Growing up in an era in which American school kids actually read the classics in their English classes, I remembered Tale of Two Cities as one of my favorites. The audio version reinforced this impression. The brilliant prose style, the interplay of characters, the comic, the dark, and the melodramatic dextrously interwoven, and the surprises of plot development kept me listening with pleasure through the whole book.
It has a more sublime ending than any other book I can recall. Other than that, the scenes with Mme. DeFarge are darkly fascinating. Also those regarding Dr. Manette in the Bastille. I don't want to give anything away!
I haven't, but I enjoyed his narration. It is subdued and emotionally low key, which I guess could be perceived as boring, but I thought it was a great counterpoint to the melodrama of the book. Characters are easily distinguishable and the accents are well done.
You can't make a better choice than the opening phrase of the book!
I would only if the friend was more interested in abstract philosophy than in the lived experience of Christianity over time. This is my overall problem with the lecture series. It's probably unrealistic to expect from a philosophy/theology professor, but I missed the social context. It's often the WHY, not the WHAT, that makes religious development so interesting. E.g., what were the influences on Augustine that sparked him to fashion a theology that was relatively more "rational" than Dionysus's heavily mystical version in the east? How did ordinary Christians assume these theological changes into their worship and everyday experiences? In other words, how did theological developments come about and what differences did they make?
Honestly, I was too disappointed overall to be struck by any individual moments.
I wish his lectures had been less extemporaneous and more structured. He was often repetitious in ways that didn't aid understanding. Also I sometimes found his informality about the subject matter a bit jarring.
No, just didn't care for it.
None of my comments are meant to detract from Professor Cary's knowledge and his obvious love of his subject. He is erudite and enthusiastic; just not my cup of tea.
Prof. Allitt's rare talents as scholar and teacher are in full display. He is a charming lecturer, full of passion for his subject and flashes of humor. His erudition is no less obvious than his ability to discuss the subject matter in a way that will be comprehensible to everyone. I love his practice (throughout all his series) of illustrating major points with quotations from primary sources. He previews each lecture in a few sentences before he starts, which gives the listener a mental outline to follow. He is organized and as thorough as one could be in a survey course.
As an "old school" libertarian myself, I appreciated Prof. Allitt's even handed treatment of the varieties of American conservatism, from the excesses of Ayn Rand and the Moral Majority to the more tempered neo-conservatism of Buckley and Podhoretz. He is never condescending to his subjects, which must have been a temptation at times. His review of Thatcher's administration was eye opening; my prior knowledge of most of the history really benefited from the nuance Prof. Allitt contributed.
I loved the lectures about Thatcher. She saved the British economy with a few steely common sense laissez faire moves, which were despised in the short term but which were beneficial in the long term.
The Anglo-American drive to let common sense prevail. LOL!
The pacing is way off. The first part of the book describes the Yalta conference in excruciating detail, including anecdotes about the leaders that any reader of other histories would find familiar. When the book finally gets going on the important issues, after what seemed like hours on the minutiae of Yalta, it makes some interesting observations about the roles of the various foreign ambassadors in negotiating issues, on Truman's unpreparedness for office, on Stalin's immorality, and on Churchill's doggedly anachronistic imperial sympathies. Yet even here, most of the material would be familiar to any student of the period. The book doesn't seem to include original research.
The book needed a good editor to cut unimportant detail and elaborate sections that really move the history forward. But in the absence of original research, the book can't be more than a rehash of other, familiar works.
The narration was painful. There is a sing song quality to the reader's voice that is the same in every sentence. I couldn't listen to much more than a half hour in a sitting.
I don't think so, at least not for someone who's done substantial prior reading on the topic. As a primer, it might be fine, if you can take the narrator's odd cadences.
I'd recommend this course to anyone who wants a broad overview of Victorian England. Prof. Allitt covers a LOT of topics, but none in very much depth. It's a great jumping off point to do further reading (listening). It's particularly useful that he quotes liberally from contemporary writers to give a sense of the culture. I wish a bibliography were included, though.
My favorite lectures were on Gladstone and Disraeli. Prof. Allitt draws nuanced distinctions between them and we can see both sides of contemporary politics. While he describes the eccentricities as well as the accomplishments of both men, the portrayals don't veer toward caricature. Actually none of the people whom Allitt describes do--he seems to like the men and women he talks about and is sympathetic rather than condescending to their foibles.
I loved his teaching style. He's clear, not too redundant, and has a wonderful sense of humor about the material. His accent is engaging. All around, a terrific teacher.
No, but the topics fascinated me.
On a personal note, I appreciated Prof. Allitt's attention to Victorian religion. This is a topic that is often absent from historical overviews. He's thorough and even handed.
