My family really loves audiobooks, especially when we are on a long car ride. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to listen to and review this audio theater production of In the Reign of Terror by G. A. Henty. This audio production was made by Heirloom Audio Productions and is a 2-cd set just about 2 1/2 hours long. The story is dramatized, with different actors speaking the parts as well as sound effects. It is very well done, the actors are professionals and it shows. (for a list of some of the major actors, check out the cast and crew page and see how many of the names you recognize!)
SO what is it about? It's about the French Revolution, told from the viewpoint of some of the nobility. That description alone might catch some people's interest, but that doesn't do it justice. It is a story told to a modern day boy about a boy in the time of the French Revolution. This boy is British and plans to enter the army when he is of age, but his father has sent him to France for a season to live with a French family (nobility) and teach his son English and basically how to be a rough and tough boyish fellow. Harry (the British teen) is warmly welcomed by the Marquis de St Caux, though his son takes awhile to come to respect Harry (he does eventually, due to some heroic actions). Harry has a strong belief in God and His protection, as does the French family with which he makes his temporary home.
Tensions in France at this time begin to escalate, as the king and his family are essentially imprisoned, and the Marquis and his mother go to Paris to support their king and the law. The lawless peasants (non nobility) quickly reach a point of semi-anarchy, basically using the upheaval to purge all who they dislike or don't agree with, namely anyone who has titles or money. The Marquise and his family are attacked and they go different ways, trying to survive. Harry pledges to assist them.
I don't want to give you much more of the story line, but suffice it to say, it is not a happy ending story, at all. It's tough and makes you think. So often when we hear about the French Revolution, I think that we kind of see the point of the peasants, hungry and oppressed, and see the nobility as the oppressors. This story shows it from a different point of view, from that of certain nobility that were not oppressing, but rather followers of God who wish to uphold their laws, their heritage, and their dedication to God.
My family (my husband and I, and our 3 kids aged 17, 15, and 12) listened to this audio production in the car, on one trip. The drama kept all of our attention and encouraged a lot of discussion. The beginning and end of the story have two individuals discussing (teaching/learning) that the American Revolution and the French Revolution were basically nothing alike--listen to it and you'll see what I mean.
We all liked it, though it was quite sad (I usually like happy endings!). My son, who loves the Lord of the Rings, wanted me to mention that he really liked that the actor who played Gimli the dwarf was in this production :) If you listen to it as a family and would like to do more than a standard discussion that flows naturally from listening to it, Heirloom Audio Productions also has produced a study guide to go along with the story. This study guide divides the story into many parts, naming them with a location on the CD so the listener can do part by part. It has a "listening well" section, which is kind of like a reading (listening) comprehension section--checking to see that the high points were caught. Following this is a "thinking further" section which contains questions which incite more thought. The next segment is a vocabulary section, entitled "defining words" which lists words to find the definition of. These are occasionally followed by an "expand your learning" section which is a few paragraphs about something peripheral or slightly noted in the story (historical fact section).
There is another neat thing you will want to access with your children. It is called the Live the Adventure Club and besides the study guide, there are also neat things such as chapter quizzes, the scripts to follow along with, thinking further questions, vocabulary words (and if you hover over them you'll see their definitions), and more! All of these enhancements make it much more than just a story or audiobook, but rather give the opportunity to easily expand this into a learning module.
So, yes, my family and I would DEFINITELY recommend this dramatized audio production by Heirloom Audio Productions. It was easy to listen to, a good handling of the subject matter, encouraged family discussion, and gave us a lot to think about. The way this is dramatized makes it very easy to listen to and visualize the story. It's a great production!
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