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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 (1054 )
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4.1 (586 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Angelo Nanni 01-25-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Loved it."

    A wonderful history. I wish audible carried more such. If they did though I would have to spend more of my money with them

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mr Personne 12-01-14
    Mr Personne 12-01-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Incredibly well documented and written"
    Where does A Distant Mirror rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of my favorite. Captivating like a novel and documented like a scholarly book.


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

    The pest epidemics and its deep consequences on the social and political events of the century.


    What does Nadia May bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Great energy throughout this dense and complicated book.


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

    Not really, it is too long and detailed !


    Any additional comments?

    Nadia May delivers a great performance as long as she sticks to English. Unfortunately her French pronunciation is not very good and, as a native French speaker, I struggled to understand the French quotations or the name of some French locations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teadrinker Newark, NJ, United States 08-14-14
    Teadrinker Newark, NJ, United States 08-14-14 Member Since 2015

    World Champion Parallel Parker

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Long but Good"

    This is the second time I've "read" this book and listening to it gives a different dimension. Impressive historian, impressive sourcing and incisive pattern-finding. I'm not a historian but it seems to me there's been a lot of "medieval times were not so backward" going around, like "they discovered X and did Y, etc." but . . . well . . . really?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christine 06-21-14
    Christine 06-21-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Loved the content but not the performance."
    Would you consider the audio edition of A Distant Mirror to be better than the print version?

    Not better, just different. I like to listen to these fascinating books while i garden or drive so this was perfect for me.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Way too much range in loudness and pace. She would drop into these low pitch, fast paced, quieter sections i couldn't hear. It was incredibly frustrating. I listen to many audiobooks and i have never found a narrator more frustrating.


    Any additional comments?

    Amazing author, wish the narration was better.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    niall chicago, IL, United States 06-15-14
    niall chicago, IL, United States 06-15-14 Member Since 2009
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    "Its a landmark book - but it takes effort"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    YES. The narrative is a mess at the start - but the material is EXCELLENT. I've read this multiple times and loved it each time.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ttim San Francisco, CA, United States 06-11-14
    Ttim San Francisco, CA, United States 06-11-14 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fantastic depiction of the 14th century"

    If you have an interest in the middle ages, and particularly in the social history of that time period, you absolutely have to read this book.

    We are all familiar with the history books which describe the major battles of a particular time period or which concentrates on the political machinations. This book does this as well but with so much more.

    If you want to learn how people dressed, what they ate, how much they were paid, how religion and war influenced their lives, what they died of etc, etc, then get this book now.
    The best bit is that Barbara Tuchman doesn't just concentrate on the nobility. She covers all stratas of society from peasants to clerics, from dukes to brigands.

    Some reviews have complained that this book spends too much time on the minutiae of daily life, but personally I think that this is the book's strongest point.
    You actually get to know how people "really" lived during the 14th century.

    The book does concentrate almost exclusively on western Europe, imparticular France. However, as so much of what happened in the 14th century centred around decisions and actions taken in what is now present day France this is perfectly understandable.

    There is excellent coverage of the Black Death, the Papal Schism and of course the 100 years war.
    We get a fascinating insight into how religion influenced daily life and what people actually believed and how much of that belief was actually practised.
    Believe me, if you thought some of the scandals surrounding the Catholic church in the last few years were bad, you will be sobered when you here what they were up to during this time period.

    My advice is not to get hung up on trying to remember all of the names of people and places covered in the book. Many of the names are similar and keeping track of interlinking families and alliances can often be tricky.
    As long as you can keep track of the main characters its probably ok to let the rest just flow over you ... while you just enjoy absorbing the interesting titbits of information we are given along the way.

    Personally I think the narration by Nadia May is the best ... note that a second version of the book is available from audible which is narrated by a different person.

    There is no doubt that this book contains a massive amount of information. Some might find this daunting, but if you are really interested in life during the middle ages then you will lap it all up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bob Washington State 05-26-14
    Bob Washington State 05-26-14 Member Since 2013

    I am an avid lover of books and stories. Audible has provided a great outlet for me to read when otherwise I couldn't. I love dogs.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A dry book of lists."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    A more cohesive history.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Barbara W. Tuchman again?

    Maybe, her research appeared to lead her to snippets of data which she provided without the context or cohesiveness to truly appreciate it.


    What aspect of Nadia May’s performance would you have changed?

    She was fine.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    The period is facinating. Some of the details were good. Just not as a collective history of the period.


    Any additional comments?

    George R. R. Martin owes this woman a bowl of cheetohs.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donald E. Campbell Pearl, MS USA 04-06-14
    Donald E. Campbell Pearl, MS USA 04-06-14 Member Since 2012

    reader

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    "Very enjoyable and informative"
    Any additional comments?

    I thought this was a very well written and well-narrated book. I particularly like how the author wrapped the story around the life of one particular person of the time. It was a nice touch that held everything together. I have to say that if I were to start reading this book,l probably would not make it past chapter 2 because the book discusses events in France a great deal -- and I would have been frustrated by my inability to keep up with who is who. However, the narrator does a good job and I did not have any trouble with it at all. I highly recommend anyone interested in history listen to this book and be on the look out for pointy shoes, the anti-pope, and inbred the leaders of these countries were!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Stafford FL 11-28-13
    J. Stafford FL 11-28-13

    safe in FL

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    "A fantastic read"
    Would you consider the audio edition of A Distant Mirror to be better than the print version?

    No, but still excellent.


    What other book might you compare A Distant Mirror to and why?

    Pillars of the Earth. Same time period with focus on the human condition.


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

    No


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Blaine, MN, United States 08-01-13
    Richard Blaine, MN, United States 08-01-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Huge unwieldy download"

    My major complaint is the size of the download files. My current MP3 player requires the Enhanced format, which makes files twice as large as the previous format 4, with no increase in audio quality. They are also no longer splitting up the book into smaller files. It is almost impossible to download a book without the latest in high speed connections,

    I drive truck over the road, which leaves me lots of time to listen to audiobooks while driving, but I almost never have access to a good enough connection to download such large files. This download would cost ten dollars worth of bandwidth to download via my Verizon wireless hotspot and no truckstop WiFi network has proven stable enough to download such a large file. I was only able to download it by going to a local library to use their connection.

    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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