My first encounter with JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit came when I was around six years old, and my mum picked up a paperback copy from which she read parts of to me. I do admit I was probably a little too young to appreciate this, back then, but I did go on to reading the book on my own when I was about 11 or 12. Which is also when I plunged headlong into The Lord of the Rings and knew from that moment that I wanted to be a fantasy writer.
I'm always somewhat baffled when people complain that The Hobbit is boring, but hey, there's no accounting for people's taste. But what I will say to those of you who didn't quite gel with the reading, do give the audiobook narrated by Andy Serkis a try. It's my firm belief that some fiction only truly comes alive as the spoken word, and in this case, The Hobbit is a prime example.
Tolkien is a master of the third person omniscient, so often interrupts the main flow to give a little of his own opinion – and sometimes the references to things from his own time, like football, can be a bit jarring. This is especially the case considering that the conventions of present day fiction favour a limited first- or third-person point of view. So I'm guessing the 'narrator voice' of the author might be off-putting to some readers (though I do believe that they don't quite know how to articulate this, judging by the reviews out there – worth a laugh and an eye-roll if you're trawling to see the one-star reviews for The Hobbit.)
But Andy Serkis as a narrator of this book surpasses himself. His minute details in characterisation, for everyone from Bilbo and Gandalf, to Smaug, and of course the Gollum we all know and love, are an absolute delight. This is the unabridged version of the book, so we're looking at plus minus 10 hours of entertainment, and I'm beginning to wonder if Peter Jackson shouldn't have just stuck to the plot instead of his mangling of the film adaption of the book. Because yes, there is enough content for three movies here, if you look hard enough.
This is most certainly one of my audiobook highlights of the year, and I cannot recommend it enough. Serkis is an absolute treasure and he has without a doubt done justice to JRR Tolkien's legacy with his reading.