©1987 Paul Johnson; (P)1989 Blackstone Audio, inc.
"It's no mean feat to successfully compress 4,000 years of history into 645 pages, but Johnson has more than met the challenge....an excellent, nonscholarly history for general readers." (Library Journal)
"A tour de force....A remarkable achievement." (The New York Times Book Review)
"A marvelous book....This is history: richly textured, provocative and wise." (The Plain Dealer)
This is a great book: lively writing, well researched and for the most part, well paced. Criticism of the narration are petty: the woman is English and pronounces some words per the Queen's not American English. Jewish words are in fact recognizable. I almost didn't buy this book because of the complaints about the narration. I am so glad I did not heed the naysayers. A GREAT listen.
Quite engrossing. A bit long, but very interesting and well done. If you aren't accustomed to British pronunciation, you may be thrown off on the meaning of some words initially.
I will listen to this 4 part book again in the future.
The historical sweep of the Jewish experience from biblical days, through the Kingdoms of Saul, David and Solomon, the diaspora, the rise of antisemitism in Europe and the emergence of a successful Jewish secular society is captured in large and small details.
The narrator's voice has an annoying up and down quality, where she hits one syllable loudly and the next softly and the next loudly. It's unpleasant, and it makes it very difficult to hear what she is saying, particularly if you are driving in a car with road noise. The audio should have been modulated in post-production so that the sound maintained a more level loudness. Also, her pronunciation of Jewish names was often odd; perhaps they are the English pronunciations. For example, Maimonides was pronounced My-ma-NI-dees.
The growth of antisemitism sanctioned by the Church and the States of Europe and the horrible things that were done to innocent people in the name of Christ or the King is very difficult to listen to.
If you don't know much about the history of the Jews and would like to know more, this is a terrific book.
I am disappointed by the less than positive reviews on this history of the Jewish people written by Christian author, Paul Johnson. Readers might not agree with Johnson's every insight on the history of the Jews, yet they are worthy of consideration. Arthur Hertzberg (New York Times Book Review) wrote on the back cover: "A tour de force....A remarkable achievement." I would hate to think these reviews might turn away audible readers. Nadia May has a fine, crisp voice. She reads this book well. It is well worth listening to in my opinion.
This book gave me a much better understanding of Jewish, Christian and Muslim history and is worth reading.
The production and narration, however, are the worst in my experience of 100 or so audio books.
The narrator should not narrate again. Her voice is impossible- she has spectacular voice modulation of both pitch and volume. I listened to this first using my standard I pod ear phones and then through my car stereo. Neither was tolerable- she was intermittently inaudible with low pitch and volume and then deafening with high pitch and volume. I ended up using a high end Boise noise canceling headset which made listening barely tolerable- and had to watch out for police since head phones are illegal in Ohio while driving.
It is easy to tell the points when she stopped a session and started a new one. She actually, on 2 occasions, reread several lines, apparently having forgotten where she had ended.
The producer needs a new job and/or better equipment.
The production is terrible- talking in the background and poor sound characteristics. Did no one proof this?
I wish I had gotten the book and skipped the audio.
I have enjoyed this book quite a bit, the narrative is clear and lucid, and so the reader or the listener can understand the situation and the social and political dynamics of the Jewish people. I basically give up on remember the Jewish names, I'll have look look up on wiki a bit later, but otherwise, the history is good and fluent.
This is not the book to buy as an audiobook. This book needs to be in hard copy. You need a highlighter and some postits. Too much information, some needs to be read twice and the audio book just goes too fast for such a dense subject. I have never made it through, but I have listened to 30 minute sections from anywhere in the middle and its fine wherever you start to wherever you listen to. It does not have to be read contiguously, and I might add it several times has put me to sleep. Also the narrator is kind of monotone and boring.
The female reader's voice has a high pitch that takes some getting used to but the fatal flaw is that she apparently made little effort to learn correct Hebrew pronunciation. Continuous and widespread mispronunciation of names became a distraction beyond irritation. She incorrectly pronounces "Sanai", "Maimonedes", "Haganah", "Isaac", "Baal Shem Tov". Too often even a listener with only a casual familiarity with the correct pronunciation will not recognize what or who she is talking about since the pronunciation name or place is so bad you do not recognize it until later in the narrative. Sorry I bought the audio edition.
I have read one other Paul Johnson book and found it somewhat interesting, However, the narrator of this book makes it so boring that after several hours of listening I simply turned it off for good.
A good general history, very thorough. The audio book could have benefitted from a narrator who pronounced the Hebrew names in a more familiar way. In spite of this, it is a good treatment of the Jews.
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