The Isles

  • by Norman Davies
  • Narrated by Andrew Sachs
  • 9 hrs and 10 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Here is the best-selling and controversial history of the British Isles, including Ireland, from the author of Europe: A History. Emphasizing long-standing European connections and positing a possible break-up of the United Kingdom, this agenda-setting work is destined to become a classic.

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What the Critics Say

"A historiographical milestone." (Sunday Times)
"If ever a history book were a tract for the times, it is The Isles: A History...a masterwork." (The Times)
"A book which really will change the way we think about our past...marvellously rich and stimulating." (Evening Standard)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Good, but inconsistent.

In its title I saw hope that, at last, a book dealing with Ireland and Britain was going to be objective. The author does attempt to be just that. British history does constitute the majority of the book (disproportionately at times), yet Ireland is never too far away. The author goes out of his way to recount the development of national identities, reminding readers/listeners of the immense European influence (Gallic/French, Dutch, Viking/Danish,Saxon/German, etc) on Britain and the foolhardiness of speaking hubristically of an continuity to the 'English' nation, while ignoring the Celtic origins of the Britons, the excessive weight academics apportion to the Roman influence, the French speaking (and often French-based) 'Kings of England', and, of course the Dutch and German kings of later centuries.

The narrator, Andrew Sachs, has a nice voice, yet perhaps with the exception of French words (which he appears to relish) his pronunciation of non-English words, be they Irish, Welsh, Scots-Irish, etc. is awful to the point of them being at times incomprehensible. In the discussion of P and Q Celtic languages, the deficiencies actually impact on the thrust of the argument as heard by the listener. Inconsistency too is a problem, as Sachs adds all the Gallic flourishes to some French names - Henry is 'Oonree' - while Humbert is just that; Hum~bert, as opposed to Uum bear.

The last third of the book is all too rushed. The author appears to try to get through the British colonial expansion and contraction as quickly as possible - to the detriment of the book. He bounces around the twentieth century like a ping-pong ball, unsure where to place the emphasis.

His treatment of Ireland's later history has a number of inaccuracies that would call into question the standard of research - 'Thomas' Wolfe Tone? The Anti-Treaty side winning the Irish Civil War?

Not bad at all, but certainly not flawless.
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- Balor of the Evil Eye

Very interesting listen, poor performance

Would you listen to The Isles again? Why?

I would listen again, there is a lot of information in there so I'm sure there are parts I missed, and I found it really useful to put the history I already knew into perspective.


What other book might you compare The Isles to, and why?

This is a history book, it is well written but there is little to no narrative aside from the chronology of it.


How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator was unable to pronounce Irish words, he had obviously been given some grounding in Welsh which was good but his pronunciation of Irish words was so bad that I had trouble following who he was talking about and only pieced it together from my own memory of Irish history. And I'm not talking about Irish language words, I'm talking about people and place names, any Irish person could have told him how to pronounce the words, and it would, I think have been a quite basic thing to check.


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- Countess_Dracul

Book Details

  • Release Date: 31-01-2007
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan Publishers Ltd.