I've only read about six G.A. Hentys altogether, during the days when my brother was collecting them. I could tell you the general details of a few more, due to the fact that I listened to my dad read them aloud to my brother in the evenings. We always had twenty minutes of Henty and twenty minutes of Elsie Dinsmore, and we got through a lot of books that way. But altogether I really don't have an extensive knowledge of his works.
Technically, though, if you were to insist upon a point, I've never actually read a Henty. The only books I've heard by him from beginning to end are due to the fantastic voice recordings of Jim Weiss. And he is fantastic.
The first one I ever heard was The Cat of Bubastes, back in the good old days when cassette tapes were still popular. And that to date is still my favorite of all the ones I've heard, with In the Reign of Terror making a close second. So, since audio books are another form that bibliophiles sometimes utilize, I'm going to review The Cat of Bubastes today, while highlighting the Jim Weiss narrations.
In Egypt, Amuba, along with his friend Jethro, becomes a slave to the high priest Ameres, who serves in the temple of Osiris. But Ameres is no normal high priest, and his son Chebron soon tells Amuba that his father is not as confident in the Egyptian beliefs as first appears. Ameres holds to the belief that there is one God who encompasses all the attributes of the Egyptian gods. When the other priests of Osiris find out, they determine to kill Ameres for his blasphemy. The perfect opportunity appears when Chebron and Amuba kill a sacred cat that has been selected from Ameres' household to replace the one at the temple. Chebron must flee his Egyptian homeland since he has killed an image of the gods, and Amuba accompanies his friend to find out whether or not he can reclaim his kingdom and return to his homeland.
Jim Weiss is a fantastic narrator for the Henty books. Always calm, with superb voice control and different inflections for the different characters, he truly makes the listening experience an enjoyable one. Our entire family loved it the first time we heard it, and I think we even listened to it twice while we had it out from the library.
Of all the Henty books I've read, I think this one has the tightest plot. Some Hentys are heavy on the descriptive detail, which isn't a bad thing, but has the danger of losing the reader's attention. The Cat of Bubastes has enough to give atmosphere, but not so much that you're waiting for the characters to get on with it. Full of great adventure for the reader crowd, and excellent characterizations for the writer crowd, this book is sure to please a variety of ages and perspectives. The characters are just a little British, but that's not a bad thing now, is it?
The Cat of Bubastes is set during the time of the Israelite bondage, and features a cameo appearance of Moses when he was living in the palace of the Pharaoh. This book gives you a good basic overview of Egyptian culture, though not a terribly in-depth one; just enough to add flavor to the story.
One of the most interesting issues to consider in this book is that of salvation to the Gentiles. The priest Ameres is convinced that his people are worshipping attributes of God through their false gods, while only one true God is worthy of their worship. He doesn't have access to the Jewish community, but this illustrates an important doctrine of the Christian faith: namely, can people come to Christ when they have no access to these things?
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. --Romans 2:12-16
God has given everyone the law, whether they have Bibles or Christians in their life. He has written it on the heart of every man, woman, and child. And they will be judged on the day of judgment, not for whether or not they've heard the law, but for whether or not they've kept it. Through the story of Ameres, we find that in a culture and time when the Scriptures were not even available, a man could still come to repentance and faith in the one, true God.
The Audio books
So far, of Jim Weiss' recordings, I've heard The Young Carthaginian, The Cat of Bubastes, In the Reign of Terror, and In Freedom's Cause. Every one of them is worth listening too, and I highly recommend In The Reign of Terror. In Freedom's Cause is a little harder to follow on audio, but that's not the fault of Jim Weiss; there were a lot of Scottish places and battles to keep track of.
Weiss has also narrated many other excellent books. Of particular enjoyment to our family was Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. I've listened to it a good six or seven times, and the rest of my family has all heard it and enjoyed it. If you're looking for a family-friendly recording, that story would be a great choice. The only one I didn't particularly like was Kidnapped; I think it's hard for an American to narrate such a Scottish story, and all the voices were opposite the way I imagined them. Weiss's most recent audio book release is Men of Iron, and he also expanded this year to digital download format.
Jim Weiss doesn't only narrate books, though. His strongest forte is taking stories and telling them in his own words. Chesterton, Conan Doyle, Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, and numerous Celtic folklore stories and fairy tales are all recorded on CD. You can find some of his storytelling session free on Youtube, and the rest of his recordings are available on his official website. They're not cheap. But it's hard making money from the audio-recording industry, and the investment is worth it to support a talented artist.
He's one of the best narrators I've heard, and it is my pleasure to feature his work today on the blog. Check him out, and I hope you find just as much enjoyment from him as we have!