In this delightful and illuminating look into a crucial but little-known "hinge" of history, Thomas Cahill takes us to the "island of saints and scholars," the Ireland of St. Patrick and the Book of Kells. Here, far from the barbarian despoliation of the continent, monks and scribes laboriously, lovingly, even playfully preserved the West's written treasury. With the return of stability in Europe, these Irish scholars were instrumental in spreading learning. Thus the Irish not only were conservators of civilization, but became shapers of the medieval mind, putting their unique stamp on Western culture.
Thanks to Thomas Cahill, this pivotal era is brought back to vibrant life, its personages portrayed in all their seemingly contemporary humanity, its issues simply and compellingly spelled out. How the Irish Saved Civilization will change forever the way we look at our past, and ourselves.
©1995 Thomas Cahill; (P)1999 Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing, a Division of Random House, Inc.
"Cahill's lovely prose breathes life into a 1,600-year-old history." (The Los Angeles Times)
"Charming and poetic...an entirely engaging, delectable voyage into the distant past, a small treasure." (The New York Times)
Yes, the opening chapter or two is on the Roman world, and it's slow. Once you get past that (feel free to skip ahead), it's absolutely fascinating. He gives fascinating information on Ireland, Patrick, the monks who copied all the old books, Irish art, and the unique Irish perspective on life.
Worth every penny - once you get past the Roman intro. He does that to give a foundation, but the first time you listen to it, just skip it. Go back later and listen to it.
I write my reviews under my wife Karen's account. Retired USN Russian linguist/analyst; actor; director; producer. Biography & History focus
This is a quick review - interesting content...dreadful delivery. The narration was either very uneven or SOOOO SLOW and PONDEROUS that I quickly drifted off. Buy the book instead, unless you need a sleeping aid (for which I use this recording).
Very well read. You have to get used to the parts where he alters his voice to emphasize characters speaking, but then again, after a few hours even that turns out to be kind of humerous at times and quite enjoyable.
This is not a Fodor's guide to Ireland or even a day by day history of Ireland, it's an account of how the Irish monks saved history in written form (among other things.) While the world was burning all the books it could the Irish monastic leaders were collecting all the works of their neighboring world and translating (even transcribing) them for study and posterity. A society that was once nearly illiterate SAVED scores of written works! (Are you not with me here?) The stories of the Romans, Greeks and barbarians are necessary to understand just how (and why) the Irish managed to save the written texts and thus the history of a great deal of what is now Europe. Forget the negative reviews, for they are from people that wanted a history of Ireland and ordered the wrong book.
Not just the Irish - the entire medieval history is fair game for this meandering but intelligent and fun author. I listened to it at a faster speed to save time.
From my early school days this part of our history I always found drab and boring. The time of the Tuatha De Danan, St Patrick and the Celts were more about rocks and stones than people, but this book makes a difference. It is filled with fascinating characters, gives an intriguing background to stories such as the Táin Bó Chulainn etc. Donal Donnelly reads it well but sometimes lapses into stage Irish when quoting. Overall a rich and rewarding listen. Highly recommended.
Completely, totally rad, dude!!!! Awesome voices by the narrator. Always fun to hear a history from another perspective!
The reader is awful. Listening to the man try to pronounce Latin, or anything that requires an accent, is torturous. His pace is excrutiatingly slow. The content was fascinating but the guy who read it was horrible and took a lot of enjoyment out of this audiobook for me.
I found this to be extremely well written with an occasional condecending tone (not sure if it was implied by the reader or from the author, I'd have to listen to those sections again)when expressing a personal observation.
The reading was excellent and appropriate to the subject. It may not be the accustomed style, but worked well here.
If you expect to learn about the awesome history of the Irish clergy and the early history of the Irish people, try another book. This book seems to be a compilation of the author's lectures which range from Virgil onward. Very disappointing and not worth the time and money.
Irrational, but True
I enjoyed this work, if for no other reason than for it brings to light the history of a people (and a nation) of whom I'm quite ignorant.
Thomas Cahill's sweeping endeavor wrapps Irish culture and history into the wider context of Europe's widest trajectories, from early celtic civilization, to the role it played in the dynamics of Britain during the Roman conquest and eventual fall of the empire. In the dark ages to come, and in the medieval period to follow, Irish scribes, and indeed Irish cultural morays, had a much more pivotal role in setting the tone than I myself previously realized.
I think the book's title may take this notion a bit far. Plenty of the greco-roman works were preserved and retransmitted to the west, not from Ireland, but from the east... via Byzantium and Islamic influence in Spain, Sicily, Italy, and during the crusades. Yet, Ireland does seem to have played a very important, if not exclusive or even vital, role in the process. The book's main argument holds enough water to be worth reading for any fan of history.
What I think is this book's best asset, however, is the examination of Irish culture, mythology, paradigms, and traditions, and how those values and ideas influenced the wider world of the dark and early middle ages. I've not known of many of these heroes and stories, and the author recounts them in a light that brings them richness, texture, and humanity. We hear of Irish epics, Irish lore, a deeper exploration of Irish personalities such as Saint Patrick, and a wide array of Irish poetry and prose. The Irish are presented to us as a people with great creative energy, and values with which we today can empathize, such as a value for the written word and for ideas that caused Irish scribes to translate and copy even books they couldn't fully grasp or which they outright found to be folly. In particular, I found the verses and quotations to be memorable, full of heart and sensibility, and often recounted at length in this work, rather than in small snippets.
this book should have been edited down. Disliked the narration. The main thesis of the book was not explored enough
"Don't let the title fool you!"
This is without doubt the most disappointing audiobook to which I have yet listened. The title describes the content of just one chapter in reality, ad even then it is an overstated, poorly reinforced assertion. Concentrating heavily on the work of St. Augustine of Hippo and the vicissitudes of the Roman Empire in the early part of the book, the author appears to be interested in presenting a rambling introduction to his views on the weight and significance of the saint's work as well as that of the less-well-known Roman writer Ausonius, engaging in clumsy juxtapositions in the process.
Ireland's entry comes quite late, with poor and excessively windy historical treatments of St. Patrick, the mythological Táin Bó Cuailnge and the movements of Irish saints such as Colmkille and Columba.
It becomes apparent that the author isn't sufficiently well acquainted with the subject matter, while his recourse to reprinting long tracts from ancient manuscripts is quite frankly lazy work.
The narrator is not bad - his pronunciation of Irish words is poor, yet the monotonous nature of much of the writing does come through in his presentation.
Overall quite poor and disappointing.
"How the Irish Saved Civilisation"
What a shame that this wonderful, fascinating and sometimes moving book was spoiled by the unfortunate timbre and style of the voice of the narrator. The narrative and the stories which make it up, is so strong, that the damaging effect of the narrator's voice was subdued, thank goodness. With a less weary and strained-sounding narration the book would be of a five-star-plus quality, without question.
"Really very poor"
This book is like a trip down memory lane - to being taught by the Christian Brothers in the 1970s. Any difficult aspects of history - such as the fact that were two "Saint Patricks" and not just the one, are either ignored or mentioned only to be dismissed. Most of the book is not even about Ireland or the Irish but St Augustine of Hippo. Don't bother.
This was long winded and boring. I am not sure which I detested most the book or the delivery. I found it boring, long winded and a trial of endurance as I made myself listen to the end.
Report Inappropriate Content