1386 and the Road to Canterbury by Paul Strohm
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult
Released: November 13, 2014
Source: Review copy from the publisher.
Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
A lively microbiography of Chaucer that tells the story of the tumultuous year that led to the creation of The Canterbury Tales.
In 1386, the middle-aged Chaucer was living in London, working as a mid-level bureaucrat and sometime poet. Chaucer was swept up in a series of events that left him jobless, a widower, and living isolated in the countryside of Kent without the close circle of friends with whom he had shared his poetry. At the loneliest time of his life, Chaucer made the revolutionary decision to write for a national audience, for posterity, and for fame.
Brought expertly to life by Paul Strohm, this is the eye-opening story of the birth one of the most celebrated literary creations of the English language.
Chaucer's Tale is a biography about Chaucer with a focus on the events that led to his decision to write The Canterbury Tales. Not a lot of personal details are know about Chaucer. The author took what the records do say about him and then gave details about what life was like for a person in that position. He also described the politics that influenced Chaucer's life.
For example, we're told details about what life was like in London and how noisy and poorly-lighted his London gatehouse apartment would have been. We're told what the controller of the London wool customs did and what serving on a parliament would have been like so we get an idea of what his jobs were like. We're told what the literary scene was like--how poetry was usually written in certain ways and how it was read to a small audience rather than read in written form.
When the politics went bad, Chaucer lost his support structure and had to re-think his goals. He had to change his audience and writing style, which tapped into the social and technical changes that eventually brought him to fame.
The book was a quick, easy read. As I was more interested in the historical background of Chaucer's life than the man himself, I thoroughly enjoyed the details about the time period and the influences that prompted the creation of The Canterbury Tales. If you're looking for a lot of personal details about the man or a detailed critique of his writings, this may not be the book you're looking for.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
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