The story of religion is the story of humanity, regardless of your own personal views on any given sect. Why and how we believe is every bit as important as what we believe. This book breaks it down, compares, contrasts, and digs into the important philosophical questions and problems that each religion poses as well as how those religions overcome those points. I found myself wanting a paper copy for review purposes of many of these questions. For the serious student of philosophy, this will be a beginner's course, but for the average person, this will launch a deeper quest. The learned of this world past and present seem to be in agreement that the unexamined life is a life not worth living, and faith untested isn't faith at all. This book, in introducing the examinations of the world's major belief systems, encourages the listener to ask such questions of their personal views as well. It's a lot of bang for your buck.
If you've ever seen the movie Somewhere in Time, you know that sometimes for a story to work, you have to suspend disbelief and just let the magic unfold. That's what you have to do here. The author will try to help you along the way with characters telling you why the setup actually has a logical sense to it, and if you choose to believe for the duration of the book, it seems to work.
The idea of the protagonist as historical romance novelist was actually pretty interesting. I'm a fan of the creative process, and I wondered if the author mirrored her character in regards to the process of writing her tales... with the possible exception of genetic memory. All of the characters in this story, in both time periods, are three-dimensional people, and that's the kind of thing that helps to sell their stories. The settings and situations are likewise fully formed in all senses; Kearsley's writing style is geared perfectly for this, neither over-explaining nor under-explaining as many writers are apt to do. There's enough there to form an image in your mind, and not enough to beat you over the head with it.
The flaws with the novel are exactly the ones you'd expect to find in any romance novel. If this is your chosen genre, they're not necessarily flaws. The tropes are the same, and the possible endings are constrained to a select few (I won't spoil which of the handful she uses here). The author even has her characters hang a lantern on the stereotypes of the historical fiction genre, pointing out that if a man writes it, the book is bloody, whereas if a woman writes it, it ends with a kiss. While this is true to an extent, Kearsley toes that line between playing up to the stereotype and flinging it aside. In the end, it's still a romance novel and all that implies, but the history still shapes it into something worth reading, giving the characters motivation and limitations within the scope of the lives they lead.
This book is a slow read, but it doesn't plod haplessly. It's more like a stroll through the lives of these characters. You get to know them, and you find yourself liking them. This keeps you coming back to finish the story. I've seen some reviews where people find the history to get in the way, and where the author force feeds it to you. My argument would be to address the idea that this is historical fiction, that history is what gives this story its depth, and if that's not for you, why would you read it? The history presented herein is a bit of an info dump at times, but that's how the research goes when digging into the past; you find a new avenue to pursue, then the knowledge is unlocked in fragments. I think it comes across very well here.
Rosalyn Landor's performance here is stellar. She has accents down, and even her male characters are believable. She ensures that you can relate to the story, which is always necessary for the fullest enjoyment.
Rather than a direct translation of Shakespeare, the authors have done what he did: tell the most exciting bits and make it relevant to the audience of the day. If I have any criticism of Shakespeare's work, it's that many of his stories are told in fast forward. Such is the nature of a stage play. In this case, the story is expanded so as to tell what a stage play cannot, delving deeper into character that dialogue can, and depicting battles that might otherwise get glossed over. The result is a wonderfully told story of which I daresay the bard would approve.
Another point worth mentioning: the biggest issue I have with modern performances of Shakespeare is the incessant need to modernize the story and take characters out of their historical context. This version places the story in Medieval Scotland and makes it feel real. There is a verisimilitude to it that draws you in and makes you believe it.
The narration by Alan Cummings is, as always, a top notch performance, so much so that it seems criminal to call it a narration. The man is a master of his craft, serving the story in ways that need to be experienced.
It's been said that Eleanor is the queen who inspired the concepts of Courtly Love and inspired chivalry in her passing. True or not, Norah Lofts makes you believe it. Eleanor's story is told more or less in fast forward, and there's not much here beyond the basics of history in terms of names, dates and facts. Such is the nature of such a short novel written so many decades ago. That said, the reason to read this account is for the story and for Eleanor's strength of character. It's difficult not to admire her through this telling. Norah Lofts is one of the most underrated historical novelists, and this novel would make a great introduction to her work.
Nicolette McKenzie is an impressive narrator. She conveys the personalities of all of these characters with an honest performance that only lends to the story. Through her, Eleanor shines.
I'd always heard this book was "the gold standard" for history books on the Middle Ages. It's been on my radar for years, and for some reason, it kept getting backburnered. Now that I've gone through it, I can honest say that it's earned the high praise. As an overview of a single century, it provides both a microcosm of the Middle Ages as a whole and a fascinating storyscape of the events that defined the 14th century. There is nothing in this book that's overly difficult to consume, making it an ideal read for both enthusiast and expert alike. Tuchman knows her stuff, and she presents it in a way that speaks to the audience at their own level without insulting either end of the spectrum. That's so hard to do.
Not only is this book fair and balanced in regards to the distaster, drama, and people involved, it makes it a point of telling you so and demonstrating it at every turn by comparing the information to some of the more grandiose fallacies that are often believed. And as balanced as it is, it's still pretty clear that this is a century you wouldn't want to visit, let alone be a part of. It's the kind of book that, the deeper it goes, the more you will appreciate living in your own day and time, with all of the modern comforts to which you've grown accustomed.
Nadia May is superb as the narrator. Her French is spot-on, which is necessary for any book that discusses this era, and her tone is lively and engaging throughout. She reads this material in a way that says, "I'm interested in this, and you should be too."
I had heard whispers that this book was nothing short of amazing. Turns out, the rumors are true! This book delivers profound Eastern thought in the form of Winnie the Pooh, as told in the style of Milne's classic tale and referencing it heavily. I was amused and sent gliding into sheer appreciation of this work that, quite frankly, words can't really do justice. This book has to be experienced.
As always, Simon Vance delivers a performance, and while I'm continually impressed by the dignity he brings to his narrations, I feel like he captured most of the voices dead-on perfectly right out of my childhood, and for those few he didn't, he came really close. His performance as Pooh is otherworldly good, and all of his characters help to drive the messages home in a way that is guaranteed to live in your heart for a long time to come.
As with the first in the series, Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel spins the Tudor story through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell and makes him realistic and relatable at the same time. This part of the story will take you through to the end of Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn. The politics and intrigue of this time are intricate to say the least, and Mantel glides through it all like a born navigator, adding that extra depth to what you read in the history books. I even learned a couple of little things that I had to look up to verify.
Simon Vance, as always, is superior. Usually it's jarring when a new narrator steps in, but I'm convinced Vance should read pretty much anything dealing with historical England... and a great many other things besides. Just as Mantel adds depth to Cromwell, so too does Vance add that little something extra that's needed to bring the writer's ideas to life.
For my part, I'm left wanting more and hope there's another volume on the horizon.
For those who want the in-depth story, this is probably as good as it gets as details on Spartacus aren't exactly forthcoming from the jaws of history. On the whole, this telling is rather insightful, all things considered, and the narrative is extremely engaging for even those not familiar with the topic.
I would say the narrator is really good for this, except there are certain pronounciation issues I have. Most notably, the word "Celtic" is a frequent offender. Rather than describing the warriors of western Europe, many of whom fought with Spartacus, the narrator uses the soft "C," which makes me cringe as I think about basketball players taking on the Roman legions. If that's true, no wonder the rebellion failed! In all seriousness, though, if you can get past that, the narrator is a lively speaker and well-suited for this sort of work.
The translator's introduction is invaluable for getting across the exact point of what this version is all about. The medieval version of this poem is alliterated, and rather than directly translate the words to modern English for the sake of the story, liberties have been taken to recreate the poetry of the alliteration and verse meter while. The story is therefore a more liberal translation, but serves quite well on that point for those seeking poetry over linguistics.
There are a number of versions of this tale told throughout the ages, and much like with any legend from the Arthurian lineup, I find myself seeking out multiple versions to compare and contrast how they've evolved. As I am not well-versed in medieval English, I find this translation to be welcome for it's preservation of the poetic form. I've read a number of prose translations over the years, and much like with The Iliad and The Odyssey, I feel like I've come closer to appreciating the poet's original intent when presented with a version such as this where the poetry itself takes center stage. It's made that much more so when the translator, via the narrator, connects this story backwards from Arthur's Briton to the fall of Troy.
The narrator reminds of me of a historian you might see on PBS. He sounds scholarly enough to get the point across that he's the surrogate for the translator, but at the same time he offers a quiet dignity to the tale itself, calling the listener back to the original poet, perhaps reciting his work around a campfire to a cadre of soldiers. All in all, a superb rendition, one that any medievalist or Arthurian enthusiast should seek out.
I've grown to respect the Colonial Radio Players, but this isn't the best effort in their lineup. The story is the sequel to Clash of the Titans, and it's pretty clear it's based more from the original 1981 film than the remake. That was a selling point that made me grab it because I love that film. It's a guilty pleasure. Like the original movie, this is a mythological mis-mash. Unlike the movie, this is lacking that something extra that gives it punch. It feels... off. That's the best way I can describe it. Compared to other performances I've heard from this group, this feels more like a high school stage play. I hate saying that, but there it is. You can almost hear the actors begging for better lines and trying to keep a straight face while they deliver their lines. I know they're better than this. Decent idea on the whole, but it could have been a lot better. Pass this over and pick up Captain Blood instead.
Another quality performance by the Colonial Radio Players. Faithful to Washington Irving's original story, the first American fairy tale comes to life in such a way as to feel like the audio was stripped from an animated production. With original music and sound effects, this is a performance best listened to by the light of a single candle so as to add to the ambiance.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.