Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Review: Two Histories of England

The Two Histories of England by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens is probably not the hottest title on the shelves right now. I'm sure that this type of book has a very limited appeal, but for some reason, I found it interesting enough to purchase.

I read a review on a blog somewhere and decided that this book sounded like it would be a great resource to have in my classroom. I teach a ton of Shakespeare and an entire course on British Literature and am always looking for ways to liven up the material. While I don't see myself teaching this book to a whole class, there are a number of ways that I've thought to use it in the classroom.

First, there are tons of cool little stories included in this retelling of history. I don't know that any of them are true, but I love little the tidbits about Mary Queen of Scots's red wig coming off after she's beheaded and showing that she'd gone completely gray. A little gross, a lot morbid, but just what kids love to hear!

I also love the playfulness and passion that both authors show for the history of their countries. I've always thought Brits to be a pretty serious people, but Austen and Dickens both approach their recollections of English history with a bit of humor and a lot of gusto. They care about their monarchs and political figures. Like I support the New England Patriots, Jane Austen is unfailing in her support of Mary Queen of Scots. Actually, both authors point out some serious character flaws in Elizabeth I, which is interesting to me as an outsider looking in.

I wish that an American teen would write a book about our history or our current political cast of characters as they see it. It was so interesting to see history through the eyes of these famous authors, particularly Jane Austen. She was only 16 when she wrote her history of England. I would love for an American teen to write as funny and biased a critique of our recent history.

So, this read is probably not going to appeal to every reader. But, if you like to read about history, or are interested in seeing the history of England through Dickens and/or Austen's point of view, you might enjoy this.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful review. You are so right about the kids loving the morbid detail about the Queens wig coming off. When I discuss fairy tales I always tell the the true ending to Grimms Cinderella, where the step-sisters cut off their heels to fit the shoe and the bird peck out the stepmother's eyes, they love it and immediately want to read the book for themsleves.

    I also love hearing you talk about your teaching, and wish I had a teacher like you in high school.

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