Podcasts of the week: US politics, Tove Janssen and riveting history
Featuring The Coming Storm, Moominland Midwinter, Just William and Four Peaks Sound Walk
A year ago last week, a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol. You might think you know the story – “QAnon, social media, disaffected voters” – said Danielle Stephens in The Guardian. But even for those well-versed in the background, Gabriel Gatehouse’s new Radio 4 series The Coming Storm (all episodes available on BBC Sounds) is a “must listen”.
In it, the Newsnight international editor journeys across the US in an attempt to understand why so many Americans were convinced that the election had been stolen – and why the rioters believed they had the moral right, or duty, to “take back their country”. Gatehouse comes across as “less patronising than fellow journalists who have gone down a similar path”, and gets “access to voices that shed a different light on a story commonly told”.
January can be a gloomy month, said Patricia Nicol in The Sunday Times; one way to “keep your pecker up” is to listen to the best radio that you missed over Christmas. Moominland Midwinter (BBC Sounds, until 23 January), Robin Brooks’s “magical” adaptation of Tove Jansson’s classic children’s book, “transported the listener to a snowy Scandinavian wonderland”.
John Finnemore is wonderful as Moomintroll, while Samantha Bond’s narration is as “coolly crisp as frost-crusted snow”. Admirers of Jansson should also seek out the Frank Cottrell Boyce Great Lives episode about the “singular” Finnish author.
Other festive treats from Radio 4 included a “clever and humorous” adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’s children’s novel Howl’s Moving Castle, a joyful audio reworking by Stephen Keyworth of William Goldman’s film The Princess Bride, and some very welcome new helpings of Just William, narrated by the ever “marvellous” Martin Jarvis.
You need “headphones and solitude” to get the most out of Radio 3’s “eerie and moving” Four Peaks Sound Walk, said Miranda Sawyer in The Observer. Each programme involves a hike up the highest mountain in each home nation – Ben Nevis, Slieve Donard, Scafell Pike and Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) – complete with “cawing birds, shifting landscapes, capricious mountain weather and varying amounts of fellow climbers”.The “airy, rainy sounds” of nature are accompanied by the stories and observations of the show’s excellent presenter, Horatio Clare.
Finally, don’t miss the special 12 Days of Christmas episodes of The Rest is History, the “only podcast I am properly addicted to”, said James Marriott in The Times. Subjects under discussion by Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook range from port wine to the Tay Bridge disaster and Jean-Bédel Bokassa, emperor of the short-lived Central African Empire. “It’s a total joy.”