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Chaucer: Brief Lives [Paperback]

Peter Ackroyd
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 April 2005 Brief Lives
Geoffrey Chaucer has some claim to being the greatest poet in the English language. Yet he has also been considered to be an invisible poet, self-depreciating and ironic, leaving only the breath of his comedy behind. In truth a great deal is known of him. He was a royal servant, who was indicted for rape. He was captured in battle and held for ransom. He knew at first hand the most powerful people in the country and, as the king's servant; he was concerned with the most pressing events of the realm. Yet even in this crowded life he found time and opportunity to write some of the finest poems in the language. Troilus and Criseyde is the first modern work of English literature. His genius was prolific and diverse and, while he was a true London artist, he was also part of the European renaissance of learning. The Canterbury Tales is an epic of Englishness itself, presided over by the genial and generous figure of Geoffrey Chaucer.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (7 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009928748X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099287483
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 280,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Like a bird of biographical prey, Ackroyd identifies his subject in an iconic image of Chaucer addressing the court of Richard II and swoops to investigate" (Iain Finlayson The Times)

"Extensively researched and elegantly written" (Sally Cousins Sunday Telegraph)

"Full, lively and eminently readable" (Laurence Phelan Independent on Sunday)

"Ackroyd's series of short lives bodes well: handy, attractive, well illustrated, useful" (Anne Wroe Sunday Times)

"This elegantly written and nicely judged biography offers a welcome reintroduction to a much-underestimated figure, and gets Ackroyd's new series of Brief Lives off to a promising start" (Scotsman)

Book Description

'Ackroyd reinvented the biography genre, pushing at the boundaries...he pulls off the feat of climbing inside Chaucer's soul by immersing himself in the history and literature of the period' Scotland on Sunday

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A strong start 1 Jun 2005
This book is everything that a short biography of a massive subject should be: readable, entertaining, informative and even-handed. And, as always, Ackroyd brilliantly evokes old London and the people who lived there - he excels at breathing life into the past.
Ackroyd was more than a little brave to tackle this book. He had to condense a vast field of study - in which there are many gaps of knowledge, and dozens of controversies and partisan camps - into a few pages without arriving at a superficial and facile treatment. He succeeds: where we can't be sure, he just says so; and where controversial views exist among academics, he objectively reports what is of interest to the lay reader, and ignores the rest.
By the end of this book, I felt that knew as much about Chaucer the man, his literature and his life as if I had made a prolonged study of the subject. All from a little book that barely covers the palm of my hand. Not bad, I think you'll agree.
A strong start to what promises to be a top-notch series - I look forward to more.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful in every way 12 Jan 2008
A splendid short life of Chaucer. The book is well written, full of historical and literary insights and illustrations and the cover of this paperback edition is delightful to look at. A delight all round.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First class 16 Nov 2009
By Hazel
As always Peter Ackroyd gives us something special. This is a brilliant biography which illuminates a life which would seem too distant to be accessible. It has given an extraordinary depth and breadth to this period and to the man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ackroyd's "Chaucer" 20 Aug 2011
Like Dickens, (another of Ackroyd's biographies), Chaucer seems an ideal subject for Peter Ackroyd; his fascination with his birth city provides Ackroyd with a very deep knowledge of the city in which most of Chaucer's life was spent. The range of chapters is as follows:

The Londoner
A Courtly Training
The Diplomat
An Italian Connection
The Civil Servant
The Court of the Boy King
A nest of Troubles
Bloody Revolt
The Affairs of Troy
Residence in Kent
The Tales of Canterbury
Last Years

As a courtier, most of Chaucer's life was spent at the London Court and the vast majority of his poems have the court as their setting.; all this ends abruptly with, perhaps, his most famous poems, "The Tales of Canterbury". The format of this epic poem, i.e. each character telling two stories, allows him to voyage far and wide.

In this brief and small book, Ackroyd has done a wonderful job by researching well and writing with brevity but cramming in a great deal which will build the character of the "Father of the English Language".
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must be outstanding! 17 Aug 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I haven't read the book, but my avid-reader of a wife is reading & loving it so much that she asked me to buy another copy to replace the one that she has (because the binding is looking a bit dodgy now). This book, obviously, will never find itself languishing in a charity shop!

Evidently, you had better keep a dictionary around because Peter Ackroyd uses some uncommon words throughout "Chaucer: Brief Lives"!
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