Many of us were put off history by the dreary way it was taught at school. Back then "The Origins of the Industrial Revolution" somehow seemed less compelling than the chance to test the bold claim on Timothy Johnson's "Shatterproof" ruler.
But here at last is a chance to have a good laugh and learn all that stuff you feel you really ought to know by now. Learn how Anglo-Saxon liberals struggled to be positive about immigration. Discover how England's peculiar class system was established by some snobby French nobles whose posh descendents still have wine cellars. And explore the complex reasons why Britain's kings were the first in Europe to be brought to heel (because the Stuarts were such a useless bunch of untalented, incompetent, arrogant, upper-class thickoes that Parliament didn't have much choice.)
©2007 John O'Farrell; (P)2008 W F Howes Ltd
This witty and funny journey through British history, taut me more in the time I listened to it than I learned in over 10 years at school! John O?Farrell brilliantly balances the facts with a healthy dose of cynicism to expose hundreds of years of propaganda proving that the victors really do write history. The action moves along at a fast pace and never drags you to the boring places of history class. I?d thoroughly recommend this to anyone who wants to learn whilst being entertained.
"Light-hearted but unfortunately not very funny"
This book covers a lot of history in a relatively short time, so it's good for getting an overview of British history.
Its weakness is that it compromises accuracy or brevity for humour, except it's not very funny (and I like John O'Farrell).
The humour extends mostly to the author acting out a skit of the people involved in the story he's just described or being sarcastic about the fact that the 21st century makes the same mistakes as those in the past.
I liked the book for what I learned about history but was disappointed by the humour.
"Bet you'll learn something from this!"
Entertaining and informative review of British history over the 2000 years between 55BC and 1945AD (or 55 BCE and 1945 CE according to the latest fashion). I wish my history teachers at school were as thoughtful and articulate. The viewpoint is fairly modern and comes across as impartial and objective (except when he's teasing the French). There are one or two interpretations which you might disagree with, but history is probably like that. I enjoyed listening to the book and learned quite a lot, especially as my history lessons concentrated on specific periods.
My only mild criticism that he gets a little laddish at times, and overdoes the football jokes for me, but don't be put off by that. I recommend it to anyone who would like an update to their school history, or get a well-paced overview.
Hated history in school. Loved this. Now got a factual but funny outlook on the history of the British Isles. Strange how you remember things that make you laugh... certainly remember this one.
"Couldn't get into it"
I just couldn't get into this, and found the humor a little bit put on. This is one of the very few, if not only audio books that I have bought and never actually finished listening to. I do enjoy British history and have listened to the entire series of "This Sceptered Isle".
From what I have listened two so far I should probably only give this one star, but I am determined to one day finish listening to this and I am sure it probably does get better, so have given it the benefit of the doubt with two stars. I will update this review, if I ever finish it!
"Interesting, not terribly funny, poor narration"
A very interesting, concise run down of British history, of which I am ashamed to say I know rather little! This audio book helped correct that, though I confess I have not yet finished it despite having it in my collection for a few months. First problem is the jokes - all the pithy, cheap, predictable gags totally distract from the smaller handful of really clever, witty observations on history. The second problem is the poor narration. John's style is a vaguely squelchy, pompous monotony with frequent loud, nasally inhales. It may work on the stand up circuit, but not for several hours of book narration. John, do us a favour and ask your publisher to pay a professional? Sorry to be blunt, but I am paying for this! So an excellent idea, but something that would be much better executed by Bill Bryson (as long as Bill also did not do the narration - his too is poor). I will not buy another John O'Farrell narrated piece of work, but I would consider buying one of his paperbacks (so as to skip read the ropey gags).
"Thoroughly interesting, but slightly flawed..."
Overall, I found this book has now whetted my appetite for more historical books. I have learned bits and pieces - there is a lot more for me to learn, but I just forget it as one fact replaces another! I think I'll be listening again, perhaps a couple of times, and the fact that I will do that is testament to the book. However, his 'jokey' asides do end up grating. This book is littered with the sort of jokes that wouldn't be out of place during a business presentation - 'light-hearted' perhaps, but certainly never funny enough to actually make you laugh out loud, and after a while (particularly with the longer asides) this just wears you out. Bearing in mind the quality of his historical writing, it's a pity he felt the need to dabble with comedy. Having said that, I'll still be downloading the other book which takes you from the end of this one up to the present day.
The sarcastic humour may not be to the taste of the more serious readers and may not be entirely understood by Americans but I for one thought it rather hilarious. In my opinion the fact-to-joke ratio was just about right and I learned a thing or two that I'd obviously missed out on at school. The only criticism I have is that they should have considered getting someone else to do the reading as he came across like he was just reading from a book... what I mean is that it reminded me of a reading at a christmas school play, too rehearsed and very little passion for the text (which is surprising). I also noticed a couple of edit points that were not very well mixed but these are just minor points to a good audio book.
"A hilarious and honest account"
This is a hilarious and honest account of British history from the time of Julius Caesar to the end of the second world war. Important events and movements, as well as their causes and consequences, are described in an easy-to-understand, accessible manner. A very enjoyable book.
"Sadly, not as funny as it should be..."
When I purchased this title it had a 1 star rating and, always mindful of what other people think, I was a little concerned. However, having read several John O'Farrell books - and loved them - I thought I'd give it a chance. I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to it - I love the fact that the 'utterly impartial' is irony - I can only presume that the one star rating was given by a Thatcherite! I love the fact that I actually do feel I've learnt something. ..and yet, ultimately, it should be funnier. John O'Farrell can do better...
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