Through the assorted cast of pilgrims Chaucer selected for The Canterbury Tales, Picard brings medieval social history to life and uncovers the detail behind Chaucer's poetic portraits. These are the lives lived beyond the court circles frequented by most of his well-heeled audience. Drawing on contemporary experiences of a vast range of subjects including war, trade, religion, plague and banking, Liza Picard recreates the medieval world in all its glorious detail.
Chaucer chose his pilgrims carefully. He sometimes raises a thought-provoking query in an apparently simple portrait. The Prioress was a sweet, pretty, well-mannered young nun; what was she doing on the road to Canterbury with a mixed band of men instead of staying in her convent to pray? The Knight was 'a very perfect gentle knight'; but why had his military service landed him in such distant places as Lithuania and Spain? By providing these characters with a three-dimensional framework - the times in which they lived - Liza Picard opens up the 14th century world to us.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Bill on 06-11-17
A history of the details that Chaucer left out!
This wonderful book takes all of Chaucer's main characters lives as its main thread and then delves that little further into their daily interactions, decisions and thoughts. Picard places each of Chaucer's ubiqitous characters in the broader context of Medieval England and the Medieval world in general. This allows you to understand their motives, choices and get to grips with the nuances of their characteristics that little bit better... and with a real sense of their histories being brought to life. To add to this, Picard also sets their actions against their contemporaries so we see another side to them which perhaps Chaucer chose not to inform us about as it was too obvious or he decided wasn't worth telling. This adds yet another dimension to the book that makes you want to read Chaucer's work again. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys European Medieval History in general.
If you like a narrative history about the minutia of everyday life you'll love this book; indeed, it is a history which brings its subjects to life through the exploration of 'the normal daily goings-on' that all Medieval people experienced.
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
By Eno on 19-03-18
Okay, but repeats itself!
Any additional comments?
This book was okay, but there were several historical incidents that got used to illustrate multiple points about the period. I might expect this if the book was about a specific event that there were only a limited number of sources for, but for a broad social history it seemed like the author was recycling old material. I also found the long list of medieval recipes in the middle tedious. the author does say if it's not your interest you should skip it, but I imagine that relatively few readers are going to be so interested as to trawl through a long list of recipes. This seemed to serve the authors interest rather than the general readership. But perhaps I'm wrong. I've read better social histories about the era like A Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful