Jim Hodges Productions produces a wide variety of audio recordings of classic books, including 21 of G.A. Henty’s historical novels. We had the chance to review In the Reign of Terror ($18 digital download, $25 mp3 cd), a novel set in the time period of the French Revolution.
I was afraid that this story might be a bit dull, but this was not at all the case! It is quite long (over 8 hours), but was quite enjoyable. It relates the fictional story of a British teen who is sent to stay with family friends in France just at the time the French Revolution is breaking out. As the terror begins and the aristocracy are being imprisoned and executed, the parents in the family were also captured and murdered, leaving the children and young adults of the family in great danger. Harry is instrumental in hiding and saving them, and even meets such infamous characters as Robespierre in the process. The story moved quickly and was engaging without being too graphic—a delicate balance with a subject like the French Revolution.
Jim Hodges’ recording of In the Reign of Terror was very well done—very easy to listen to and follow, with different accents and voices for different characters.
Emily said, “It teaches you history through a story, which makes it really interesting. They should make more of these.” (I then informed her that there were were, indeed, twenty more!)
We will certainly need to add more of Henty’s novels and/or Hodges’ recordings to our schedule!
We also received a comprehensive Study Guide for G. A. Henty’s In the Reign of Terror ($12). While the audio production is enjoyable as either recreational listening or as a supplement to the study of the French Revolution, the study guide turns the book/recording into a full literature and historical study. For each chapter, the guide includes vocabulary (requiring the student to look up and write the definitions of up to 30 words), comprehension and interpretation questions, and suggested activities.
Some of the comprehension questions could be answered from listening to the story, while others required some research or access to a map. Some typical questions were:
- Who are the Jacobins and what are their objectives?
- Who are the sans culottes?
- Where is Burgundy located?
- Explain this archaic use of ape.” He does not ape the manner of the bourgeois.”
- What is another good title for this chapter and why?
The Activities section for each chapter provided some wonderful suggestions for digging deeper into the time period. Some of the activities include:
- Pretend you are a reporter sent to cover the storming of the Bastille. Write a newspaper article to describe these events as if you were a witness or participant.
- Research Dijon mustard. Have a test taste….
- Sketch a scene from the chapter.
- Compare and contrast the National Assembly and Parliament.
We found the study guide very beneficial for bringing the story to life and more relevant. Because we’ve already studied this period in history, the story was an enjoyable review of the French Revolution. We used some of the comprehension questions orally as we discussed the story, but didn’t take the time to work on the activities. I wish I had this guide last year when we were working on this time period, though!
Henty’s novels, and the corresponding recordings, are most appropriate for ages 10 and up because of the the older language and complicated story lines, as well as references to difficult subjects, such as war.