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Andrew Dunn

Vancouver, BC Canada | Member Since 2010

6
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 9 reviews
  • 49 ratings
  • 163 titles in library
  • 5 purchased in 2014
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13

  • Heaven's Command: An Imperial Progress - Pax Britannica, Volume 1

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Jan Morris
    • Narrated By Roy McMillan
    Overall
    (174)
    Performance
    (138)
    Story
    (137)

    The Pax Britannica trilogy is Jan Morris’s epic story of the British Empire from the accession of Queen Victoria to the death of Winston Churchill. It is a towering achievement: informative, accessible, entertaining and written with all her usual bravura. Heaven’s Command, the first volume, takes us from the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1837 to the Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The story moves effortlessly across the world, from the English shores to Fiji, Zululand, the Canadian prairies and beyond. Totally gripping history!

    Wolfpacker says: "Great Vignettes, Good Overall Story"
    "A little outdated now, but enjoyable nonetheless"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    If you could sum up Heaven's Command in three words, what would they be?

    Witty, knowledgable, dated


    What did you like best about this story?

    The way Jan Morris manages to thematically describe the British Empire without it seeming as if she has shoe-horned events to fit her thesis, that the Empire changed, in purpose and intent, during the long reign of Victoria.


    What does Roy McMillan bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He reads well. I quibble with some of the pronunciation (''Métis" is pronounced 'may-tee', not 'metiss'), but he does well with the text, including the copious footnotes.


    Any additional comments?

    The book was written in the 60s and early 70s, and the attitudes and language used perhaps reflects that, but Jan Morris was and is an expert writer, and her wit and wisdom make the occasional unreconstructed imperialist tone forgivable

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Russia: A Journey to the Heart of a Land and Its People

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Jonathan Dimbleby
    • Narrated By Jonathan Dimbleby
    Overall
    (12)
    Performance
    (11)
    Story
    (11)

    In this timely and revealing portrait, distinguished author and broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby crosses eight time zones and covers 10,000 miles, from Murmansk in the Arctic Circle to the Asian city of Vladivostok, in an attempt to get beneath the skin of modern Russia. Travelling by road, rail and boat, his epic journey takes him from the splendour of St Petersburg to remote parts of Siberia.

    Andrew Dunn says: "A Vanity Project?"
    "A Vanity Project?"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'm only partway through the audiobook, but so far, not-so-good...
    I like Jonathan Dimbleby on Radio 4, where he does a good job as debate moderator on Any Questions, but I'm less convinced by him as an author and narrator.

    Just a couple of examples of clumsy writing - he mentions 'circumnavigating' an aggressive dog to reach its owner's house. He's unable to discuss the Vikings without the obligatory references to rape and pillage. An old woman's stove is 'festooned' with pots and pans... Better editing might have helped to remove some of Dimbleby's stylistic excesses.

    He's obviously been told to bring some of his own personality and humanity to the proceedings, so we get some non-sequitur references to his boarding school days, his boating experiences in Devon and some hedged references to a possible history of depression. His own moods and emotional responses are jarring, and add little to the reader's appreciation of the places he's reporting from.

    Whereas WG Sebald, Jan Morris or Paul Theroux are able to evoke a place through its emotional impact on them, JD doesn't quite manage to pull this off, and ends up coming across as a bit of a whiner when he affects to tell us that he finds St Petersburg cold and somehow hollow at its core.

    Some of the dialog and interchanges with characters also fails to convince - early on he admits to having little to no Russian (which begs the question, could he not have made an effort to learn before embarking on such an undertaking?). At one point he's conversing with an archaeologist who is enthusing about the thrill of finding artefacts - I don't think this took place: archaeologists aren't treasure hunters, and the thrill comes from piecing together evidence of the past, not from isolated trinkets, themselves of limited explanatory value.

    All that said, I will persevere with the book, because I'm interested in life in the 'new' Russia, and Dimbleby has a journalist's eye for the underlying context, which is necessary and valuable to prevent the book from becoming a more straightforward travelogue.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Road to Valor: A True Story of World War II Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Aili McConnon, Andres McConnon
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye
    Overall
    (23)
    Performance
    (21)
    Story
    (21)

    Based on nearly 10 years of research in Italy, France, and Israel, including interviews with Gino Bartali's family, former teammates, a Holocaust survivor Bartali saved, and many others, Road to Valor is the first book ever written about the Italian cycling legend in English and the only book written in any language to fully explore the scope of Bartali's wartime work. An epic tale of courage, comeback, and redemption, it is the untold story of one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century.

    fred says: "Uplifting story told with a different view point"
    "Thin material, but a well-paced 'read'"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I'd heard about The Road to Valour in a few places, and was keen to find out about Gino Bartali, 1938 and 1948 Tour de France winner and Italian cycling legend.

    The book really covers two themes - Gino's cycling career and his work during WWII to help rescue Italian jews. The evidence for the latter is a bit patchy, not least because Bartali (who died in 2000) wouldn't talk about his wartime efforts, so the authors are sometimes struggling. It's much stronger on the cycling, and especially on Bartali's battles with Coppi (his arch rival) and with the Italian press, who continually write him off.

    All in all, an interesting book which illuminates the era and the eccentric figures who pedalled through it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918

    • UNABRIDGED (27 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By G. J. Meyer
    • Narrated By Robin Sachs
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (644)
    Performance
    (580)
    Story
    (573)

    The First World War is one of history’s greatest tragedies. In this remarkable and intimate account, author G. J. Meyer draws on exhaustive research to bring to life the story of how the Great War reduced Europe’s mightiest empires to rubble, killed 20 million people, and cracked the foundations of the world we live in today. World War I is unique in the number of questions about it that remain unsettled. After more than 90 years, scholars remain divided on these questions, and it seems likely that they always will.

    Andrew Pilecki says: "Excellent Overview of the "Overshadowed" War"
    "Educational"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Like most people, I didn't really have a clear idea exactly *why* Europe went to war in August of 1914, and why it took 4 long years to arrive at a peace. I left Meyer's book with a much better understanding of the factors and personalities that led the world into the meat grinder of the Great War.

    The book is a bit too detailed in places, in terms of the military history and strategic wartime decision-making, and perhaps a bit light on the effects of war on the non-fighting people in the belligerent countries, but it's a minor quibble, and this is an excellent book.

    The reader can be a little dry-sounding and dull, but he generally does well with the material. there's a few obvious audio-patches where the tone of voice changes mid-sentence or mid-para, but nothing too jarring.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Timothy Snyder
    • Narrated By Ralph Cosham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (349)
    Performance
    (229)
    Story
    (228)

    Americans think of World War II as “The Good War”, a moment when the forces of good resoundingly triumphed over evil. Yet the war was not decided by D-day. It was decided in the East, by the Red Army and Joseph Stalin. While conventional wisdom locates the horrors of World War II in the six million Jews killed in German concentration camps, the reality is even grimmer. In 13 years, the Nazi and Soviet regimes killed 13 million people in the lands between Germany and Russia.

    Joseph says: "Stuck between mad men"
    "Disturbingly brilliant"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I've read quite a lot about WWII and the Holocaust, but this book really bought home the scale of the industrial murder that took place between the Elbe and the Vistula and between 1933 and 1945. Snyder doesn't need to make trite comparisons between Stalinist and Hitlerian atrocities - he lets the crimes and the victims speak for themselves, and the result is a valuable and humane book that should be compulsory reading for our current crop of gung-ho intellectual pygmy leaders, keen to repeat the same mistakes in our supposedly more enlightened times.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Pity the Billionaire: The Unexpected Resurgence of the American Right

    • UNABRIDGED (5 hrs and 51 mins)
    • By Thomas Frank
    • Narrated By Thomas Frank
    Overall
    (102)
    Performance
    (89)
    Story
    (91)

    From the best-selling author of What's the Matter with Kansas?, a wonderfully insightful and sardonic look at how the worst economy since the 1930s has brought about the revival of conservatism. Economic catastrophe usually brings social protest and demands for change - or at least it's supposed to. But when Thomas Frank set out in 2009 to look for expressions of American discontent, all he could find were loud demands that the economic system be made even harsher on the recession's victims....

