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Chaucer

A European Life
Narrated by: Marion Turner
Length: 20 hrs and 9 mins
4 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A groundbreaking biography that recreates the cosmopolitan world in which a wine merchant's son became one of the most celebrated of all English poets.

More than any other canonical English writer, Geoffrey Chaucer lived and worked at the center of political life - yet his poems are anything but conventional. Edgy, complicated, and often dark, they reflect a conflicted world, and their astonishing diversity and innovative language earned Chaucer renown as the father of English literature. Marion Turner, however, reveals him as a great European writer and thinker. To understand his accomplishment, she reconstructs in unprecedented detail the cosmopolitan world of Chaucer's adventurous life, focusing on the places and spaces that fired his imagination. 

Uncovering important new information about Chaucer's travels, private life, and the early circulation of his writings, this innovative biography documents a series of vivid episodes, moving from the commercial wharves of London to the frescoed chapels of Florence and the kingdom of Navarre, where Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived side by side. The narrative recounts Chaucer's experiences as a prisoner of war in France, as a father visiting his daughter's nunnery, as a member of a chaotic Parliament, and as a diplomat in Milan, where he encountered the writings of Dante and Boccaccio. At the same time, the book offers a comprehensive exploration of Chaucer's writings, taking the listener to the Troy of Troilus and Criseyde, the gardens of the dream visions, and the peripheries and thresholds of The Canterbury Tales

By exploring the places Chaucer visited, the buildings he inhabited, the books he read, and the art and objects he saw, this landmark biography tells the extraordinary story of how a wine merchant's son became the poet of The Canterbury Tales.

©2019 Princeton University Press (P)2019 Recorded Books

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Profile Image for Rachel Redford
  • Rachel Redford
  • 08-14-19

An unsuitable book for audio

This is a scholarly work which presents Chaucer's work and life in the world in which he lived. It's far-reaching and detailed producing a multi-faceted picture of Chaucer as diplomat, traveller, politician, man of the court, lover of art and literature, father, (failed) husband - as well as of course as a poet. It's a very stimulating work full of fascinating details and insights.

All the social and political background (wars; dissension; unrest; royal battles; commerce...) is woven into Chaucer's work. Marion Turner brings fresh insights into Chaucer's work - how the striving and unrest around him is translated into metaphor of towers and enclosure; how Giotto's revolutionary perspective becomes the startlingly original images in Chaucer's poems where the reader looks down in a bird's eye view; something as simple as Pandarus's cushion which he provides for Troilus to kneel on reflects the fashions in fabrics and domestic decorations. Chaucer's diplomatic missions in today's Italy and France brought him into contact with the works of Boccaccio and Dante - and also involved a month of 25 miles a day on horseback and a crossing of the Alps.

It's a fascinating European picture with Chaucer at its heart. The only thing is that I found it totally unsuitable for audio, at least for the way I listen. It requires total concentration, preferably with a notebook, and the facility to flick back and re-read.. As it was, I listened to about 100 pages, then bought the book and started again. I had missed a lot by listening and the book took me 8 weeks to read!

As for Marion Turner's reading:she has a pleasant reading voice, but her pronunciation of French words is very odd. The book is published by Princeton and I wonder if this is a result of an American recording, if in fact it is American. Hainault, which necessarily is a word used many many times, is pronounced as an English word 'Hay-know' with no attempt at the correct pronunciation, and key middle ages words (for example prelate) are mis-pronounced.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful