan has a sob story of his own as well and it takes a long time for that truth to come out also.
Kourtney’s characterisation wasn’t always consistent either. She is a research scientist and has only basic computer skills. She doesn’t own a mobile phone. Nathan brings her into the 21st century but I struggled to believe she was that bad with technology given her job. Also, frankly, how on earth did she even get the job considering that she has no self-esteem or self-belief? I could have bought the concept of her being confident and comfortable within her field and socially awkward, but she wasn’t portrayed that way.
Kourtney is also unremittingly kind. Very Mary Sue. It was all a bit too much for this listener.
The best chapter of the book was the one narrated by Tatiana Sokolov. I had there a glimpse of how I could have experienced Nathan with a different person voicing him. As it was however, most of Nathan came into my ears via John Lane.
The book is set in Canada and maybe Mr. Lane is Canadian but if that is the case, his accent is like no Canadian accent I’ve ever heard before. Truthfully, he mostly sounded like he was from the US midwest – except for the vocal tic (I’m not even sure if that’s the right phrase for it actually). Almost all of the words ending in “es” or “ed” (or even containing one of those syllables) sounded like “ees” or “eed”. Thus, “kisses and caresses” became “kissies and caressies”. I could give AudioGals readers a litany of examples because there were so many occurrences in the listen but I’ve fortunately blanked a lot of them from my mind now. (Possibly there was alcohol involved.)
I struggled a little with Mr. Lane’s characterisation of Nathan as well. As I said before, I sometimes thought he was a jerk, other times I thought he was a nice guy. Some of it was the way he was written but a lot of it was the narration. I know this because in Chapter 29 (ahhh, Chapter 29, what fond memories) he sounded way more personable even though he was pushing Kourtney’s body issues quite a bit at the time.
On the plus side, Mr. Lane does a creditable female character voice and almost all of the cast members had a distinct sound.
However, the “kissies” thing bothered me so much after a while it was just about all I could hear and I can’t see myself choosing another audio narrated by Mr. Lane – not even if Ms. Sokolov does half of it with him.
Editor’s note again: we have another review of this narrator pair, same author, same weird pronunciations from Mr. Lane: The Contract so it’s not an isolated incident!
Narration: John Lane C/C- Tatiana Sokolov B+ (but she only did one chapter)
Book Content: C-
Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in
Violence Rating: Themes of domestic abuse (not by hero)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Over the Fence was provided to AudioGals by Tantor Audio for a review.