Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall

Source: Librivox (part 1 zipped mp3s | part2 zipped mp3s)
Length: 16 hr, 53 min
Readers: Kara Shallenberg and Jim Mowatt

The book: Our Island Story is a children's history book of Great Britain, up to the end of the Victorian Age. As its name implies, this is not a scholarly history, but a series of history stories. Marshall does not investigate the socio-political background behind events or apply economic theory to the past. Instead she tells the legend of Boudica in the same narrative style as a story about the signing of the Magna Carta.

What this type of narrative history may lack in scholarly rigor, it makes up for by being a fascinating read. This is the history that people remember, long after the facts and dates have faded from their minds. Of course, this history must be taken with a grain of salt, since it carries many of the prejudices and nationalism of the British Empire. As someone who knows only the barest bones of British history, this was a great, fun introduction to the characters and events of the past.

Rating: 8/10

The readers: To me, Kara Shallenberg is the epitome of LibriVox readers: decidedly amateur, but wonderful nonetheless.  Comparing a LibriVox book to a professional audiobook is like comparing a cake that your friend made you to a cake baked by a high-end baker and cake-decorator. The professional product is perfect, with smooth icing, moist cake, and eye-popping decorations. Your friend doesn't have the training, experience, or expensive equipment that the pro does, but her cake is made because she loves to bake and that makes it special.

Kara's reading is full of little mistakes like birds chirping in the background, but it's a labor of love from which it's easy to pick up her enthusiasm for the book. When Jim Mowatt joins her to read every other chapter in the second half of the book, he adds some weightiness and an appropriate British accent to this story of British History. This is not a recording for those who like their audiobooks perfect, but instead it's for anyone who appreciates a good amateur effort.

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