eglazier, September 2, 2011 (view all comments by eglazier)
The 14th century in Europe might seem to be a subject of little interest to us today, but this telling of all that occurred from 1300 to about 1450, centering on one noble family and the terrible results of the Black Death of 1348 to 1350 during which about 1/3rd of the population of the civilized world at that time died makes a real story read in some ways like fiction.
This month of September is the 10th anniversary of a great disaster that occurred in the United States, but that was nothing to what happened all during this earlier century to the known civilized world. We can learn how well humanity survives under circumstances of great stress and of almost no technical advances.
Harriett, January 31, 2010 (view all comments by Harriett)
I didn't stumble upon this book by a favorite author of mine until in about 2002; a big fat illustrated paperback, with the subtitle The Calamitous 14th Century, which serves as a warning of the scope of the book. This is a tale of crowned heads and expendable sisters to trade, of adventure, and skullduggery, of ambition, greed, and the happenstances that change history, from murder to feminine stubbonness, as much as it is a history book, and I found myself so enthralled I ended up in the following years reading ever more books about Europe's Middle Ages, then about those same years in the rest of the world. I tracked down genealogies and signed up for a course in calligraphy! I found myself adding entries to the index of the book, and marking passages in colored codes with a pack of multicolored highlighters. It sat on my bedside table until I had to buy a second copy when the first disintegrated into loose pages eventually, full of comments on the margins and colored paperclips to help me match people, ideas, events. I read fiction set in those years with pen in hand so that I could mark anachronisms as I recognized them!
I had never had a book end up as a time-eating research project before, nor have I had one set me on the path of obsession before or since, and I have so enjoyed it I do not think of it as a book, but as a key to the library.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.