Ordinarily I like history books as audio. They use a different vocabulary and rythm than fiction that not everyone finds appealing, but since I am writing a review it is important to understand that I did not expect this book to read like an Agatha Christie. That being said, the type of content in this book would be better served in written form. There are lists of words and letters which the poor narrator reads as best he can, and spelling is important in the study of the history of english. I think the content is excellent and the narrator is good but this is one of those books which is best appreciated and much easier to follow on the page.
This book is fantastic. The subject is fascinating. The performance is engaging. The scope is breathtaking. The material will be interesting to everybody who has ever wondered about the origins of certain English words or has a general interest in language. This is a truly wonderful book whose title is very appropriate. It is truly an adventure.
Reader, writer, quilter, needleworker, Kentuckian.
I will definitely listen to this audiobook repeatedly. The story it tells is rich and layered, and will enlighten anew each time I listen. The narrator, Robert Powell, shows a wonderful talent for language himself, giving the text even more relevance by properly using the language and dialects which the book highlights. It is delightful.
I wouldn't compare it to specific book, but rather to a combination of lectures by Professor Michael Drout (fabulous) and books by Bill Bryson (usually quite good). It has a strong sense of scholarship, hence Drout, but a good narrative thread and humor, thus Bryson. Drout also has a good narrative thread, but his lectures are just that, and not meant to be a cohesive book-length story.
None particularly; it is all good. But I did enjoy the section on Shakespeare quite a bit.
No, probably not. It's a lot to absorb in one sitting; nonfiction tends to be too meaty to chew at once. I did listen to it more or less consistently over the course of several days, without interruption of other audiobooks but an occasional foray into ebooks or television/ movies. It's not meant to be a story that drives you toward an ending.
Robert Powell is phenomenal, and I cannot imagine this book without his skills with language and dialect. Mr. Bragg's material and writing style are excellent and I loved them. But without Mr. Powell's masterful command of the material, I would not have been able to discern the nuances of accents, dialects and the changes in pronunciation and emphasis over time. It really is a book better listened to than read, and Mr. Powell is the perfect reader. Thank you so much for combining them!!
Melvyn Bragg has done a wonderful job telling the story of the English language. From its beginnings in Sanskrit (who knew?!) through the development of "Singlish" (Singaporean English), he brings to light facinating information about words, phrases, and terms developed by English-speaking cultures around the world. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in language.
I was thoroughly enjoying listening to Robert Powell read the book until the American English chapters. I feel another narrator should have stepped in to perform the English dialects. It really ruined the rest of the book for me. I may have a more sensitive ear for such things, but it was silly hearing him say
Robert Powell reads Old English, Jamaican English and everything in between. He's not perfect — some of the words in the Cowboy chapter have echoes of citified Easterner, so I'm sure that other people will detect errors in the accents they know well — but he's close enough to illustrate all the points clearly. A tour de force and a treat for the listener.
While this may be a great "actual" read, it doesn't make a good audio book. The subject matter is interesting, but the book seeks to show how English has roots in different languages like French or Latin by listing all the common words we use that have those roots. And not just one list. There are at least two lists per chapter for something or other (all the words that deal with law, all the words that deal with cooking etc etc etc). This is super tedious and not fun to listen to. Did not hold my attention in any way.
The narrator has a nice voice and he was fine, but I would not recommend this book in audio version, it just didn't translate to the spoken medium.
The adventure in English anthropomorphises the English language and is an interesting take on how English grew, was challenged and became the international tongue it is today. However, once Bragg gets onto the translation of the Bible into English he loses all objectivity. The Church didn't fight Wycliffe because he made an ENGLISH translation. It was because he made a very bad translation and wanted a destructive transformation of society in line with his faulty translation of the Scriptures. At this point there was little need to continue. If Bragg can get this area so wrong, how can I trust the rest of his story?
Robert Powell does an amazing job of pronouncing all the examples in the appropriate Old English, Dutch, German, French and other accents. Very well read.
I was very disappointed that Bragg could so fall for religious propaganda of the reformation period and not attempt to delve a little deeper. If the Church wanted to keep the scriptures from the people, as Bragg claims, why did they have all the artwork and stained glass windows depicting bible stories and lessons? Most people couldn't read, so even if the bible was in English, it wouldn't have helped. The Church was the main source of learning and instructions to read so more could come to love the scriptures.
I was so amazed, the book has been removed from my system, as such a basic misunderstanding of history makes his whole argument flawed.
Recomend for anyone who is interested in language or history, and since the two are always braided together, you won't be disappointed by this book. The narration is superb, which makes listening to this book much better than reading so you don't have to muddle your way through the pronunciation of ancient "gutteral Germanic" words.
An enlightened ascetic who loves language and learning.
A masterpiece of meticulous linguistic and historical research made intelligible to the interested laymen. So exquisite is the elocution of the narrator, so impressive is his mastery of several spoken languages, that it must be heard, not merely read.