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)
I would not recommend this version -- the reader is overly dramatic and the author too self indulgent. The story is interesting and deserves a good editor and better reader.
I like long books, so I chose the 8 hour version and regretted it the first day. Still, in the long slog thru this there are fascinating facts and perspectives.
I'm Irish, and this book is dreadful. First, the performance is utterly comical and becomes very tiring to listen to after a while. Second, this is really a book about the classics of western literature, not a history book. That is, this a book about literature which will be difficult to engage or enjoy for anybody not already well versed in the major works of the western cannon such as The Confessions of St. Augustine. Finally, so much time is spent on figures such as Saint Augustine of Hippo (North Africa) that one cannot even really say How the Irish Saved Civilization is a book about Ireland. Rather, this feels like a book by a professor who knows more than you do and wants to show it off. It's title is magnificent and was probably the major driver of sales. I suspect that few readers will make it to the end of this book, however.
I listen to a lot of audiobooks.
I love this book and have read it before. I thought I would download it to listen to while I'm at work since I enjoyed it so much. The narrator is awful. He reads with a strange slowness and sounds like he has marbles in his mouth, or something...I keep picture him foaming at the mouth. yuk.
Have Derek Jacobi read this and I'll buy it again.
The book was an interesting exploration of Roman literature, the life of St Patrick, and monastic life in Ireland, but I am still at a loss as to how exactly he reckons that the Irish saved civilization. Although he stresses that Irish monks travelled widely through Europe in the Dark Ages, the are no concrete examples of texts that are traced from the ancient world through Ireland back to the mainland. There should be dozens of good expamples if his thesis is correct.
Having also read "Sailing the Wine Dark Sea" it seems like the author's style is very airy and authoritative. He tells you what he thinks about an idea and doesn't feel the need to provide references or detailed proofs. I suppose he is correct about much of what he says, but I can't just take his word for it.
The writing is interesting and funny, but I also found the narration a bit "Masterpiece Theater" as other reviewers have pointed out.
There could not be a worse reader! it is pure torture listening to him, he has a huge accent and makes non-stop smacking sounds and he talks E-X-T-R-E-M-E-L-Y s..l...o...w. I put my ipod on high speed and that made it a little more endurable. Kinda a bummer because I wanted to hear this book, I did not have the strength to persevere, so may I recommend that you save your credit and spend it on a book that is not death to the hearer
I enjoyed the book.
I wanted more.
There was much I didn't know and hadn't run into in other sources.
I'd recommend it.
A rollicking trip through history, exploring the origins and underpinnings of Western philosophy and thought, and the circumstances that led to Ireland being in a unique time, place, and position to play it's special role. Interesting, well written and paced, very entertaining history!
This is not so much a history book, but is more a philosphy and literary history from the end of the Roman Empire through about the 9th and 10th century. More than half the book is spent describing the fall of the Roman Empire and how the last few educated Romans deal with their education and historical literature.
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