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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

4.1 (1256 )
5 star
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4.2 (783 )
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4.2 (766 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
 (20)
Performance
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  •  
    Steven S Thousand Oaks, California 09-26-17
    Steven S Thousand Oaks, California 09-26-17 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    63
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    "Don't waste your time with Game of Thrones"

    History is always better than fantasy. Even fantasy based on history.

    One of the better history books I have read. This should be a textbook. It's not factoid nonsense.

    It is hard to imagine living in these times but Tuchman does a great job of walking down the road of a single family's life. That gives these stories a lot to relate to and a lot of context. A great way to write a history book. Bravo.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dianne 09-16-17
    Dianne 09-16-17 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Way Too Much"

    Knowing quite a bit of English history thought it was time for some French. Way too much with unfamiliar characters. Maybe they should have cut it down(?), I didn't learn much if anything.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ernest Cline Lexington, SC United States 09-09-17
    Ernest Cline Lexington, SC United States 09-09-17 Member Since 2017
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    5
    1
    Overall
    "Good Book; So-So Narrator"

    I enjoyed the book, but the narration could have used editing to get rid of the numerous overlong and arbitrary pauses. I'd recommend other books by this author, but by all means avoid this narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Allan 06-08-17
    Allan 06-08-17 Member Since 2007
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    73
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    "A fascinating look at the 14th century..."
    If you could sum up A Distant Mirror in three words, what would they be?

    War, pestilence, chaos


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

    The final battle by the French crusaders at Battle of Nicopolis with the mass executions of captured soldiers is a chilling look at the brutality of the period.


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

    She gives a a deliberate emotional commitment that makes even the most tedious part of the story engaging, such as the endless attempts to end the schism in the catholic church.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The description of the massive carnage of the black death.


    Any additional comments?

    This book is filled with fascinating and suggestive stories of Europe (chiefly France) in the 14th century and weaves them together to give an impression of this time of plague, war and upheaval. The details of the Black Death, the 100 years war, the schism in the Catholic church and various military adventures by French nobility are all dealt with in some detail. The French nobleman Enguerrand de Coucy (1340-1397) is an anchor point for the narrative. Despite the considerable length of this book it covers a subject so vast that no doubt dozens of books would fail to do justice to the subject. Hopefully the book avoids creating false impressions and it certainly whets the appetite to know more about the period.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Felipe Lessa Marcilio 03-04-17
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    6
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    "Terrific account of the Middle Ages"

    Barbara is well known for her history books, but still this one amazes the reader. Brilliantly written from the perspective of the life a nobleman, this book will entertain both historians and common-day history lovers.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 01-02-17
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    "A history of the folly of war!
    "

    May human intelligence one day evolve to the point that differences are resolved by peaceful means!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Valentin 06-30-16
    Valentin 06-30-16
    RATINGS
    REVIEWS
    1
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    Story
    "Exceptional"

    If at all interested in high middle age history, pick this up. The combination of a narrative story and historical analitics make it a must listen. It is told in a way that is understandable to just about anyone while still being engaging and interesting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 10-21-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "Love the story ... hate the British accent"
    What did you love best about A Distant Mirror?

    The book is amazing and does a great job of depicting the 14th (1300s) century in Europe ... a time of emerging social consciousness, the plague, Crusades, knights and kings, etc. The author works from original sources and pieces together from these sources a picture of what life was like during these times.


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    I HATE the British accent. The author is American and I would much prefer to listen to a book containing facts, foreign names, etc. read by a native American speaking reader. There were just too many times when I didn't catch what the reader was saying because of the accent.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    The same as the tagline of the book: The Calamitous 14th Century


    Any additional comments?

    Get another reader for this book and redo it in American English. At the very least, make it clear to people who purchase the audio that the reader is British.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Noah New York, New York 09-27-15
    Noah New York, New York 09-27-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A window into the nasty world of the Middle Ages"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Tuchman has the rare ability to make readers feel as if they are actually living in history. That ability is on display in this book, which took me into the reality of the Middle Ages as no other book has. Reading this book, you will learn that romantic fantasies like Game of Thrones bear little reality to the squalid, violent, chaotic reality. Life in Medieval Europe really was, as Hobbes described it, "nasty, brutish, and short." The 14th century was the point when it all came crashing down - when the repeated blows of plague, famine, and war knocked the struts out from under the rotting edifice of European feudalism. The following 500 years, of course, saw Europe's amazing rise - but to understand the magnitude of that rise, it helps to start at the bottom. And this book describes the bottom.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roger A Reid 07-06-15 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    "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.

    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.

    24 of 24 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.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Caro
    Cornwall
    12/14/07
    Overall
    "More please"

    Fascinating, with wonderful illuminating detail. I enjoyed it immensely.

    7 of 7 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!

    7 of 7 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.

    6 of 6 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.

    18 of 20 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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