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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

AMERICAN CIVIL WARS: THE UNITED STATES, LATIN AMERICA, EUROPE and the CRISIS of the 1860s (audiobook) by Don H. Doyle

                  I tried. I really did.

Published in 2017 by Tantor Audio.
Read by Johnny Heller and Jo Anna Perrin.
Duration: 8 hours, 58 minutes.

Benito Juarez (1806-1872)
Unabridged.

The premise of this book is interesting. The idea is to place the American Civil War in the context of the currents of the politics of the larger world of the time in order to show how the war changed the politics of other areas (prime examples are the Dominican Republic and Mexico - both were invaded by European powers while the United States was unable to enforce the Monroe Doctrine) and how those outside political forces influenced the Civil War. One of the stated goals is that teachers read this book and try to bring these insights to their students in the classroom.

Don H. Doyle is the editor of this book. I think that it more accurate to say that he "collected" a series of essays by experts in non-American history that focused on how the Civil War affected their regions. I wish he had been a true editor because this book would have been much less repetitive. I estimate that 2 hours or more of judicial editing could be done to this 9 hour audiobook and do nothing but improve it. As I stated above, this book is supposedly aimed at the non-professional historian, but the writing is almost uniformly done in a dry academic style. The sentences are quite lengthy and hard to follow, especially in the audiobook format. It's not like I am unfamiliar with the topic - this is my 101st review of a Civil War-related book since 2001 and I read many more  before I started reviewing regularly. And, it's not like I am not used to audiobooks - this is 458th audiobook review.

The readers were also an issue. There are two. The first is Johnny Heller. I am literally a big fan of Johnny Heller as an audiobook reader, but he was completely miscast when he was hired to read this book. Audiobook readers are essentially actors performing the book. Heller reads very quickly, which is not usually a problem. But, with the length of these sentences (you can hear the semi-colons and parenthetical insertions), it was hard to keep track of what he was saying sometimes. To solve this, I was forced to re-set my phone's playback to 80% of the normal speed.

Jo Anna Perrin's readings, though, were worse. Robotic is the best description. It is full of strange pauses that remind me of a caricature of William Shatner at his worst. I assumed that she was a friend of the editor who persuaded him that she should read half of this audiobook. I was very surprised to see that she reads a lot of audiobooks. Hopefully, this is not her typical work. Oh, and yes, I did re-set my phone to play at normal speed.

I tried to finish it. I made it 6 hours and 58 minutes and then started listening to an essay that was literally covering the same ground as the previous one and just couldn't do it any longer. I literally have no problem with the research that went into the book or the conclusions of the authors. My problem in entirely in the presentation of the facts. I am reminded of this quote: 
"No harm's done to history by making it something someone would want to read." - David McCullough.

I rate this audibook 1 star out of 5. This book can be found on Amazon.com here: 
AMERICAN CIVIL WARS: THE UNITED STATES, LATIN AMERICA, EUROPE and the CRISIS of the 1860s by Don H. Doyle.

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