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A Distant Mirror Audiobook

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century

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Publisher's Summary

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.

Barbara Tuchman reveals both the great rhythms of history and the grain and texture of domestic life as it was lived. Here are the guilty passions, loyalties and treacheries, political assassinations, sea battles and sieges, corruption in high places and a yearning for reform, satire and humor, sorcery and demonology, and lust and sadism on the stage. Here are proud cardinals, beggars, feminists, university scholars, grocers, bankers, mercenaries, mystics, lawyers, and tax collectors, and, dominating all, the knight in his valor and "furious follies", a "terrible worm in an iron cocoon".

©1978 Barbara W. Tuchman; (P)2005 Blackstone Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

"Beautifully written, careful, and thorough in its scholarship....What Ms. Tuchman does superbly is to tell how it was....No one has ever done this better." (New York Review of Books)
"Barbara Tuchman at the top of her powers....A beautiful, extraordinary book....She has done nothing finer." (Wall Street Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (1068 )
5 star
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4.2 (617 )
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Story
4.2 (598 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
 (16)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Roger A Reid 07-06-15 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not my favorite Tuchman but still educational"

    I had a difficult time following the book at time and had to rewind because I would miss something. I'm not sure why though. Nadia May does an ok job.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary 06-25-15
    Mary 06-25-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
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    "Accessible and Interesting"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Definitely! This is a very accessible look into a much over-looked period history. I came in with only the vaguest idea of this time in European history but I found myself quickly engaged.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of A Distant Mirror?

    The Battle of Nicopolis sticks out to me because of its world-shifting consequences - unknown and unseen at the time. As the author rightly points out, Fall of Constantinople is often considered the end of an era; however, the real turning point was this battle. The following half-century was just the death throes of that world.


    Have you listened to any of Nadia May’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have not listened to any of Ms. May's performances but I would gladly do so again. Her voice is clear, pleasant, and well-modulated. Her pace is very comfortable.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I would have loved to do that, however, the book is entirely too long for that.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bill 05-22-15
    Bill 05-22-15 Member Since 2013
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    5
    2
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    "awesome"
    If you could sum up A Distant Mirror in three words, what would they be?

    stunning, grand, poignant


    What did you like best about this story?

    ms tuchman does a spendid job of braiding together many diverse and complicated bits of history into a consice and very human narrative. the good, the bad, the accidentlly successful and failures, the purposefully succesful and failures of the period are presented in a very sane fashion. human behavior is human behavior. doesn't seem to matter which century one is born.

    people great and small are still making the same decisions for the same reasons. change the names of individuals, nations, and causes and your are left with today's headlines.

    this is a very enjoyable and sobering book.


    What about Nadia May’s performance did you like?

    the narration is very well done. no odd pauses. nice posh accent. one item that i found amusing. ms may pronounces the word "joust" "juiced". the first time i heard it i realized what the word was supposed to be and realized it was just a different pronounciation at the same time i was trying to figure out why the possible intoxication of the particpants was being mentioned. one might want to be "juiced" before participating in a tournament however.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    a panaramic epic ripped from today's headlines!


    Any additional comments?

    i have read other works by ms tuchman and this is by far the best. very good read. should be required in all high school lit classes

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Professor Woland 03-25-15 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A fund survey of the period"

    I am a fan of the author's approach to history and her delivery. The reader is pleasant and does a very good job in giving the words life they deserve.

