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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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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    607
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    76
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    37

Performance

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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    219
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    103
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    35
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    20

Story

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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    33
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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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

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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

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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