This is not perhaps the most obvious choice for an audio book but it proves in fact to be an excellent work to listen to.Melvyn Bragg writes in a way that is a model of intelligent popularisation : without ever being either too technical or patronisingly simple he conveys much information about the history of the English language in a way that will entertain and instruct anyone with any degree of interest in the subject.Robert Powell -always a most competent and intelligent reader-copes superbly with what is often a difficult text.He manfully does his best to impart interest even to the long lists of words that occur in some chapters, but where he excels particularly is in the plausible rendition that he gives of the various dialects and languages related to English - his Frisian and Anglo-Saxon may or may not satisfy experts but they sound most convincing.He clearly enjoyed the challenge of conveying how differently English did and does sound. With such expert reading this is one of the occasions when an audio book has a distinct advantage over the silent printed text.If you have any interest in our language, you will enjoy this work and this reading.
If anyone is wondering whether it is worthwhile to spend a day and a half of your life listening to this biography, I would answer resoundingly yes. Whatever your own political affiliations, Churchill remains a fascinating character and his biography is inextricably woven in with the history of the last century. Roy Jenkins is an excellent biographer: this is neither hagiography nor hatchet job.The narrative is clear and constantly interesting , the judgements on people and events are shrewd and judicious. In particular, as might be expected Jenkins is a masterly guide to the workings of the British political system. Robert Whitfield's reading is most competent: his Churchill imitation is only passable, but proves to be valuable as not the least pleasure of the book is the generous quotation of Churchill's own words from letters and speeches. No contemporary politician comes anywhere near his mastery of English. A measure of this biography's success is that it does not seem long or overdetailed despite its length. There are many biographies of Churchill -some even longer, others more concise -but this account of Jenkins impresses me as a fair-minded guide and a work worthy of its subject.
Herodotus read his book aloud at Athens and in many ways this work seems an ideal choice for an audio book. Bernard Mayes'voice is distinctive, and his manner may seem at first rather fussy and pedantic.But in a curious way this suits the discursive narrative style of Herodotus and his indefatigable interest in details.The translation- Rawlinson-is accurate but archaic in tone.Yet Bernard Mayes reads with such intelligence that he succeeds in creating a plausible voice for Herodotus and sustains interest throughout a very long and various work. Some listeners may be put off by a voice different from the usual mannerof reading by actors,others may be deterred by the archaic language of the translation used, but anyone who persists in listening to this very long book will get to know in an enjoyable way one of the most endlessly fascinating works of the ancient world.This version seems to me much preferable to the alternative read by the egregious and ubiquitous Charlton Griffin