Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton. In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!!
After having read a half dozen books on Lady Jane Grey's extremely short reign as Queen of England, it's refreshing to finally come across one where her place in history is kept in its proper perspective. And the bios of her two much more interesting sisters is an added bonus. The narrator's voice is perfect for this kind of book, moving the story along at just the right pace. Almost nothing has been written on Jane's sister Kathryn and what little on Mary made more of her disability than the remarkable woman herself. The author provides a well-researched historical account of three tragic lives which is both informative and entertaining.
As an unabashed lover of British royalty, I've read over 100 books on monarchs from William The Conqueror to Edward VIII (the family gets boring after that). For me, the Tudors have always been embodied by a twitchy but regal Bette Davis as Elizabeth I and the fat-boy Holbein painting of Henry VIII. But this book gives all 6 Tudors their due, in one of the most indepth accounts ever. The media has sold us on largely fictional and/or subjective views of Tudor monarchs, Henry and Elizabeth, while basically ignoring Henry VII, and Mary I, Jane Grey, and Edward VI. However, this author sets the record straight. He tells each monarch's life from beginning to end, rather than as merely side characters to the longer reigning Tudors. He also provides the reader with backstories into the people and living conditions of that era, showing the period to be awash with poverty, ignorance, and oppression. Henry and Elizabeth, who are 2 of the most remembered monarchs were certainly not the greatest. And their cruelty, greed, vanity, and selfishness was overwhelming. "Off with their heads" was more than a mere expression for them. This book is enlightening, educational and entertaining. The author pulls no punches yet still allows the reader to judge for him/herself as to the short but turbulent reign of the Tudors. At 24.5 hours in length, it's hard to believe that any more could be written about this dynasty - this has got to be the best researched book EVER on the subject. I'd like to see the author write a "prequel" about the Plantagenets who gave England 14 kings over a span of more than 300 years vs. the Tudor reign of only 118 (83 years combined between Henry VIII and Elizabeth I). This is the only book that I've bought here which is worth 2 credits.
I admit to being an unabashed Anglophile, especially the history of the country, its people and the monarchs. This book has my three favorite things in reading: England, Elizabeth I and lots of detailed minutiae! (My friends call me "a font of useless information. Who cares? I always know the answers on "Jeopardy"!) I've read or listened about 200 factual history books on the Tudors and QE1, in addition to another 150 fact-based fictional accounts. Not one time did ever really take the time to notice that those authors talked about a lot of things that I really didn't understand but went with them as part of the story. Like the word "doxie" - I kinda knew the definition but not how and why it was created. Or that Sir Francis Drake was so darn mentally ill ("Gloriana Alzheimer's", perchance?) that he hung his navigator for no reason and kidnapped a black woman in America, then threw her off the ship in Indonesia because she became pregnant after being raped by Drake and his crew. Ian Mortimer addresses everything about the Elizabethan Age, from what the streets smelled like, how poor people lived, what and how each each class of people ate, wore, rode, played, worked, bathed, used the toilet, etc. He reveals that, other than being a fashion trendsetter, the Queen did nothing at all during her long reign to advance the rights of women who were treated like chattel. I didn't know that 16th century England had black people living there, classed as not quite chattel but not really free either.
The narrator is amazing. His delivery is tongue-in-cheek which fits perfect because the writer acts like he's a contemporary tour guide talking to the listener. He warns us not to visit the Earl of Leicester at his estate Kenilworth Manor if the Queen is visiting with her posse of 300 courtiers and servants as we will have to sleep in the garden because every bit of space is taken up by Bess' people, horses, and wagons. You will be told what to REALLY expect if you're sentenced to be "drawn and quartered", with additional warnings on how to avoid getting yourself in trouble during your vacation in England.
It is the rare audiobook that I will buy in print version. This is one of them!
Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
Have you ever read/listened to a or story and found yourself getting really angry? I don't mean the polite. distant, "I can't believe that happened" mad. I mean the kind of righteous ire that has you pacing the floor, cursing, and punching sofa cushions. John Kelly's "The Graves are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People" (2012) enraged me, because Kelly was talking about my great grandfather's parents, Rosetta and John, who immigrated from Ireland in 1846 and 1847, when they were 8 and 9.
I've always known that Rosetta and John were 'potato famine Irish', but until Kelly's book, I had no appreciation for what that meant. My understanding of 'The Great Famine' was romanticized by Ron Howard's 1992 film "Far and Away." It would have been more historically accurate if Howard had used the same gaunt, haunted actors Steven Spielberg cast in "Schindler's List" (1993); and if Howard had replaced the beautiful Irish landscape with useless public works roads leading to nowhere, and stripped the verdant, forrested hills to bare dirt for no reason at all.
Phytophthora infestans (a fungus) caused Ireland's potato crop failures in 1845 to 1847, but England's attempt at social engineering actually killed an estimated 750,000 Irish. 2,000,000 more - including my great great grandparents - left. 25% to 30% of Ireland was gone in 2 years.
England's grand idea was that depriving the Irish of potatoes would make them self sufficient. Perhaps if Ireland, at England's direction, wasn't exporting food during the famine . . . Or if the grandiose administrators distributed grain sent from around the world , . . Or corrupt officials weren't propping up import prices . . . It broke my heart.
Although this book had a profound effect on me, I'm giving the story a 3 because it really wandered and repeated itself. I was confused about what happened, and when. Obvious questions weren't answered - who determined Phytophthora infestans was the culprit? What worked to stop it? There are more questions I'd like answered.
Gerard Doyle was a good narrator, although - with apologies to John and Rosetta - I wouldn't know a true Irish accent unless I was at Coulter Bay with a native of the "Irish race." Not my phrase, of course - thank the phrenologists of the day.
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