I had hoped for more, but this book is pretty much what you would expect from a biologist playing at being a historian. There is a wealth of information about germs and genes, but only the most simplistic explanations of how they have shaped civilization.
The narration, while technically very good, is also woefully inappropriate to the topic, with tragic death and human suffering described in an almost cheerful tone of voice.
This is not only an engrossing story, but it gives a unique insight into the Nazi mindset without resorting to simplistic, "good vs. evil" explanations. The book is worthwhile for the German medieval history alone, but the World War II element, the unusual military/art history detective story, elevate this book from interesting to fascinating and gripping.
I was left thinking about the power, and sometimes danger - of mythology, symbols, of real or illusory connectedness to a "glorious past" and "historic destiny" - long after listening to this. These are perhaps things we still need to be wary of today.
Charles Stransky's narration is flawless - he hits just the right tone, and it's easy to believe he is the voice of the German-American art historian turned military detective who is this book's real-life protagonist.
Brits and Aussies may remember Clarissa Dickson Wright as one half of the Two Fat Ladies. I did, and as such couldn't resist buying this book. I wasn't disappointed - with her characteristic wit and wisdom, Dickson Wright makes this gastronomic history of England both entertaining and fascinating. I'm still musing over the origin of the phrase "to eat humble pie", which I had often wondered about but never known who to ask.
Yes, there are a lot of "I suspect"s, a lot of theories which the author really can't substantiate - but at least she acknowledges this, and the unexpected personal musings and personal recollections only add to the flavour of this book, if not to the academic rigour.
Dickson Wright's narration of her own work is of course fantastic - really no one else's voice would do.
An absolute must for anyone interested in history and/or food.
If you listen to this book, start at about the 1 hour mark, and stop listening with about 2 hours remaining. That way, you will hear an interesting work of clandestine and military history, with an engaging narrative style. The un-sensationalised history of the Nevada nuclear tests, the Area 51 site, the U2 spy plane, and their effects on Cold War US/Soviet relations make the middle section of this work very interesting and worthwhile.
Unfortunately, it seems the author couldn't resist adding some unbelievably sensationalistic touches which spoil the entire book.
So - the infamous Roswell craft was a (purposely) crashed Soviet hover-plane created by ex-Nazi rocket scientists and crewed with aviators who had been genetically/surgically altered to resemble extra-terrestrials by Josef Mengele, on the orders of Stalin who believed this would cause mass UFO panic in the United States?
This is the first theory I've heard that somehow manages to be LESS credible than little green men from outer space.
Not so much a history of the lives of individual monarchs, as a history of the institution of monarchy itself. Covering the period from Henry VII to Victoria, this book shows how the British monarchy has been instrumental in shaping the modern world.
Some of the individual kings and queens receive rather brief biographical sketches, but this is more a story of their most notable successes - and spectacular failures - than of the minutiae of their daily lives. An interesting theme is the way in which even the spectacular failures (eg. much of James II's reign) are extremely important - because they provided the impetus for many of the social and political changes which led to our modern forms of democracy.
I always enjoy hearing the author read his or her own work, and Starkey's characteristic narration is definitely no exception - he has an obvious passion for his field of study, and the way his tone rises with excitement and descends into an almost reverent hush is very well-suited to the weighty topics he discusses.
This book was one of my first and still one of my very favourite Audible audiobooks, and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in history.
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