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Would you try another book from Lauro Martines and/or Simon Brooks?
From Lauro Martines, yes. From Simon Brooks, no.
How did the narrator detract from the book?
A brilliant book with a clown of a narrator. Bad enough that the narrator couldn't master common place names (Genoa, Lombardy, Perugia, etc.) his mispronunciation of simple English words was even more jarring. Martines is a first-rate scholar: he deserves better.
Any additional comments?
Audible needs to screen its narrators.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
First, the good. The book is a serious attempt to view war from the perspective of those who experienced it. It is very much not a story about great men - they are mentioned but not dwelt on. Instead the author draws on diaries and accounts of events in towns and villages and the countryside during a war and does an excellent job of conveying the horribleness of war's effect on the population. He clearly has a point of view and expresses it, but it's hard to listen to many of the truly awful accounts he quotes and not sympathize.
Now for the bad. The narrator is awful. I have listened to many books and have suffered through some bad narrators, but this is on an entirely new level. He seems incapable of pronouncing words correctly. A few examples I noted today during about 1.5 hours of listening.
Cill-ih-see-ah - for the location Silesia (Sigh-lee-see-ah or Sigh-lee-zha)
Back-ill-us - for the word "bacillus"
Nah-vair for "Navarre"
Cath-lick-ism for "Catholicism"
Veh-nal for "venal"
If I could give the performance 0 stars I would. I wish I'd purchased the e-book or the physical book. I would probably come back and re-read it, but I definitely can't listen to this reading of this book again
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Audible's painless returns policy lead me to take a punt on this. For some time I'd wanted to know more about the military free companies which revolutionised war on the European continent from the late medieval period. There aren't may audiobooks in English which cover the subject and Lauro Martins seems to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of their history, their significance in the development of European states and the colourful/psychotic characters who lead and comprised them. A number of listeners seem to have had their enjoyment spoiled by the narrator but on the basis that I could return the thing if I felt the same it seemed like a worthwhile gamble. From a wholly personal perspective I have to say that the narrator is absolutely fine for the majority of this listen. His delivery is nicely varied, he sounds like he's actually reading and understanding the text and the production quality is clear. He does pronounce many foreign place names in very odd ways. I began to wonder if the producers were too cheap or slack to go back and edit in the correct pronunciations but it just didn't bother me that much because the book itself is brilliant. It has a great balance of detail, first hand accounts of ordinary people from letters and diaries alongside interesting historical analysis of how the states of Europe changed over this period. My advice to anyone who likes history but feels put off by reviews from listeners who really hated the narration is to get this but be ready to return it if the eccentric pronunciation proves too much for you. I'm very glad I got it. It covers stuff that I simply couldn't find in other books and Lauro Martins is an excellent historical writer.
The author makes it clear at the start and in the conclusion that his aim is to tell the stories of war and early modern Europe from the view of those that fought and suffered, namely the empressed soldiers and abused civilians, rather than that of the military strategy or political historian.
The book focuses on themes rather than chronology, which is at times confusing and only offers lessons on the establishment of modern states towards the very end. The majority of the book is a litany of suffering (starvation, disease, pillage, destruction, violence, facial mutilation and sexual violence) brought to life by quotes from first hand sources. Expect to listen to stories of e.g. how a woman, crying over a dead husband or child, was grabbed by plundering soldiers and raped in the middle of the street, on top of the familial corpse.
Whilst the topic gives a different and interesting perspective it is a though slog to listen to such deprivations for 10h straight. This book is likely better read than listened to.
Lauro did a fantastic job at telling a story that is not often told: what happens to the average person during war. While the book goes on for a bit too long recounting atrocity after atrocity, it is hitting home a pretty important point. The plot gets a bit lost from time to time, but the aim of the book is flawless.