One can certainly find many more current and more scholarly studies on the Boxer Rebellion. For a work written in 1959, however, Fleming's treatment of China's reaction to European imperialism is remarkably sympathetic and balanced. Moreover it's a great read so far as military history goes. The book's one bothersome issue is giving a number of quotes in French without offering translations. The narration is a perfect match for the subject.
See my review of book two of the series. Not sure I can stick it out nine volumes.
This is not your T.H.. White or Disney Camelot. Though fictional, it is rooted in historical fact and depicts an Arthurian legion denuded of its magical trappings. In that sense Whyte's version is refreshing. Even before the first book of the series is done, however, the reader begins asking. "Can't we move things along a bit faster?" By the end of this second volume it's clear Whyte is needlessly stretching what should be at most a trilogy into a meandering and plodding saga of nine (and counting) books each about 25 hours in length. Aside from its slow pace, the dialogue has an anachronistic flavor and the supporting characters are one dimensional. Pariseau is a competent narrator and I like his reading of John Barth's work, but Arthurian legion demands a Brit.
If you're looking just for a military history of Napoleon's campaigns, you might be disappointed. Roberts does a fine job recounting campaigns and battles, but there's little new military history here. The audio book is not a great vehicle for battle narratives since one needs a map to make any sense of troop distribution and movements. Though all of Napoleon's battles are covered, they take up relatively little of this book. Roberts is at his best when covering Napoleon's political and diplomatic schemes as well as the anecdotal accounts of his relations with his men. lovers and marshals. Robert's appraisal of Napoleon is balanced pointing out his military innovations, but admitting that Napoleon enjoyed more than his share of good luck. Napoleon often exhibited genius on the battlefield, but Roberts shows us that he was perhaps more a master of political spin. There are many controversies surrounding Napoleon, perhaps the greatest being whether his death was the result of natural means or poison. Roberts offers compelling reasons to believe the former. I sometimes find John Lee's narration to be plodding, but in this recording, he is flawless.
If you like Alan Furst stories you'll take to this series. Set in pre-war Germany when Brits were still free to move about and spy on Nazis. Not as opaque as Furst can be, but very much one's Everyman Brit who comes caught up in British and Soviet spy rings. As always, how can you go wrong with Prebble doing the reading.
It's hard to call yourself an historian and not to have read Herodotus, the Father of History. Every time I'd pick up the written version, I found the beginning so slow (and so steeped in fable as to be of questionable historical value) that I would set it aside as a chore to be tackled when I really needed to do penance. Listening to the audio version has strengths and weaknesses of its own. One gets through the fables and the travel book accounts of the first book more easily, though I found times where my attention lapsed. There are so many odd names of persons and places, that it's difficult to keep them straight without seeing their spelling or location on a map. This might be one of those books that are best listened too and read simultaneously. Keep an ancient atlas with you as well. The story picks up with the recounting of Persia's invasion of Greece and the resistance made by Sparta and Athens. It's then one realizes just how much of our understanding of the Persian Wars trace back to Herodotus. Many later texts on the period draw on him almost exclusively. Parts of the work are worth many re-reads, but as I say, keep some maps at hand. As for Bernard Mayes's narration, yes he comes off as a Greek oral traditionalists, but his dry voice make dry sections seem particularly desiccated.
I read this classic twice thinking I'd missed something. In the end I just had trouble paying attention enough to keep track of the story. Given how terrorism is now a daily occurrence, one would think a book about anarchists would be topical. Dostoevsky is examining philosophical debates surrounding nihilism that was a pressing topic in Russian intellectual circles of his day. For me, however, (and I'm guessing for you as well), this book is too dated to engage modern readers. This is the first book Guidall has narrated that I have not liked. Guidall selects his projects well and having his name on the cover is usually a book's best reference. Suffer from insomnia? Buy this book and let George's melodious voice rock you to sleep knowing there's not much of a plot you'll be missing.
Before there were latex sex dolls there were female Golems. Fine, I'm stretching things, but what would happen if you found that you'd fallen in love with an animate piece of clay? Wecker not only brings to life her Golom, but immigrant society in 19th C. America; sort of a historical fantasy. An interesting story with a feminine perspective on love and loyalty. Guidall is one of the few male narrators who do women and dialects very well.
Generally I think it is a terrible mistake to let writers narrate their own books. Not so here. While I've gotten used to listening to Carre' through the voice of the late David Case (aka Fredrick Davidson) Carre's disenchantment with the powers of the Western World suits the cynical outlook of his characters. Carre' is as good a vocal actor as he is a writer of the cerebral thriller. Unlike the Smiley series, The Tailor of Panama is almost a comedy.
Rogue elements in the Politburo seek to destabilize Great Britain and let the Americans take the blame. Forsyth is in top form here making the far-fetched come off as perfectly plausible. A great read.
The French Revolution is a great backdrop for a novel, just ask Mr Dickens. Mantel should be commended for attempting to be true to history in her copious use of letters and documents of key figures in order to give them an authentic voice when it comes to dialogue. The problem is that most of this book is just dialogue and precious little explanation as to what the hell is going on. I'm a professional historian myself and yet I had difficulty wading through the didactic exchanges of these revolutionaries in order to piece out where we were in the evolution of the Revolution. Even more problematic, in Mantel's effort to rely on writings of these figures in order to put words in their mouths, she forgot that a novel needs a plot. The only satisfaction the reader gets out of this long and dreary piece is seeing everyone get it in the neck. --- Oh, don't accuse me of being a spoiler, you know what happened to these guys, right?
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