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The reviews I have seen so far are between enthusiasm and irritation. This definitely is an audiobook that needs getting into. The narrator has a fast pace, which takes some time to get used to (but is required for the book not to be 40 hours...), and the topic is highly entertaining and gripping.
Why is this gripping? The book describes one of the bloodiest centuries in European History, with millions wiped out because of the Plague and probably hundreds of thousands due to wars, pillaging, meaningless executions, revolts and brutal slaughter of entire towns in reprisal. It describes the evil character of man in its eternal quest for more, whether it be power, glory, wealth or beauty; and the ruthlessness to achieve or obtain it.
Many developments of later ages can be understood from what started in this 14th century: the pogroms, the rise of populism and popular revolution, new military doctrines, and anticlerical movements.
A book this size has its drawbacks: there are numerous listings - of people, towns & regions, of the composition and resources of various armies and the payment each officer receives. Also the narrative uses a historical figure 'Angerand de Coucy' as a red line, while this might give too much focus on his exploits instead of describing the reasons or arguments behind historical events. Nonetheless, in an age so void of written records and chronologies, it is wonderfully detailed.
But these drawbacks are overshadowed by the lyric description of the royal bloodlines of France and England, their perpetual strife and cinematic character. Therefore, well recommended!
55 of 55 people found this review helpful
I initially purchased this book as a result of my budding interest in the bubonic plague and the devestation it brought to Europe in the middle of the fourteenth century. What I got, however, was a tour de force. This book is an amazing work of scholarship. The plague years, though thoroughly discussed, warrant only a chapter in what could arguably be called the most turbulent, violent and terrifying hundred-year span in human history. So bad were these years that they make the past century look like a vacation to Disneyland. War, disease, death, rape, slaughter, indignity, religious turmoil, gang violence -- all were present in the fourteenth century to degrees unimaginable today. And yet humanity survived. Ms. Tuchman's research is astounding -- more than once it will leave you shaking your head and thinking, "Where did she find that?" -- and her words are brought to vibrant life by the incomparable Nadia May. But be warned -- this is not an undertaking for the timid. It's a long journey through a hundred years, and Ms. Tuchman pays homage to minutiae. She ties it all together nicely by focusing primarily on the life of French nobleman Enguerrand VII de Coucy, whose adventures spanned the most important events of the century, but she takes a lot of detours. If you're curious about the middle ages, though, and you're looking for detail, this is the place to start. You'll never look at your own time the same way again.
88 of 89 people found this review helpful
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.
25 of 25 people found this review helpful
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
I've listened to many audiobooks on medieval history, and this is definitely now one of my favourites. The author follows the life of rich, French nobel whilst delving into the details of the medieval he lived in - both rich and poor lives. I was completely lost in this book and sad when it was over. The narrator also brings the history to life. Excellent value for money too. I highly recommend this for anyone into history.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to A Distant Mirror the most enjoyable?
I've been listening to this one audiobook more often over the last eight years than any other. Fascinating writing. Great narration. Can one 're-read' an audiobook?
What about Nadia May’s performance did you like?
A friendly, intimate, voice. Clear enunciation and diction. Very expressive.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful