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A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century | [Barbara W. Tuchman]

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century

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.
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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

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4.0 (359 )
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Story
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 (12)
Performance
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  •  
    Pat La Mesa, CA, United States 08-19-12
    Pat La Mesa, CA, United States 08-19-12 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    77
    ratings
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    329
    48
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    "History Repeats Itself"

    If the Middle Ages intrigues you, Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror makes it accessible and understandable. I wouldn't have "read" this book. I don't speak French, and I think I would have just skipped trying to remember the characters because I couldn't pronounce their names. This narration makes it easy to follow the machinations of the European leaders in the 1300's. By choosing a French nobleman as the focal point for her book, she kept the history in check. There's a lot here, but so interesting. I loved it. And I'm keeping it on my iPhone, just to have if I feel like checking in occasionally, because it's impossible for me to remember even a tenth of what she has to offer, so re-listening occasionally will be enjoyable.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. Standridge-Santopietro Huntington, MA USA 07-31-12
    L. Standridge-Santopietro Huntington, MA USA 07-31-12 Listener Since 2008

    Linda Williams Standridge

    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
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    18
    9
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    "Narrator Importance to Audio"
    Would you consider the audio edition of A Distant Mirror to be better than the print version?

    no way


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

    none


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Narrator had nasty, harsh voice, which also was boring and monotone...very off putting


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    cry--because the material was so very good, but ruined by narrator..


    Any additional comments?

    Shadow County was another book I bought from audio.com which had a terrible narrator which ruined my interest in following the plot. This particular narrator had a huge rural Southern Accent, very hard to understand, plus narrator showed no emotion following the story. Twice I forced myself to try to just go with it in order to get the story, but each time I was frustrated and irritated enough to not listen to the rest--and there were four download parts to this book, so it was a huge waste of money!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeffrey Penn Valley, PA, United States 06-07-12
    Jeffrey Penn Valley, PA, United States 06-07-12 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
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    27
    23
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    "Riveting and unbelievable at the same time"

    Like the best science fiction, this book transports you to another world and invites you to immerse yourself in the lives of alien beings. And that's what the 14th century is to us -- literally another planet of ideas, social structures, relationships, diseases, professions and everything else that makes life interesting. The author has an artist's eye for the illuminating detail, and yet she tells enough of the history of the era to give you a complete picture of what is going on too.

    If I had one complaint, it is that it's ridiculously difficult to follow the byzantine politics of city-state wars in 14th century Italy. So whenever the author gets into the thick weeds of this area, I kind of tune out the names, and it all ends up sounding like "so-and-so attacked whats-his-name, his uncle and former ally in the war against flibber-jibber, until dude #1 changed sides and joined his brother-in-law, dude #2, who was also his wife's cousin's stepfather." Seriously, it's that difficult to follow, and way too complicated to track in an audiobook.

    Overall, this is really, really worth the credit, and you will enjoy spending time as a visitor to this distant century.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James boxborough, ma, United States 08-06-11
    James boxborough, ma, United States 08-06-11 Member Since 2010

    JimLuckett

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    4
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    "Boring"

    Boring, boring, boring. There is a minimum of 15 words for a review but I don't have anything more to say about this book so this sentence is just filler.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patrick Vancouver, BC, Canada 05-31-11
    Patrick Vancouver, BC, Canada 05-31-11 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "Great book, Irritating Reader"

    Poor Barbara Tuchman must turn in her grave whenever Nadia May voices her 19 hour Audible version on somebody's Kindle. May's energetic and ever-enthusiastic reading reminds me of the librarians who read to four-year-olds on Saturdays, but I don't need her misplaced emphasis and over-dramatized, breathless theatrics. What serious reader would?

    Her diction is tediously impeccable if you are Old-School English, but Oxbridge it is not. Have you ever heard anyone pronounce "joust" as 'juiced"? Yep, that's what she says, and many other Britishisms with no sensitivity to the North American ear. (I'm Canadian so I speak like someone from the Midwest.)

    I find I can barely listen to 15 minutes of her "story-telling" before I have to turn it off. The full 19 hours will never happen.

    Anyway, as Audible's choice of reader is so inappropriate and condescendingly trivializing of a fine book, I will be cancelling my subscription. The robot is better.

    Patrick in Vancouver

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    02-07-11
    02-07-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    17
    6
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    "Fruits of Tuchman's labor as good ad it gets"

    Tuchman has done an excellent job of researching all that was written about the 14th century in Europe then distilling that through the life of an extraordinary man, Enguerrand VII, Sire de Coucy. The editing task must have been enormous. Then to have introduced relevant political and public health dynamics (plague) made this book exceptional.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joey 06-30-10
    Joey 06-30-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    7
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    "Joey"

    This audio book is fantastic!! Anyone who is interested in the characters and events of this time period will enjoy this book. While at times my "ears" glazed over with all of the details, I found myself mesmorized. I consider it time well spent.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kristen j. toscano 06-26-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
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    "A Distant Mirror"

    The authjor obviously did an enormous amount of research and wanted to incorporate every piece. Her parenthetical additions often caused one to lose track of the direction of the sentence. I skipped the first few chapters. as she suggested one might want to do, but even after that,it was so tiring I could only bear a few more before giving up entirely. It doesn't help that the reader's voice is quite unpleasant to listen to.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shawn Mississauga, Ontario, Canada 11-21-08
    Shawn Mississauga, Ontario, Canada 11-21-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    5
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    "First abort"

    I could not get through this. I had to stop about half way through. The author definatly knows her stuff but did not present it in a way that would keep the reader motivated to want more.

    3 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher P. Mcmanaman Houston, Texas United States 05-27-09
    Christopher P. Mcmanaman Houston, Texas United States 05-27-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    96
    5
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    "This is a horrible book to turn into an audiobook"

    Too many dates, names and places to memorize or keep up with. Probably a very good book for reading...but it is too hard to listen too. I kept having to re listen to parts to make sense of what was happening.

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
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