Monday, July 05, 2010

They Saw It Happen

They Saw It HappenJust a light posting today. I don't know if you notice but I normally save bigger posts for Mondays but then today isn't just any old day.

Because Independence Day fell on a Sunday this year, we're doing our celebrating today and I'm betting many of you are doing the same thing so we'll take it easy together, shall we?

Besides, I've got a fabulous giveaway running this week that I'm posting today as well so in reality you're getting double the bang for your buck--be sure to check it out because I'm very excited to be offering such a fine prize.

Lately I've been doing a bit of knitting and crochet and quilting--things with my hands--and it drives me crazy to just sit there, staring at the yarn without a thought in my head so I like to listen to audio books while I'm working or exercising. I found this gem on Listen Alaska that allows you to download audio books in both WMA and MP3 formats as if you were checking them out of the library. So it's free people, free, free, free!

They Saw It Happen is a collection of first-hand accounts of various historical events. Sound ho-hum? Not at all! Each segment is given by an actor (sometimes with appropriate accents) as if they were the writer speaking to an audience, telling about whatever event they had the privilege of viewing. Starting with the battle of Thermopylae in ancient Greece (aka 300 for you graphic novel fans), through the Crusaders taking Jerusalem, the fall of Masada, the Black Death of the 14th century, the execution of Charles I, the great fire of London, the Salem witch trials, the Boston Tea Party, the execution of Louis VI, the battles of Bull Run and Little Big Horn, the San Francisco fire, the sinking of the Titanic, the opening of King Tut's tomb, trench warfare in World War I, the Wright brothers first flight, Lindbergh's Atlantic crossing and the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. To name just a few.

However, some of the segments are those where someone is observing a famous person and giving their general impressions--such as Napoleon or Marie Antoinette--which gives you a strangely personal and intimate look at these historical celebrities. Some segments are written by average people or reporters who describe what life was like in their world. For example, they have people giving their impressions of public executions, child labor, cock fighting or a slave auction in Virginia. One woman--a social worker from 19th century Paris--even described the horrors of prostitution in London in the most moral and Victorian of ways and it was just as fascinating as the other parts.

Perhaps the most interesting was the narrative by a naval midshipmen stationed on the U.S.S. Arizona and who survived his crew and his ship when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. His first person narration of the fight is at the same time horrifying and moving and the narrative that follows his account is by a Japanese pilot who flew one of the bombers for his own country that same morning. Strange to hear two men speaking of the same event from their own perspectives and I tell you it makes an impression.

The most disturbing account was the official statement made by Rudolph Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz. During the Nuremberg trials he signed a sworn statement which an actor reads, making you feel as if you were sitting down to tea with the man who is credited with killing three million Jews. He describes his career and the conditions in the camps and his pride in his efficiency in executing so many at a time--all with a cold-blooded carelessness that is terrifying.

So if you're a history enthusiastic or even just a person who likes a good story I'd recommend this for your listening library. I've burned the four parts onto CD and plan on keeping this one around and forcing my children to listen to sections from time to time. It'll be a good way for them to get a dose of what life was like outside of the 21st century.

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Inkling said...

Free audio books sounds like an awesome idea. You might enjoy checking out Andy Andrews. I just read his book, The Heart Mender, set in WW2 about an American widow and a German widower who served on a u-boat. Apparently, u-boats from Germany were common along our Southern coast, but the media was asked to keep it hush hush by the government. Anyway, it's a good story, and now I'm wanting to check out his other books. Just thought I'd pass it on.

Daisy said...

Fabulous. My son listens to audio books a lot (he's blind). We are regulars in the young adult audio section of our library.

Are you on They have many audio books, too.

Chad's Travels said...

My wife often sends me links to your posts, and I've always enjoyed them. I've also been hooked on audiobooks, and discovered you have reviewed several of my favorite here. (Born to Run, Endurance)

This one sounds great as well although I believe you left an X off of Louis the VI. Thanks for your entertaining articles!

Stephanie said...

Sounds fascinating. I may see if my local library carries it.

J at said...

I've never downloaded an audiobook before, but I'm pretty tempted to figure out how to do it with this review. :)