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review 2020-02-12 16:47
A Vision of Light (Margaret of Ashbury #1) - Judith Merkle Riley
A Vision of Light - Judith Merkle Riley

Margaret of Ashbury's introductory tale is included on The Idiot's Guide to Reading's  historical fiction. One of my personal challenges for this year is to read as many books as possible from this list. One down. Fifty-nine more to go. Hopefully the other ones are a little better. 


This was a perfectly fine book. It wasn't anything spectacular or life changing. It was an excellent look at women's lives in medieval England if nothing else. Margaret was immensely likable even if she was incredibly naive. She reminded me of Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. Everything is more or less falling apart around her but she holds fast to her beliefs and maintains that eventually everything will be alright.


Let's home Margaret's attitude is enough to get her through the next part of her story. She's going to need it. I haven't been that surprised by a plot twist in a long time. 


Read 2/10/2020 - 2/12/2020

Book 14 of 75

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review 2015-01-02 00:00
Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire
Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire - Judith Herrin Informative and beautifully written, with maps and photographs.
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review 2012-05-11 00:00
Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire - Judith Herrin I was eager to learn about this period of history that has been ignored by historians in the West. The author's goal was to write about this period in readable prose. She focused each chapter on a particular theme, event or historical figure, hoping to reveal this great civilization to a general reader. Herrin was not quite successful. Although some chapters were fascinating, many were not. So many names of rulers or famous people were mentioned, it was hard to remember any facts. The same person might be mentioned in different chapters, but no connection made by the author or the reader. Herrin made assumptions about the reader's knowledge beginning in Chapter 1 when she mentions the name of Marina Warner without any explanation. She continues to expound on a theory developed by Ms. Warner, but never fully explains the theory or why it is relevant.Aside from the above problems, I learned quite a bit. I finally learned what an iconoclast was and is. (I am one!) She gives the history of this movement in Byzantium: why the movement occurred, how it ended and the affects it had on the Puritans. There was an interesting chapter on Greek fire, a substance used in Byzantine warfare. Unfortunately, I still don't know what it is, since the secret died when the empire died. How did they manage to keep it secret?Another fascinating chapter was about eunuchs. Some families made their sons eunuchs so they could advance in the political world and obtain key positions in government. Many eunuchs has great access to the emperors and some obtained great power. The last area of interest centered around the sacking of Constantinople during the Crusades when the Roman Catholic countries attacked the city instead of fighting the Muslims. The crusaders took the city's treasures home to Western Europe. There were grave consequences of this rash action. It led to Byzantium to prefer dealing with the Muslims rather than fellow "Christians." It also weakened the civilization, leading to the eventual fall to the Ottoman Empire. Up to that time, Byzantium had protected Western Europe from the encroachment of the Muslims, allowing them to develop their culture without warring against the Muslims.Overall, this book is recommended to those who want to learn more about a forgotten civilization that survived and thrived for 1,000 years. Today, the Byzantine world "has no modern successor state but has influenced so many."
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review 2012-05-06 00:00
Life in the Medieval Cloister
Life in the Medieval Cloister - Julie Kerr Is it an adage that the extraordinary and calamitous is what tends to make it into the historical record? This book, therefore, is somewhat filled with collapsing roofs, corrupt abbots, pregnant nuns, criminal monks, hallucinations, suicides, things catching fire and a really extensive collection of unpleasant illnesses. Its a bit of a puzzle to piece together what was actually ordinary daily life, not to mention finding the gap between the rules of what was supposed to go on (nothing leavened by singing) and what actually went on in the regular course of things (shenanigans!)

Particularly striking for me, aside from the amazing love for for drawing blood (who came up with that?!) was how deeply god was in everything to them. Nothing was ever mere chance or plain unrelated, in a way that sounds frankly like wishful thinking pretty often, but maybe illuminates how deeply incomprehensible everything, from the weather to the body, must have been. A world without explanation or coincidence.

Interesting throughout, and with refreshingly straightforward, clear and accessible writing, especially for a fairly academic work. Not sure how thorough it is or where it fits into the scholarship of the subject, but perfect for my needs in fleshing out a praxis for a character in a fantasy book ;-).
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review 2012-01-01 00:00
Medieval Life: Manners, Customs and Dress During the Middle Ages. Paul LaCroix - P. L. Jacob I love the fact I'm reading about the dark ages from a guy who lived two hundred years ago. Just the fact that his own style of writing and speaking from the early Victorian era gives the book a little more character than if it was written today. That said, a little difficult to read at times, as the style of writing tends to be more fancy than necessary. (Back then, I believe that's what they thought they ought to do when writing a book.) Nonetheless, amazing research considering the source, and what types of tools he used to get the information down in the pre-information era. Everything personal, private, social, political -- it's all here.
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