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Many nations define themselves in terms of territory or people; China defines itself in terms of history. Taking into account the country's unrivaled, voluminous tradition of history writing, John Keay has composed a vital and illuminating overview of the nation's complex and vivid past. Keay's authoritative history examines 5,000 years in China, from the time of the Three Dynasties through Chairman Mao and the current economic transformation of the country.
Crisp, judicious, and engaging, China is the classic single-volume history for anyone seeking to understand the present and future of this immensely powerful nation.
While the book itself seems great, a well researched and compact history with lively prose, the narrator clearly knows no Chinese and her frequent mispronunciation of names and places makes for difficult listening. E.g. 中国 as jong gwa, 夏 as "shee-yah", 秋 as "chew" These and many more become rather grating and make it hard to take the content itself seriously. Would gladly buy the book again with a new narration
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
Would you try another book from John Keay and/or Anne Flosnik?
I could not finish this book not because the book is poor. Keay wrote a masterful book. But the narration was just simply horrible. Flosnik has a beautiful and engaging voice, but her pronunciation of Chinese names are just wrong, at least for the Chinese audience who are fluent in Chinese. But I could envision even for non-English speakers, the pronunciation is important as they want to correctly convey the right proper nouns in their discussions. <br/><br/>I am quite familiar with Chinese history, but even when I know the exact person, city, or situation (proper nouns) that Keay is referring to, I still have trouble connecting the dots - name dictated in the audio to the most common Mandarin pronunciation. <br/><br/>Of course, I realize it's perhaps unfair to blame Flosnick. But I do blame the publisher or the recording studio. In books like this, it's far more important to find someone who can speak the local languages. Even if the rest of the English has a Chinese accent, it's still far better to pronounce the local names correctly.
What was one of the most memorable moments of China?
Difficult to tell since most of the memorable moments have Chinese names and I can barely get through them.
How could the performance have been better?
See above. Find someone who actually speaks Chinese.
What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?
Disappointment. To me, this is just another whitewash.
Any additional comments?
Avoid the audio version of this book.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
This is an excellent narration of a marathon in book format. It is difficult to speed up the narration due to the complexity of its content and I listened at 1.5 speed. China has thousands of years and millions of pages and scrolls of history compiled here in a short but furious 600 pages. With sweeping narratives, cheeky sarcasm and timely repetition of key ideas, I highly recommend this book and narration both, since the book contains graphs and important spelling of names and the narration provides pronunciation of said names. Give yourself one month to work your way through this behemoth at the pace of about one chapter per day prior to visiting China or for a better personal understanding of China's trajectory.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
For most of us in the west the history of the far east is shrouded in mystery. John Keay has attempted to unveil this mysterious land, its people, and its remarkable story. I found many of the names of people and places a little difficult to follow, but the stories of the huge civil engineering projects undertaken in pre-modern times were fascinating. This may be a difficult read, but the Audible recording is excellent.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Enormous amount of detail Reader had to speak very quickly making following the events difficult
I was disappointed as I wanted to learn more before a first trip to China
Enjoyed the whole book. Narration is excellent. Enjoyed every twist and turn of the story.
What disappointed you about China?
The woman reading the book is difficult to hear and understand. She does not articulate the words clear and her voice is too soft.
Would you recommend China to your friends? Why or why not?
No, becuase it is difficult to understand the reader
How did the narrator detract from the book?
She is terrible. I quit listening to it because it is too difficult to understand. Her voice is too soft and she does not articulate the words well. I don't want to be labeled, but men voices are easier to hear and understand. This is the worst one I have ever had.<br/>
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from China?
Get a new reader.
Any additional comments?
Get a new reader or screen the ones you use because the reader is terrible.
Would you listen to China again? Why?
No, the performance was distinctly robotic. Which is weird given the writing style of the author.
Who was your favorite character and why?
I guess Qin Shi Huang, the Chinese first emperor. Given the pace set by the author you learn not to get too attached to any one figure.
What aspect of Anne Flosnik’s performance would you have changed?
Her cadence and intonation are a dead ringer for Siri, it gets tiresome after a while.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
There are several amazingly readable and interesting histories of China. This isn't one of them.
2 of 12 people found this review helpful