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Erik

Business owner and strategy consultant. Father of 2 young kids. Interested in history, SF&F and understanding the world and people around me

The Hague, Netherlands | Member Since 2007

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  • A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century

    • UNABRIDGED (28 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Barbara W. Tuchman
    • Narrated By Nadia May
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (702)
    Performance
    (277)
    Story
    (281)

    The fourteenth century reflects two contradictory images: on the one hand, a glittering time of crusades and castles, cathedrals and chivalry, and the exquisitely decorated Books of Hours; and on the other, a time of ferocity and spiritual agony, a world of chaos and the plague.

    E. Smakman says: "Gripping, once you get into it"
    "Gripping, once you get into it"
    Overall

    The reviews I have seen so far are between enthusiasm and irritation. This definitely is an audiobook that needs getting into. The narrator has a fast pace, which takes some time to get used to (but is required for the book not to be 40 hours...), and the topic is highly entertaining and gripping.

    Why is this gripping? The book describes one of the bloodiest centuries in European History, with millions wiped out because of the Plague and probably hundreds of thousands due to wars, pillaging, meaningless executions, revolts and brutal slaughter of entire towns in reprisal. It describes the evil character of man in its eternal quest for more, whether it be power, glory, wealth or beauty; and the ruthlessness to achieve or obtain it.

    Many developments of later ages can be understood from what started in this 14th century: the pogroms, the rise of populism and popular revolution, new military doctrines, and anticlerical movements.

    A book this size has its drawbacks: there are numerous listings - of people, towns & regions, of the composition and resources of various armies and the payment each officer receives. Also the narrative uses a historical figure 'Angerand de Coucy' as a red line, while this might give too much focus on his exploits instead of describing the reasons or arguments behind historical events. Nonetheless, in an age so void of written records and chronologies, it is wonderfully detailed.

    But these drawbacks are overshadowed by the lyric description of the royal bloodlines of France and England, their perpetual strife and cinematic character. Therefore, well recommended!

    37 of 37 people found this review helpful

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