The fact that the writer directly engaged the moral issue, which can be summed up as, "Is it better to be beautiful than good?" Oddly he answers his own question in the conventional way, which is not what I was prepared for. It seems Gray gets his just punishment at the end. But along the way there is the idea that fate, accident, random occurrences also can determine one's outcomes. So this isn't a straightforward justification of the "wages of sin." I think Wilde was more subtle than that in his contemplation of art and aesthetic appreciation and their effects on human life.
There isn't a single likeable character in the story. Dorian is immorality incarnate, Basil allows his appreciation of aesthetics to get in the way of his judgment, Sir Henry is a loathsome upper class idiot, and Sybil is a fool. But Dorian's development from a beautiful young innocent to a decadent monster is fascinating.
The narration was very good and Page did all the characters well.
No, but I learned more about the 19th century foppish British aristocracy--possibily Wilde's own circle--that I might have wanted.
To me the best histories frame the narration of events with the social contexts that shape them. I'm always interested in how religion, social standing, family and group experiences, and culture, for example, influence the choices historical figures have made. This book excels at discussing these interactions. It's so much more than a biography of Lincoln and the other men who make up the "team of rivals." We get a rich and persuasive portrayal of the contexts in which all of the characters form their ideas and set out on their actions.
I thought the performance distracted from the book. It was so overrefined and stagey. The narrator spoke with an American accent, but the only word I can think of to describe it is "plummy." A less theatrical reading would have made listening a great pleasure.
No. The book is long and full of details, memorable anecdotes, and lots of important historical information.
Yes, I'm sure I will. The performance is incredibly good--the reader was able to find a unique voice for each of the many characters. It's also a very rich story and I'm sure I'd get more from a second listen.
The author's empathy with the Jewish characters, particularly Rebecca. Scott doesn't shy away from describing the contempt of English medieval nobility for the Jews, who were in their opinion total aliens- nonbelievers and usurers. But underlying the insults and blame is Scott's essential humanism. He insists on a portrayal of Jews that supersedes medieval stereotypes, making Rebecca one of the noblest and most memorable heroines in romantic literature. The ending made me cry.
No, but I'm sure to look for other books by him now.
No, it was too long and much too dramatic to take in one sitting. Anyway I knew how it ended, because I'd read it before. But if I hadn't known about Rebecca's fate, the suspense might have had me listening in longer sessions.
I enjoyed the first few chapters about the early church, especially the analysis of Origen and Augustine's theology, and the effects of neo-Platonism on Christian thinking. After that, however, I lost interest for different reasons: while the chapters on the variants of the eastern church were too detailed and sometimes just plain dull, subsequent chapters on the medieval and especially the renaissance church seemed rushed and raised more questions than they answered. The author seems more concerned with the "what" than the "why," which isn't unusual for a historian, but I would have liked more explanation of, for example, why the ideas of Lutheran and reformed theologies were so appealing to people at the time. Unfortunately when the author does explain the appeal of ideas, he's frequently reductive, as when he tries to explain iconodulia as a result of the need for certainty and tangibility in troubled times. I guess it would be an impossible task to achieve in a one volume history, but I wish he'd given as much play to the importance of ideas in later chapters as he did in those concerning the early church.
Maybe to those who want an overview. It's certainly a jumping off place for further reading.
I liked the chapters on the early church. There's a feel in those chapters for how compelling the new theology must have seemed to its early adherents and teachers. I also enjoyed hearing about the application of Platonist ideas to scriptural interpretation and to the development of theology.
Hasn't the BBC already done this?
The narrator deserves a lot of credit for his stamina and for the majority of times his pronunciation of foreign terms was correct. A few quibbles about the ancient Greek, but altogether an excellent job. I hope he got a lengthy vacation after narrating this work.
Absolutely yes. I had to control myself from starting over from the beginning the minute I finished the first time through. The richness of the plot, the development of the characters, and the brilliant narration lend themselves to a second and maybe third or fourth listen.
The story is enthralling, with terrific characterizations, settings, and plot development. More than a mystery--although it is a great mystery--it gives the listener a vivid sense of the class structure of mid 19th century England that governed the social behavior of virtually all the characters. I loved the description of the fledgling attempts of women to assert some degree of independence, sympathetically portrayed through the character of Marion Halcolme. And there is the rest of the colorful cast of characters from the villainous Count Fosco to the courageous and moral Walter Hartright to get to know and enjoy. I loved that the story is told in the form of letters, which allows for the separate voices of characters to reveal their emotions and thoughts directly to the reader/ listener.
No, but this narration is so wonderful that you can bet I'll be listening to their other performances in the future. Prebble's skill in differentiating the speech of the various characters he gives voice to is amazing. He also handles the female voice particularly well, which isnt always the case with other narrators.
Yes, although the length of the book makes that impossible. By the end, I was in love with Walter and in awe of Marion. Finishing the book made me reluctant to start another. Honestly this is the best listen I've had from among the scores of audio books I've owned.
Do NOT pass this one up. It is a rare treat!
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