    Its one of the better survey books on history I have read thus far (by survey I mean its not focused on a specific event or specialty (military, social, etc)). The author is a good writer and incorporates sources well, the books doesn't spew out events and names at you, but really gives you an idea of the life at the time and in some cases the personalities involved in the events. A very useful and clear narrative full of life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mitch Leventhal New York, NY, United States 03-24-15
    Mitch Leventhal New York, NY, United States 03-24-15 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Lived up to its reputation"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This book has been perennially popular since it was first issued. I finally read it. Author Barbara Tuchman paints a vivid picture of life in the 14th century, during the black plague, Hundred Year' War, the disastrous crusades and the decline of the chivalric age. Also fascinating was the reclamation of the story Engerrand VII, Lord of Coucy, an extraordinarily important noble who navigated admirably in complicated times, and who would otherwise have been forgotten to history. In the telling, we see much of this age through Engerrand de Coucy's eyes. The female narrator speaks clearly, with a British accent and excellent French pronounciation.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    TulalipK 03-24-15
    TulalipK 03-24-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    3
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    "I love history but this got tedious"

    The narrator is quite articulate, but sorry to say I found the vocal tone tiresome over the long term.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christian 02-24-15
    Christian 02-24-15
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    3
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    "Amazing Book --- Perfect Narration"

    If you're interested in Medieval history you will love this book! Even if you're just a fan of Medieval fantasy, this book is for you.

    Barbara Tuchman does a great job of stating facts without bogging down the story. Her way of intertwining quotes from 14th century sources in mid-sentences really keeps the book feeling authentic. It's not just Tuchman's voice we hear, but the voices of many Medieval chroniclers.
    -----
    Nadia May makes listening to this book like sitting in as a British school teacher reads to her class with marvelous enthusiasm. She couldn't have a more perfect voice to speak of castles, knights, jousts and courtly love.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harold McPeake New Westminster, British Columbia 02-11-15
    Harold McPeake New Westminster, British Columbia 02-11-15 Member Since 2014

    'reality' is a immutable truth, made mutable; by its dependence on an interpreter

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    "Only for someone really interested in the 14th cen"

    Just as one would expect from Barbara Tuchman the book is incredibly researched and well written but it is more suited to someone with a serious interest in this time period. A listener with an interst in just a little non fiction entertainment will find this book hard to follow because the great detail and many characters and unfamiliar settings. . The performance is very good

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Wonder Lake, IL United States 02-07-15
    Amazon Customer Wonder Lake, IL United States 02-07-15 Member Since 2013

    Bluejay

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    267
    6
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    "Needs to be abridged"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    No. The information was interesting, but way too detailed. Could be vastly improved by being abridged,


    What three words best describe Nadia May’s performance?

    Ok, but her voice went up and down, and I could not catch everything she was saying


    Do you think A Distant Mirror needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    horoscopy 01-28-15
    horoscopy 01-28-15 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    42
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    "Over "Wordy" and Over Rated"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    didn't think it measured up to the great reviews this book has gotten. The author is not a medievalist historian and has written other very popular books on Vietnam war and World war 1.


    What could Barbara W. Tuchman have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    just don't think she could have done anything other than not write it as it is not really her subject and was best left alone I think for her.


    What about Nadia May’s performance did you like?

    she is a great narrator,,,I don't have any complaints over her narration


    What character would you cut from A Distant Mirror?

    ,


    Any additional comments?

    no

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Annelli
    Ashford, Kent, United Kingdom
    2/16/07
    Overall
    "A Distant Mirror"

    Okay, this is a very long book and, as the previous reviewer remarks, it is certainly full of information. Precise information, at that. He also calls it 'dry' but I disagree. I found myself quite absorbed by the parallels between present-day politics and warmongering and those of our ancestors. I'm not an academic and I admit I would have found sitting and reading so much detail hard going at times but (and isn't this the whole point of Audible?) when busy with mundane tasks that keep the hands occupied but leave the brain free, my ipod-transmitted history lesson worked very well. And I truly enjoyed it.

