Despite the gravity of the situation, the Hapsburg Emperor of Austria, in opening his splendid rococo palace to the European royals and providing elaborate banquets and lavish entertainments, set the stage for the most extravagant pageantry since the fall of the Roman Empire. Guests were swept up in the dazzling whirlwind of social events - masquerades, hunts, and elaborate dinners - even as maps were being redrawn, rulers reinstated or ousted, and fortunes transferred. Ultimately, the Congress of Vienna ushered in the longest period of peace Europe has ever known.
Vienna 1814 is a rich, impeccably researched history of the intrigue and frivolity that would forever mark the Congress of Vienna as the greatest Vanity Fair of all time.
©2008 David King; (P)2008 Tantor
"Deftly paced and engagingly written." (Publishers Weekly)
"A worthy contribution to the study of a critical historical event long neglected by historians." (Library Journal)
This books does a nice job bring the reader, listener, into the life of the Congress of Vienna, part party, part diplomacy. With the party dominant. It turns out that the party aspects of the event were closely interlocked with the diplomacy aspects, at least insofar as the author is able to show. So it seems necessary to be cognizant of both. At times, I found the party aspects a bit overwhelming, but the author (& the narrator) are able to bring things together at the end of each thematic section to make what you have heard relevant. I am more comfortable with political/diplomatic history of this period, so it some ways it was refreshing to see the players in their times of pleasure & partying, and not just in their times of plotting.
This is a terrific book, full of interest and historical detail. But as other listeners have pointed out, the pronunciation errors are inexcusable. This guy simply butchers foreign names--and even English ones! The publisher should know better than to release such a shameful performance.
This book is well written, and covers an important topic that not a lot has been written about recently. This topic isn't just the culmination of 30 years of events in Europe, but also sets the stage for the trouble later in the century, which ultimately leads to WW1 and WW2. This book also helps you understand why certain events around this time in America occurred as they did, such as the end of the War of 1812. I also liked the details it gives about life in Vienna in the early 19th century, which almost makes you feel like you are there. My only complaint is that by the second half of the book, some of the social details become a bit repetitive. This is minor, and the book overall is well worth it.
This is a fine history, interesting and useful. It is wonderfully insightful for anyone interested in the Napoleonic Era.
Sadly, Mr. Foster does not even know how to properly pronounce Viscount Castlereagh's name, which is both distracting and enevitably annoying as he is a key participant. Any reasonable narrator should be able to handle this responsibility.
A fine tome mishandled by a poor narrator.
This is an entertaining and informative account of the Congress of Vienna. It is a good reminder that politicians and diplomats have always been up to no good and those of our own age are no worse than others. But why did the producers choose a narrator with little command of German pronunciation? One would think that would be a basic requirement. If you know any German, you will find this audiobook a truly irritating listen.
I agree with Daniel -- I enjoyed this book. But I have a complaint -- bad pronunciation of non-English words. Castlereagh of Ireland should be CASTLE-RAY not CASTLE-RAW. Go to dictionary.com to hear it pronounced correctly. Dorothee, a German name, should be DO-RO-TAY not DO-RO-thee. And many more.
It's a great story and well written. Shame about Mel's less than encyclopedic knowledge of foreign names and places. But if you can get by that then it's well worth it.
There has been an amazing outpouring of modern Napoleonic studies in the past decade though few that I know of have audio versions.
Apart from the first degree nameslaughter Mel does a good job with the text. There is an enthusiasm in his voice that compliments the importance of the period and the story of it.
Like some of the other reviewers my reaction was one of bewilderment that the producers could have let this out on the market without any quality control checks.
First: yes, the narrator really should just not bother trying to pronounce the German and French names and words - he only embarrasses himself. I happened to find his hapless attempts more amusing than annoying however, and in between he does a fine job of conveying Mr. King's engaging portrait of the brilliant, quirky, and deeply flawed people who did so much to shape European and, by extension, world history for the decades and centuries to follow.
This is the kind of history I find most informative, and certainly most fun. Metternich, Czar Alexander, Talleyrand and the rest at the Congress of Vienna were in the long run fighting a losing battle against the ideas and legal structures that Napoleon had carried from France to the rest of the continent, and against the industrial and economic changes spreading inexorably south and east from Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool; but as crucial as these broader social and economic trends are, history is also shaped by individual humans, and King brings many of the most influential to life in this engaging look at one eventful (and often weird) year at a turning point in 19th Century history.
He efficiently provides just enough of the broader context while focusing on the lives of these elites: their petty squabbles, their endless parties and conspicuous consumption, their love affairs, their mutual spying and intrigues, and the diplomatic maneuverings and power plays that ended up shaping the post-Napoleonic era.
Amid all the fun, I found myself periodically having to remind myself that these people wined and dined and danced on the back of the brutal exploitation of 80-90% of the population; and that their casual horse-trading at elegant salons often doomed entire societies (notably the Poles). But for good or ill, this is how history was (and still is) made, and King – largely through their own words in letters, diaries and diplomatic dispatches – gives us a compelling look at the people who made it.
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