in the UK
This first, and some would say greatest, poet of the English language stands before the gateway of the early modern age. He lived at a time when the elite languages of former conquerors, French and Latin, were both giving way to English - no longer just the vernacular of the common people, but increasingly the language of the court, the law, and of literature. Richard West weaves a fascinating picture of this extraordinary man, whose character has puzzled lovers of his comic masterpiece, "The Canterbury Tales". How did he remain so apparently cheerful and serene, through one of the cruellest eras of history? As a child he survived the Black Death, later he fought in France during the Hundred Years War, served as a diplomat in Italy, and became an MP at the angry beginnings of the Protestant Reformation, the Peasants' Revolt and the overthrow of Richard II.
Publisher and industry reviews
'West has written a genuinely fascinating book, the best kind of popular history...' - Literary Review * 'What Richard West does, in this lively and entertaining volume... is to tell a series of stories about Chaucer, his age, and his works.... West provides examples of the text in both its original and modernised form, tempting his readers to enjoy the experience of meeting Chaucer face to face.' - BBC History Magazine
UK Kirkus review
This is not just a fine biographer of Chaucer, it is also a powerful evocation of one of the bloodiest periods in English history - the 14th century. A glance at the chronology brings home the precariousness with which Geoffrey Chaucer negotiated his way through the four different royal households - Edward III, John of Gaunt, Richard III and Henry IV. It is a testament to his adroitness that he remained in favour during the violently shifting fortunes of the times. West draws a picture of Chaucer as a survivor, a man who married wisely and used his luck. More importantly, a man who was given the opportunity to travel through Europe, who became acquainted with the writings of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio and whose writing showed his awareness of the social movements of his time as well as celebrating chivalric love. By placing him at the forefront of the English literary tradition, West also sees him as the precursor to Shakespeare and Dickens, a poet who represents not only the nation's character but also its humour. A fascinating biography writeen with great warmth and appreciation of the scope of the subject. If Chaucer wasn't your favourite subject at school, reading this book will make you wonder why. (Kirkus UK)
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