A history so rich and varied as that of English Literature cannot hope to be so detailed in four hours but Naxos have once again managed just that with another winner narrative that encompasses all the important facets that are imaginable.
The story starts from the earliest days of Geoffrey Chaucer and ends with the modern writers but there is such a lot in between, a complete package of legends that have thrilled many a heart and soul for centuries on end. Shakespeare's intriguing background, the largesse of Sir Philip Sidney, Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser and the lot all come into their own here and the judiciously chosen excerpts are brilliantly read.
Progressing onto other giants such as Daniel Defoe and Fanny Cleland, one begins to see a gradual change in the style of writing that has now become more of an experience than straight narrative. The veritable explosion of writers in the early 19th century is also quite brilliantly dealt with, the rich seam of talent in Keats, the Bronte sisters, Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth et al are all covered in fascinating detail.
There is also the inimitable Dickens, the towering figure espoused in all his social anger, the Coketown excerpt from 'Hard Times' is indeed quite unforgettable in Anton Lesser's reading. And the story goes on with Kipling, Hardy, Joyce and all the giants of the 20th century up to Greene and the present day writers.
It is a fascinating and most entertaining listen throughout and 'The History of English Literature' should certainly find a place on everyone's bookshelf, it's the ideal guide to the most original literature of the world!
Copyright © 2001 by Gerald Fenech.