    22 of 22 people found this review helpful
  • Jim
    London
    7/14/11
    Overall
    "Outstanding"

    Brilliantly conceived to combine the life of a central character with an overview of the peak and decline of European medieval culture. It's well narrated (don't care about her accent; she's always as clear as a bell) and at just north of 24 hours duration, excellent value.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Caro
    Cornwall
    12/14/07
    Overall
    "More please"

    Fascinating, with wonderful illuminating detail. I enjoyed it immensely.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Joseph
    Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom
    7/12/07
    Overall
    "Scholarship at it's best"

    An amazing work of perspective and scholarship. I enjoyed every minute of it. It?s not ?light? by any means, and justly it doesn?t claim to be, but it so engages you that its length becomes an irrelevance. And the characterisation is a brilliant ploy. Will Done Mrs Tuchman!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Geoff_Cockayne
    Walsall, UK
    10/11/09
    Overall
    "Outstanding reflection of the central Middle Ages"

    I am slowly working my way through all of Audible's historical offerings. This book is so far the most rewarding I have listened to. It combines a high scholarly standard with an approach that engages the listener throughout. Speaking as a working-class, male Brummie, I find the narration is excellent.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • markw
    Farnham, UK
    4/2/07
    Overall
    "Worth the investment of both time and money"

    When you buy this, you're signing up for (if you download the richest format) 4 100MB downloads, read by a lady with a middle class English accent and of a certain age. So be aware of what you're lettting yourself in for.

    However, I found the book rewarding of the extended attention. Essentially, it tracks the career of one French nobleman, Enguerrand de Coucy, against the wider tapestry of the period of the black death of the papal schism and of the hundred years war. Somehow, de Coucy, the existence of whom I'm pretty sure nobody learned during their school history lessons, happened to be present, sometimes on the English side, latterly on the French, at almost all of the events you did hear about.

    It's a clever device, and an effective retelling of Froissart's chronicles in the light of what we now know. It turns what starts out seeming dry into something thrilling and absorbing. I dearly wish, now, there was a volume from Tuchman to take us into the of the renaissance and the reformation.

    More like this, please, Audible.

    17 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • Rogayah
    Reading, United Kingdom
    7/26/09
    Overall
    "Great overview of Middle Ages"

    This book has had excellent reviews and I can only add mine to the list. It is a good introduction to the Middle Ages up to the beginning of the late Middle Ages; how society functioned and how wars were fought and many other aspects of life in this period. The 15th century is such a busy century; wars, changing patterns of warfare, the black death's first appearance, a dramatic fall in population in the second half of the century and its repercussion. Even the continual political rivalry between France and England is brilliantly illustrated by the De Courcey family's allegiences and diplomacy.

    It is well narrated and it a book I shall enjoy listening to again as it has much to recommend itself.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • WILSON
    Ventenac en Minervois, France
    3/30/12
    Overall
    "OK, but too many lists, and a poor narration"

    Although I enjoy audiobooks, I think I would have preferred to read this in print, for two reasons. Firstly because I could have skimmed over the endless lists - everything has to be listed in excruciating detail, from meals to armour to knights in a battle to... and so on. Other than that, the content is actually fascinating, with much of interest about a very turbulent century that, in many ways, had a major impact on the following three or four hundred years.

    The other reason I think I would have preferred to read it was the narration, which frankly appalled me. First of all, it's a constant sing-song, with no apparent reference to what is being said: it sounded like Joyce Grenfell on acid. And secondly, so many of the words were wrongly or bizarrely pronounced. It really interfered with what should have been an enjoyable listen.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • V. S.
    3/11/13
    Overall
    "Sublime"

    Had this book in my audible library for years and find myself constantly returning to it - a firm favourite. One of the best descriptions of the middle ages out there. I find it interesting that in all this time between then and now, nothing of a fundamental nature has changed very much. Calamitous times then - calamitous times now. Wonderfully woven, finely crafted, full of delicious detail - you get a real sense of the times and what it would have been like to live then. I don't normally like female narrators, but Nadia May was perfect for this book and she did a brilliant job. My favourite history book on Audible.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Clare
    London, United Kingdom
    2/22/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Can't recommend highly enough. Brilliant"

    Incredible details & very well researched & a very good insight, It's quite a ride & definitely worth it

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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