    EC says: "another outstanding book by Thomas Frank"
    "Frank gets righteously angry"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    And so he should, given the scale of the fraud perpetrated on the 99% by the criminal propertied classes and their lackeys in government. If you like Chris Hedges, read Salon and don't pronounce the word as 'gubmint', then this could be the book for you.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Pax Britannica: The Climax of an Empire - Pax Britannica, Volume 2

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 9 mins)
    • By Jan Morris
    • Narrated By Roy McMillan
    Overall
    (78)
    Performance
    (65)
    Story
    (65)

    The Pax Britannica trilogy is Jan Morris’s magnificent history of the British Empire from 1837 to 1965. Huge in scope and ambition, it is always personal and immediate, bringing the story vividly to life. Pax Britannica, the second volume, is a snapshot of the Empire at the Diamond Jubilee of 1897. It looks at what made up the Empire —from adventurers and politicians to communications and infrastructure, as well as anomalies and eccentricities.

    Bryan says: "The British Empire at it's Peak"
    "Comprehensive, but dull at times"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is the middle book in the Pax Britannica trilogy and deals with the events around the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Victoria. Morris goes into great detail about pretty much every aspect of the Empire, which was by then at it's apogee. I preferred Vol 1, which was a bit faster-paced, and am into Vol 3 at the moment, though we're still mired in the fin de siecle.

    Jan Morris is old-school - there's not the overwrought apologist tone that colours much modern history on the British empire and it's myriad crimes and misdemeanors. She trusts that we, the readers, know that Imperialism isn't justifiable, but she refuses to judge the Imperialists by our moral standards, and in my view she sets the right tone by this approach.

    I'd recommend the trilogy, which is well-written, well read (in both senses) and entertainingly informative.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

    • UNABRIDGED (43 hrs)
    • By Tony Judt
    • Narrated By Ralph Cosham
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (449)
    Performance
    (337)
    Story
    (336)

    Almost a decade in the making, this much-anticipated grand history of postwar Europe from one of the world’s most esteemed historians and intellectuals is a singular achievement. Postwar is the first modern history that covers all of Europe, both east and west, drawing on research in six languages to sweep readers through 34 nations and 60 years of political and cultural change—all in one integrated, enthralling narrative.

    History says: "Great book, but not terrific listening"
    "Erudite and humane, from a much-missed historian"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you love best about Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945?

    The scope and scholarship, coupled with the readability and gripping prose.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It was accessible without being dumbed-down


    What does Ralph Cosham bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Pacing, gravitas and colour


    Any additional comments?

    A good accompaniment to Bloodlands, by Timothy Snyder

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Pregnant Widow

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Martin Amis
    • Narrated By Steven Pacey
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (41)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (13)

    The year is 1970, and it's a long, hot summer. In a castle on a mountainside in Italy, half a dozen young lives are afloat on a sea of change, trapped inside the history of the sexual revolution. The girls are acting like boys, the boys are going on acting like boys, and Keith Nearing - 20 years old, a literature student all clogged up with the English novel - is struggling to twist feminism and women's ascendency toward his own ends.

    Robert Holland says: "Rich, caustic, hilarious"
    "Self-indulgent, narcissistic and unpleasant"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Somebody who doesn't mind following Amis on a one-way journey up his own arse


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Something not by Amis


    What does Steven Pacey bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He does well with the characterisation


    What character would you cut from The Pregnant Widow?

    Amis/Nearing, all the other ones


    Any additional comments?

    Really, really poor book. Impossibly louche characters used as a vehicle for Amis' own imaginary recollections of his youth, and to reinforce his own particular prejudices. A mean-spirited little book, too. Awful. It was my nth attempt at an Amis Jr., and has forever cured me of the impression that he has something to offer.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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