The Life and Times of Chaucer

  • by John Gardner
  • Narrated by Graeme Malcolm
  • 15 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The pinnacle of Gardner’s medieval scholarship: a fascinating re-creation of the world of one of history’s greatest writers
In this exquisite biography, John Gardner brings to life Geoffrey Chaucer, illuminating his writings and their inspiration like never before. Through exhaustive research and expert storytelling, Gardner takes readers through Chaucer’s varied career - from writing The Canterbury Tales to performing diplomatic work at the Parliament - and creates a fully realized portrait of an author whose work would remake the English language forever.
Written with passion and insight, this a must-listen for those interested in Chaucer and the medieval time period.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Good book, but quoted passages are in Old English

This was a very interesting book. I have long been interested in Chaucer as well as that entire period in history. I have only an average person's knowledge about the times, but very much wanted to hear more. John Gardner has written a great book--I listened at a leisurely pace over two nights--hearing about who Chaucer was, how involved he was in government, how he was cared about by others, and his place in literary history. There is a lot of insight into his writings and details of his life I found fascinating.

I want to emphasize that this is a truly good book--one that is worth the read. But if you are hoping to hear the excerpts of Chaucer's written works in the way you might have read them yourself as modernized translations, you'll have to be fluent in the Old English language instead. That was lovely and melodic, I tried very hard to understand what I could take in between just listening and my knowledge of the works of Chaucer (in modern English).

But at some point in the book, early on, there was a comment by the author that there was a glossary at the end of the book that translated the unfamiliar OE words into modern English. I felt a loss that Audible did not (to my knowledge) do anything to provide a link to a site somewhere where we could do that. I still think the book is worth 5 stars--it was well-written by a man who has a treasure's worth of information, and the narration was lovely--I really enjoyed the sounds of the Old English, and tried to use my limited knowledge of Chaucer's works to fill in what I could. What I was not able to understand (of the passages he quoted) I enjoyed, simply because the sounds were lovely. And I think that it was worth it, not having full understanding--I got to listen in a different way. Just wish Audible had made that part clear (or else this book might have been written for people the author assumed were more familiar with the Old English versions. But I don't think so, since it mentioned a glossary). Hopefully Audible can correct this--give us access to the glossary somewhere? I still recommend this as a lovely listen (to the Old English passages, just as they are) and information about Chaucer himself.
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- Kathi "Love books! Classics and lighter fiction, mysteries (not too violent please :-). And selective non-fiction--whatever takes my fancy."

Portrait of A Man And His Fascinating, Bygone Era

One of two things comes to mind when I think of John Gardner: serious literary fiction and amusingly opinionated writing guides. This book is neither of those. Rather, it's a straightforward historical biography.

Personally, I found this book a bit dull. I was only mildly curious about Chaucer, and Gardner wrote this on a highly academic level. Much of the book is spent either resolving questions most people would find pedantic, or toeing the line between inference and speculation. "Life And Times" was most interesting for me when it moved away from its subject and explored the world around him. If you're a dedicated Chaucer-fan, or a Medievalist, then four stars all around. If you aren't part of the intended audience, I can't recommend it.

Finally, the book contains several passages in Old English. Malcolm reads it as well as he can, but language that I have to go over slowly in print was near indecipherable to me in sound. The rewind button was much pressed.
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- Joshua

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-19-2014
  • Publisher: Audible Studios