Graced by David McCullough's remarkable gift for writing richly textured, sympathetic social history, The Johnstown Flood is an absorbing portrait of life in 19th-century America, of overweening confidence, of energy, and of tragedy. This is a powerful historical lesson for our century and all times: the danger of assuming that because people are in positions of responsibility they are behaving responsibly.
©1968 David McCullough; (P)2005 Simon & Schuster Inc. AUDIOWORKS is an imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster, Inc.
David D. Johnson
I go out of my way to read (hear) anything written by Mr. McCullough. While the author is spectacular in his narration, Mr. Herrmann's brings out the most understanding of what Mr. McCullough writes, he is, in short, the very best narrator I could imagine. Mr. McCullough clearly sets himself as a gift to the English language and coupled with his research, (with Mr. Herrmann's narration), we are three times blessed. I can say no more.
This is not a character book. It is history and the closest it comes to character is the wealthy men who belonged to the hunt club.
Listening to narrative adds a dimension I did not get from reading. I have noticed several books that seem much deeper and more personal when digested as an audio book. "With the Old Breed" is a notable example.
Very well done and very well narrated. I enjoyed what was to me rather dry reading many years go. This was a major disaster of the "Gilded Age" and it is told with a keen eye for detail.
My Book Club chose this one because we live fairly close to Johnstown. It sounded interesting to read the book and then take a "field trip"....still our plan. I decided to listen to the audio book while everyone else bought and read the hard copy. I found that I had a hard time visualizing the logistics and making sense of the tragic conditions and events of the disaster. Plus, there were so many small stories that had minimal connections to one another. I kept wishing that the writer would choose a focal point...perhaps one shop owner or one heroic matriarch, or one city official...and deliver the narrative from a focused point of view. Instead the tale rambled and felt like a slide show. Certainly the disparate incidents were vivid, but even the sequence faltered. We went back and forth between hours of the day and then days following.
However, those who read the book had supporting graphics at hand. They liked the book better than I did. With about a week to go before our meeting, I borrowed someone's book and found the photos and diagrams useful.
I also realized that the book gave one the opportunity to refer back and forth. I still maintain that a good writer like McCullough should deliver the tale without making the reader do his own organizing research.
Another excellent masterpiece by McCullough (he is descriptive almost to a fault) as the story can be difficult to hear with its grotesque images. Herrmann reads as though he is the author himself, with an easy tone and deference that takes you right to Johnstown and places you in the midst of the disaster.
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