Synopses & Reviews
In the first in a new series of brief biographies, bestselling author Peter Ackroyd brilliantly evokes the medieval world of England and provides an incomparable introduction to the great poets works.
Geoffrey Chaucer, who died in 1400, lived a surprisingly eventful life. He served with the Duke of Clarence and with Edward III, and in 1359 was taken prisoner in France and ransomed. Through his wife, Philippa, he gained the patronage of John of Gaunt, which helped him carve out a career at Court. His posts included Controller of Customs at the Port of London, Knight of the Shire for Kent, and King's Forester. He went on numerous adventurous diplomatic missions to France and Italy. Yet he was also indicted for rape, sued for debt, and captured in battle.
He began to write in the 1360s, and is now known as the father of English poetry. His Troilus and Criseyde is the first example of modern English literature, and his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, the forerunner of the English novel, dominated the last part of his life.
In his lively style, Peter Ackroyd, one of the most acclaimed biographers and novelists writing today, brings us an eye-opening portrait, rich in drama and colorful historical detail, of a prolific, multifaceted genius.
"Series of brief bios are old hat by now, but perhaps only the prolific novelist/historian Ackroyd would singlehandedly undertake an entire series on English cultural figures himself. This slim volume is not so much an account of the life of Geoffrey Chaucer (1343?-1400) as a consideration of his role in shaping England's national identity. The poet is hailed as the 'progenitor of a national style,' and deft literary analysis explicates Chaucer's innovations while acknowledging the influence of other poets. (Readers will also be glad to know that an appendix provides modern translations of Chaucer's extensively quoted Middle English.) Ackroyd doesn't ignore the biographical side of the story; much is made of Chaucer's position in the royal court, which provided the financial means to live comfortably while writing his verse and indirectly introduced him to the work of Boccaccio, one of his most significant influences. Early vivid passages discuss how Chaucer's descriptions of medieval London can still resonate with modern readers, linking the poet to the 'eternal vision' that has been a central theme in nearly all of Ackroyd's work. Thus the work can serve as an effective introduction to its author as well as its subject and this series may be more approachable for many readers than Ackroyd's weighty histories London and Albion. 21 b&w illus. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] fascinating portrait of the man who has been called the father of English poetry....A splendid introduction to a pivotal figure in the history of English literature." Kirkus Reviews
Bestselling author Peter Ackroyd brilliantly evokes the medieval world of England and provides an incomparable introduction to the great poet Geoffrey Chaucer's work, including "The Canterbury Tales." High school & older.
About the Author
PETER ACKROYD is the author of the recent bestselling books London and the award-winning Life of Thomas More. His early works include The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde, which received the Somerset Maugham Award; Hawksmoor, winner of both the Whitbread Novel of the Year and the Guardian Fiction Award; and Chatterton, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize. His most recent novel, The Clerkenwell Tales, is a thriller set in medieval London, which was inspired by his Chaucer short biography. He lives in London, England, and is completing his Shakespeare biography and a new novel.