In the Reign of Terror from Heirloom Audio Productions – A Homeschool Review Crew review
In The Reign of Terror is a G.A. Henty story published in 1888 that tells the tale of a young man, Harry, from England who travels to France towards the beginning of the French Revolution. He lives with a family who supports the king of France through the revolution and, while starting his adventure in the countryside estate of his hosts, moves with them to Paris for the height of the violence and terror. Harry’s hosts are captured and he takes charge of their children and after many adventures in the setting of the revolution, he makes his way with them back to England and safety.
What Comes With The Product
- Mr. George in Arlington
- Journey to France
- Monsieur du Tillet
- The St. Caux Chateau
- Dog Attack
- The Wolf Hunt
- Dark News from Paris
- April 1792
- All Is Lost
- Escaping the Mob
- Planning and Praying
- A Turn for the Worse
- The Courtroom
- Anguish and Exhaustion
- Marie’s Release
- Arrival in Nantes
- The Voyage de Galiot
- Home Again
- Poetic Justice
The study guide includes generous biographies of the various historical figures in the story, as well as the author. For each track on the audio CD, there is a corresponding page in the study guide that includes
- “listening well” questions (reading/listening comprehension)
- “thinking further” questions (requiring possible additional research for older children and even possibly used as writing prompts)
- “defining words” (a list of possible vocabulary words from the audio drama that could be given to a child to look up meanings)
- “expand your learning” (these are sprinkled throughout the study guide and provide additional background information on topics like fashion, architecture, period recipes, and civics)
At the end of the study guide is a list of further reading to learn more about the French Revolution, Bible study outlines for various topics, and some historical background.
How We Liked It
Both my son and my husband listened to In the Reign of Terror separately. My husband liked the fact that Heirloom Audio Productions added a prologue to the G.A. Henty story to emphasize the difference between the American and French Revolutions.
A Note About The Introduction
The first track in the production is like a prologue and features a discussion between a young man and the narrator (G.A. Henty) which introduces the idea of Freedom and contrasts the American fight for independence with the revolution in France. This is a great distinction for the producers to make, although the point is made in a confusing way and could easily make children think that William E. Gladstone, a prime minister of England who went on record praising the American Revolution between 1868 and 1894, was a contemporary of our founders.
Also when I did a quick Internet search, I discovered that the statements made by the narrator character in the first track of the CD are nearly absolutely verbatim to a set of answers in response to an eight year-old “Yahoo Answers” question. The narrator, played by Brian Blessed, reads off nearly verbatim three separate answers to the “Yahoo Answers” request as he tells the young man character in the audio drama how Englishmen feel about the American Revolution and those like Oliver Cromwell and the Roundheads and Simon de Montfort who challenged the crown. Regardless of the logical inconsistency of taking a modern day viewpoint and projecting it presumably into the 19th century world of G.A. Henty, the names are tossed out quickly and without real explanation or context and I found myself confused as to the time period the narrator was in and how that would relate to G.A. Henty’s story.
Characterization of the French Enlightenment
I also take issue with the statement made by the narrator in the first track of the CD that the French enlightenment was “trying to utterly abolish Christianity” (as stated in the first track of the CD). If you read the writings of “people like Robespierre” and also those who were trying to maintain the ideas of the middle ages in spite of humanist encroachment, you will discover that nearly all these people believed in God wholeheartedly. They were in a debate and philosophical path surrounding the level of involvement which God takes in the day to day as well as a related level of self-determination that man can enjoy. And lengthy debate through philosophy and art and music and literature which began during the reformation grew and led ultimately to humanism and atheism but did not start with people “trying to utterly abolish Christianity”.
In general, the introduction to the book (or first track on the CD) has too much rhetoric and too many trite sum-up statements that stray from the complexity and truth of the history. If you are using classical education methods to teach your children, this product will not help you.
Comparison Between Audio Drama and Original Book
The story is entertaining with background sounds that place you right in the action, much as old time radio productions. But the CDs are not a replacement for reading the G.A. Henty book. The information in the Heirloom Audio Productions product covers most of the story in the book, but does not include G.A. Henty’s words or phrases and uses artistic license to make the language used by the characters more closely aligned with today’s youth. One example that sticks out is the Heirloom Audio Productions product mentioning “Frog’s legs and snails, ick!” The closest corresponding statement I could find in the G.A. Henty book was “…even if I do get ever so skinny on frogs and thin soup…” This aspect really disappointed my son, who read the story a few years ago. He does not like products that take away the author’s original language and try to jazz them up to appeal to a wide range of people.
I understand what the producers are trying to accomplish, but for our family, the result is too shiny and jazzed up with large blanket statements that really do not represent reality. Once again, if you are schooling your children using classical education methods or other types of schooling that depend on older literature and developing broad vocabulary and strong critical thinking skills, this is absolutely not the product for you.
This audio drama has fantastic production quality and the additional supplemental materials are very well put together. Sadly, the audio content added by the company to expand and provide context for G.A. Henty’s story did not have the same level of quality. This is the only product from Heirloom Audio Productions that I have tried out, so I cannot speak for their other products. I am certain that the Heirloom Audio Productions products appeal to a range of families and that children can be entertained by the stories and even learn a little simplistic history, but if your child has trouble reading a G.A. Henty book (as one of my kids does) you should probably consider reading this particular book aloud to your children, or getting a book on tape version of the original story.