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This is a compelling cultural and political portrait of the world prior to World War I. The author's method is to focus closely on personalities and movements around the world. The treatment of Germany via Richard Strauss is fascinating. Her portrait of the anarchists shows surprising parallels with today's terrorists, and you can be sure it is not anachronistic, because this book was published in the early 1960s. There is much more.
Nadia May is a superb narrator for long complex non-fiction works such as this. I marvel at her ability to intelligently sustain drive and interest with this type of text.
47 of 47 people found this review helpful
I, too, started with "A Distant Mirror," which I've read in print twice (20 years apart), and I've always liked Tuchman's ability to use a few singular characters to illustrate the broad strokes of an era. Having listened to several Henry James, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, et al, novels recently, I realized I didn't really have a comprehensive view of late 19th century/pre-WWI political and social history, and I was pleased to find Tuchman had written about the era. Like Simon Winchester, she uses gem-quality details to bring both place and time to life.
I enjoyed the narration very much, but this is clearly a very subjective matter. I have listened to several books (coincidentally) narrated by May, and I really like her tone, her accent(s), her voicings, and her pace. I learned early on in my Audible membership to listen to a sample before downloading, and I am still grateful for classics that offer several narrator options.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
There are a flurry of new books about the run up to WW1. But despite its being nearly 50 years old I went for Tuchman because The Guns of August is a wonderful account of the war itself, A Distant Mirror is one of my favourite listens about medieval life and in all her writing she strikes a nice balance between strategic overview, domestic detail and vivid personalities. Other subscribers have complained that Tuchman's narrators sound so upper class that it puts them off but that's always felt to me to be a dumb thing to criticise. No narrator should have to apologise for their origins and narration should surely be judged by clarity and tone. Tuchman's stuff always scores highly in both regards.
The Proud Tower itself emerges from Tuchman's research as a sequence of essays on aspects of life between 1890 to 1914 that struck her as significant. It's not the books she expected to write and as a result it's not the book I expected to read making it more interesting and surprising than I anticipated. An example of this is the time she spends focusing on the significance of anarchism and its relationship to the emerging communist ideology. Not a subject I knew much about and not one I thought of as influential in the run up to the war but Tuchman makes an interesting and compelling case for its significance.
I'm only giving this 4 stars because it didn't quite reach the extraordinarily high standards of the books mentioned above but frankly not much does. But if you fancy a bit of old school history with a really strong authorial voice this is a great listen
5 of 6 people found this review helpful