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I was disappointed in this book. I suppose I did not do my due diligence in confirming what the topic or subject of the text really was. I expected it to be about the different backgrounds and personalities of the different states. Instead, the book turned out to be more of a history of the way the borders of each state were drawn up.
Not so good. The narrator has an annoying style and voice. Fortunately, he is intelligible at higher speeds, and I think most readers are going to want to crank this baby up. This was actually the first book I ever listened to on 2.5 speed.
I would describe the narrator's voice as sounding like Tim Brando. So when you speed it up it's like hyper-Brando. I got used to him after a while.
Unfortunately, even when you get used to him, there are some extremely irritating and distracting parts about the narration. It seems that the narrator was relatively inexperienced. He makes loud gasps for breath before beginning to speak and immediately after finishing. Once you notice it, it's really hard to concentrate on anything else. The only thing I found that helped was turning the volume way down, but of course this makes it harder to speed read, so you may have to just wait until you are used to it.
In addition, the narrator was obviously unaware of the perils of not hydrating during the process. There are many times when you can hear the saliva swishing around in his mouth. In the narrator's defense, he obviously didn't get much help from whoever edited this thing.
One last strange aspect of the narration is that he reads De Tocqueville as if he was Irish, not French.
The author sets out to disprove Fredrick Jackson Turner’s thesis that the frontier experience is what makes America different. Strangely, he really only gets around to directly disputing this in the final chapters.
I found it difficult to get into this book. It’s a pretty dry subject to begin with, and there’s not much action early on. The first half of the book is extremely boring. That’s just the honest truth.
The first half of the book is essentially a biography of Andrew Ellicott, That may sound like hyperbole but it isn’t. Ellicott’s name is probably used more often than the word “the” during the first half of this book (okay, that was hyperbole). The narrator reads Ellicott’s words in an exaggerated tone that is silly but is at least easily recognizable.
Interesting Historical Figures
Maybe the best thing about this audio book for me was learning about two American historical figures that I knew little or nothing about previously. Benjamin Banneker—a black American who proved himself to be a very talented surveyor in the late 1700’s—and James Wilkinson—a guy who may have been the biggest traitor in the history of the country.
The second half of the book is much, much more interesting. Unfortunately, it’s a bit rushed compared with the hyper-detailed first half.
The ending of the book is strange. Most books have a wrap up and at least some sort of closing statement. This book does get back to discussing Turner and the frontier, which is how the text began. However, there really is no concluding chapter or even paragraph. It just sort of cuts off. What’s more, the material being discussed at the end of the book is totally superfluous and doesn’t relate to any real time line. It’s almost as if the final pages of the book were an appendix, but it isn’t presented as such.
This book is worth reading. It’s fairly boring overall, but you will most likely learn from it. Also, the second half of the book is actually somewhat interesting.