Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Our Island Story (Naxos Audiobooks)

Our Island Story is the second audiobook I received for review from Naxos Audiobooks. While, Naxos Audiobooks has a good variety of audiobook genres, my personal favorite is their unabridged selection, which contains a great many works of classic literature including Dante, Homer, Shakespeare, etc. For those unfamiliar with the premise of Our Island Story, it is a sort of history book of England. However, it is more than boring dates and facts, it is a history book for kids, so it is more lively; playful; and at times, embellished. The author is Henrietta Elizabeth (H.E.) Lawrence. She shortened it to the two initials, so that she could conceal her gender. She also wrote other works, which dealt with other parts of the "Empire," such as Canada, India, and Australia. While these works are all in public domain now, I believe most are long out of print.

The beginning of Our Island Story immediately draws the reader, both young and old, further into the book, as it traces England's origin all the way back to Greek mythology. Neptune and his wife, Amphitrite, had several sons. As each son became old enough, they were given an island to rule over. Neptune and Amphitrite love their fourth son, Albion, the best, so they felt he had to have the BEST island. Therefore, all the mermen and mermaids had to scour the globe, until a suitable island was found. Eventually, an island was chosen and named Albion. Eventually, it was conquered and renamed Britannia. We know it today as England. Now, of course this is completely mythological and made up, but it is a fascinating and makes you want to keep reading.

After this tale, we dive into several chapters on the Romans and Britain. It seems that early on the Romans were always invading and conquering Britain. Yet, the Romans never stayed and set up rulers, so they kept returning, and according to the author Britain always survived. You start to notice early on that this is a very biased book toward Britain, which is to be expected, but can be a bit annoying at times to the non-British reader. Other biases that pop up are pro-Protestant/anti-Catholic bias. I won't walk you through the entire book, as that would take pages to accomplish. The main driver of the book was monarchs. There was occasional deviation from this theme, like when they talked about the Industrial Revolution, but it was a very royal-centric work. I appreciate there being some mention of King Arthur, but I have to admit that part of me wanted a little more. The book ends with the reign of Queen Victoria, Britain's longest reigning monarch and the last of House of Hanover.

As for the presentation of this audiobook, I was pleasantly surprised. There were two narrators in this audiobook - Anna Bentinck and Daniel Philpott. It's always weird to me when there are two different narrators in a book, but somehow they made it work. I had a personal preference for Mr. Philpott over Ms. Bentinck, but that's just me. They both were very lively in their reading, and despite the biases I mentioned earlier, they made me want to keep listening. As I listened to these in my car, I found myself disappointed whenever I arrived at my destination. My wife is an English history buff, so she absolutely raved about this book. I can't wait to share it with my children when they are older, as it is a very approachable way to teach a subject that many consider boring. So whether you are someone who likes history mixed with some mythology/legend, or are a homeschooling parent looking for a way to get your kids interested in history, you will enjoy this book. And it's also available on Audible, if you prefer your books on the cloud,

This book was provided to me for free by Naxos Audiobooks in exchange for an honest review.