This collection of tales is set in 1348, the year of the Black Death. Florence is a dying, corrupt city, described plainly in all of its horrors. Seven ladies and three gentlemen meet in a church and decide to escape from the charnel house of reality by staying in the hills of Fiesole; there they pass the time telling stories for 10 days.
They set up a working arrangement whereby each would be king or queen for a day; each day the ruler commanded a story be told following certain stipulations. Their existence is that of the enchanted medieval dreamworld: a paradise of flowers, ever-flowing fountains, shade trees, soft breezes, where all luxuries of food and drink abound. Virtue reigns along with medieval gentilesse in its finest sense.
The stories they weave, however, differ from their own idyllic sojourn. They tell tales about ordinary people, tales marked by intense realism in a world where dreams and enchanted gardens have little place. Boccaccio draws on the actual geography of the region to bring the stories alive; different social classes are portrayed with their own language and clothing. Within the stories told by his 10 refugees from Florence, the satire often bites deep, Boccaccio's comic mood embracing evil and holiness alike with sympathy and tolerance. Like Chaucer, he is indulgent, exposing moral and social corruption but leaving guilty characters to condemn themselves. In its frank, open-minded treatment of flesh as flesh, its use of paradox, cynicism, and realistic handling of character, this work transcends the medieval period and, going beyond the Renaissance, takes its place as universal art.
(P)1998 Blackstone Audio Inc.
A classic selection of droll stories, gets monotonous at times but becomes a nice loooong quiet read and is interesting enough for dusty old literature. However, beware... as my title expresses; the narrator whilst reading in a nice crisp British accent puts cadence and stresses on all the wrong words, running sentences together and most annoyingly asking a question of every single line, sometimes twice in a line by using a question instead of a comma. It gets really irksome and quite nearly ruins the lyrical effect of the already difficult to follow text. Its actually the reason why I keep shutting it in exasperation and head to something easier to listen to. But the content is good and slowly I'll work through it.
An incredibly poor choice of translation for an audiobook. While I'm sure the syntax is accurate to the Italian, for the modern listener, it is awkward and difficult to follow. Davidson's narration is impecable as usual but not enough to make this even remotely tolerable. I was looking forward to the book and after four attempts, finally gave up frustrated and disappointed. Hopefully a more lucid translation will become available in the near future.
I've tried listening to this several times. The translation, though is in an archaic form of English, and that combined with the narrator's form of reading -- which works well with other books I've heard, like Three Musketeers -- renders the language almost impossible to follow.
Interesting look into history and the lifestyles of Florence
Status of women
The tramslation is the root of the problem
This is a very fun book. Boccaccio brings his stories to life with wonderful dry humor, and I highly recommend it. The narrator does a beautiful job of revealing each joke that really enhances the story. I am using this book as a primary source for a paper at my school and have found it very useful. There are a few things that someone might want to know before deciding on this book however.
First this translation is possibly not the best choice. It comes from the eighteenth century, and can be hard to understand at first. I found that once I got into it that it became much easier to understand, but if you have issues with that you might want to give this book a skip. Also part of one of the stories the translator decided could not be told in English so you sit there listening to the narrator talk in Italian for several minutes.
secondly the opening might also throw you off. Boccaccio opens by explaining who he is writing for (idle women) and the background of his story (which is Florence during the first out break of plague). By modern day standards his regard for women is severely sexist. I got over this by remembering the different attitude of the time period, and that he is cynical about everything else, so why not about women? Yet again if that is not something you can get past this might not be he book for you.
Finally this book contains adult material. The author does not usually state explicit details, but it is there. I would not recommend this for kids, because they will ask you awkward questions. Boccaccio usually refers to sex as taking pleasure, which is not completely explicit in a modern context, but still it is there. Most of the stories do revolve around sex to a certain level, but no specific details are given. On the bright side of this from reading this you should get at least half a dozen sexual innuendos you can source back to medieval Italy, which as a history major I consider serious bragging rights.
The reader has a beautiful voice, but the performance is dull. He might as well be reading a phone book- there's no meaning or interest. I've read the print version (probably a different translation) & the story suffers. I'm very disappointed & will avoid this reader in the future.
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