By focusing on the experiences of ordinary villagers as they lived - and died - during the Black Death (A.D. 1345-50), Hatcher vividly places the listener directly into those tumultuous years and describes in fascinating detail the day-to-day existence of people struggling with the tragic effects of the plague. Dramatic scenes portray how contemporaries must have experienced and thought about the momentous events - and how they tried to make sense of it all.
©2009 John Hatcher; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"This book uses a bit of fiction, mixing it with [Hatcher's] vast knowledge to illuminate that catastrophe." (Bookviews.com)
"The core of the story - the plague's effect on the lives of everyday people - is as true as can be surmised, nearly 700 years later." (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
This book is a brilliant mixture of fact and fiction, which the author Hatcher explains in his very frank preface, making it an award-winning history of the Black Death in Europe. Drawing from the unprecedentedly thorough archival records of a single county in England, this book will not tell you much about the 14th century plague anywhere else, but it does a remarkable job of describing it in medieval England. The narration is also very pleasant. Listeners who are not history geeks may find some of the story tiresome, overly detailed, or somewhat confusing, as Hatcher aimed to reconstruct medieval English village life as well as the plague's effects on it, but for a historian like myself this is a superb audio book.
As a historian, I'm probably biased but I loved this as a work of microhistory -- taking a huge event and looking at its impact in a small world. If you are looking for a novel, it may be too dry but if you want a work of history, it's wonderful.
As a whole, after finishing this book, I found myself understanding the Black Death from the ordinary people's point of view better, the fears and hysteria before, the trials during, and the fall out afterwards. There is a lot of humanity in this book. Unfortunately, the author is very obviously a historian first, and a storyteller a distant second.
Getting to the point often took longer then it should have. There's a lot of good information in this book, but you'll often have to sit through trivial fact reading and, often times quite literally, church sermons. Many of the points put forward are repeated several times, and some of it seems like the author is trying to work some medieval court records in. The introduction itself is almost an hour long snoozefest, and there's author notes before every chapter that often contain spoilers on what's going to happen in this chapter.
All in all, it's informative, makes you feel for the poor people who were so terrified in the face of something they couldn't understand or prevent, but it could've easily skipped or condensed a lot of the boring bits.
I thought this would be a good listen, being written by a historian. Unfortunately, it is written like a history, and a very boring one at that. I found myself nodding off, as the author would get caught up in the minutae of land inheritances and other subjects. He spent much time at the beginning explaining that it was a fiction, but he didn't treat it like one. I told friends who are interested in the subject to steer clear of it...
to much time spent at the beginning explaining to his academic friends that he was not writing a historical novel when he actually was. Way too much time.
"Black Death? What Black Death?"
I've listened to 3 hours of this and so far the black death hasn't even been mentioned. All there has been is a long and dull account of a priest's life story and an even longer and duller death scene (not from the plague). It is too dry to be called good fiction writing, and despite the author's intention to focus the story around a "good" priest I am so far apathetic towards him and certainly have no warm feelings for this main character. I could easily forgive the bad story-telling part if it was a good historical book but so far I'm finding that it's not. Unless you are interested in the minute details of a Catholic death scene in the 14th century you won't find anything of interest, at least in the first 3 hours of this audiobook.
This is a small point, but I don't know what possessed the publishers to have an American narrate a story about a Medieval East Anglican village??
I'm really disappointed and wish I had not downloaded this.
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