I couldn't stop listening to this first of four parts of this monumental work covering the prelude and execution of the Second World War written by the man who saw Britain through its darkest hours. He writes wonderfully well in a fluent and captivating style that gives a tremendous sense of immediacy to this historical record. Being of the generation born just after the War much of the bones of the story are well-known but not the details of just how near to disaster our country came on several occasions. Churchill's fine writing and the precarious nature of the events described make for a wonderful listen greatly enhanced by Christian Rodska's masterly narration. I've immediately started listening to the next part of this quartet of books.
You might think listening to over 26 hours of history would be heavy-going: not so. Well-written text that lends itself to being read, and read with verve, kept me listening and eager to continue. Inevitably superficial over detail, owing to the sheer scale of the undertaking, it emphasizes the chronological progression of history and the points up the parallel events in different part of the world.
I've enjoyed a number of Bill Bryson books and found this book generally entertaining. It's the kind of book I usually relish with lots of interesting facts and figures. I thought the first third of the book about cosmology worthy of 5 stars, but I got a bit glassy-eyed with the stream of facts and figures in the middle of the book dealing with taxonomy, which even I found less than riveting. Most of the physics and chemistry was familiar to me, but not the biographical stories about the scientists who made the discoveries with their revealing and all too human foibles. Surprisingly, I found the parts dealing with my field of expertise, biochemistry and molecular biology, some of the least inspiring and sketchy such that I think many wouldn't get just how exciting it can be. The last third or so of the book about the evolution of humans was again worthy of 5 stars.
There are some gaps in what he included, for example, mathematics, the basis of so much in science, was barely touched on and one would get the impression that only scientists in the West made all the discoveries, whereas we now know that many were already made in China and India, to name but two Eastern Civilizations.
I've see other reviews that have been critical and pointed out errors in the narrative. I detected a few, but generally thought, that for a layman, Bryson did a very good job of covering an enormous sweep of science and making it entertaining.
This book should be of interest to anyone who wants to understand better how Governements can sometimes make a terrible mess of their business. It tries to draw lessons from one semi-fictional (the Fall of Troy) and three real life episodes from history-the last two - the loss of the Amreican colonies and Vietnam - are worth the price of the book on their own.
Although the author sets out the events, this is not narrative history as she intersperses her judgments, analysis and opinions as she goes through. This is OK if you have some familiarity with the history, but can be confusing - as it was for me when she dealt with the creation of Protestantism - if you are not.
I think this must be quite an old recording as the editing was not what you expect - but the narrator is excellent, with great judgement of pace and tone, always important, I think, for narrated history books.
Barbara Tuchman is a very fine historian, and I intend to get another of her books with next month's credit. In the meantime, I can recommended this book wholeheartedly.