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John

Boston, MA, United States | Member Since 2007

6
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  • 56 titles in library
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  • A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By William Manchester
    • Narrated By Barrett Whitener
    Overall
    (286)
    Performance
    (111)
    Story
    (114)

    From tales of chivalrous knights to the barbarity of trial by ordeal, no era has been a greater source of awe, horror, and wonder than the Middle Ages. In handsomely crafted prose and with the grace and authority of his extraordinary gift for narrative history, William Manchester leads us from a civilization tottering on the brink of collapse to the grandeur of its rebirth, the Renaissance.

    Wallen says: "Ruined by the narrator"
    "80% biased screed, 20%rehashed high school lecture"
    Overall

    A World Lit Only By Fire...what a poetic title. I downloaded it thinking that my view of the middle ages would be somewhat illuminated, but wound up gagging at chapter after chapter of invective. What had the medieval period ever done to this guy? Contradictions abound...it was a time of lawlessness, it was a time when religious zealots couldn't think outside of church law. Gluttonous lords slaughtered five oxen a night; the only meat people ate had been pickled in barrels for months. The people lived joyless lives focused on the pleasures of the next world rather than this; all people did was engage in illicit sex, from incestuous popes to lecherous peasants heaped in one communal bed every night. The only fire lighting this book is the author's blazing animus against religion, particularly the Catholic Church. Only in the later chapters, when the author is clearly relying on standard textbooks is their anything like a balanced historical account, but why get it from this tainted source when one can go to the original? Obviously, there's a market for bashing western culture and religion: those who enjoy such will find this book reassuring. But those who wish to understand history are well-advised not to waste their money on this amateurish pap.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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