©2003 Melvyn Bragg; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
"Both entertaining and informative." (Booklist)
"This 'biography' succeeds in its broad, sweeping narrative." (Publishers Weekly)
Filled with great history of the English language with etymology that is fun, educational and inspired. The voice of Robert Powell brings the words to life and makes the audio version of this book phenomenal.
I found this book very interesting. I appreciate the narrator being able to pronounce the Olde English and other foreign words. Interesting stories explaining or illustrating concepts. I recommend this book much more as an audio read than a visual one!
I have a high tolerance for dry subjects but this one was a little too dry for me. Might be the wrong format. Might be the wrong subject. Just a little too serious for me.
In some ways I found this an unnecessary book - it doesn't do anything that wasn't already done in Robert McCrum's "The Story of English" or Bill Bryson's "Mother Tongue". Having read those books, I didn't feel that I learned anything new. However, it was a pleasure to experience a book on this subject in audio format - Robert Powell is a brilliant narrator and does a superb job of reading Old English and the numerous accents required of him (only Uncle Remus seems to defeat him - the result is very awkward). If you've never read a book on this subject, this will be a fascinating experience. Even if you have, it might be worthwhile for Powell's narration.
This is not your "dry" history book. The writer make the subject come alive. Additionally, I gained a better appreciation of the English language.
Having listened to half of this title, I consider this a great disappointment. I was looking for some insight into how English developed and how language develops in general, but there was little insightful about that here. Just as an example, the great vowel shift, a great mystery in the history of English, is barely mentioned. I guess it would be interesting if you aren't interested in linguistics but only in a sketch of English history, but I had hoped for much more than that, given the title and reviews on this website.
Some of the word lists can be a bit tedious, but it's a small price to pay for the insight provided in this book. A couple of friends have gone through this at the same time and we both believe we are the richer fo having gone on this journey.
Not the "Biography of English" that I expected. Bragg spends time discussing the influence of things he clearly knows nothing about, such as medieval religion and renaissance literature; the erroneous conclusions are manifold.
The last third of the book focuses on why various regional and national English dialects are so wonderful because they add to the "richness" of the language. Evidently no one ever explained to him the difference between richness, slang, and sloppiness.
There are excellent reasons for striving to retain purity and precision in spoken and written language. All of them are ignored.
This book has some interesting information, but it is buried deep inside flights of fancy and purple prose. Bragg is very serious in calling this a "biography": English is treated as a living, breathing thing with wills and desires. The bulk of the book is taken up with speculations about how English might have felt about this, or what she might have been thinking when deciding to do that. I don't mind a little flowery prose now and then, but it got pretty tiresome. Chop that out, and the book would have only been an hour or so long.
The reader was entertaining, though. I have no idea how good his pronunciation of Old English or Church Latin actually is, but is certainly sounded credible.
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