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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 14 May 2009
If you ever found Chaucer's poetry a bit difficult - esp. over 400 pages - this new prose version is for you. Peter Ackroyd, an accomplished novelist, historian and biographer of Chaucer is the perfect match for this most famous of all texts in English literature. He's produced a fluent, accessible and thoroughly enjoyable retelling of the Tales. You can tell how much fun he's had doing it, too, as the best of the stories are as ribald and laugh-out-loud as you could hope. This edition is very nicely produced, too, with a ribbon marker, newly commissioned illustrations by Nick Bantock and a full introduction by Ackroyd himself. Highly recommended.
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on 27 October 2009
Ackroyd's prose is jaunty and smooth, sweeping you along with joy while sticking close to the original. Poetry into prose isn't easy, but Ackroyd makes it look easy. This is a great improvement on Nevill Coghill's boring translation, which falls between two stools. One stool is making the work transparent and easily readable to the modern reader, while retaining most of what is important in the work. This Ackroyd achieves by stressing the "tales" aspect and using a prose that reads like that of an easy, but literate, modern novel. The other stool is keeping most of the poetry found in the original. As Ackroyd's is a prose translation he, obviously, doesn't keep poetic form, and he certainly shouldn't (and doesn't) keep any obvious rhyme! But his prose maintains as much of the aesthetic value of the original as is possible in straightforward prose. Penguin, amongst others, publish versions of the original with lots of support (it's needed!) Having given up on the Tales in the past because of the inherent difficulties of the original, and the unattractiveness of Coghill, I am grateful to Ackroyd for making this work available to me as a wonderful story.
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on 30 May 2010
This book is a fabulous translation of the Canterbury Tales. Peter Ackroyd has managed to translate this book into modern English without losing any of the characterisation of the tales. (I have read the original)

I would recommend this book, it is easy to read as you can just read individual tales. I have actually bought this for my daughter as well as myself and she too found it very entertaining.
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on 4 September 2010
Having gained an opportunity to work as an export officer of the thriving wool industry, Geoffrey Chaucer was bound to liaise with a wide variety of people. It seems that he cautiously observed every person's behaviour and manner, and listened to what the merchant, clerk, monk etc were saying and possibly thinking. Then, he demonstrated skillful descriptions of each person's appearance and feelings, and compiled their imaginative stories of romance, tragedy, suspense, and morals, which influenced on the English authors later on. Interestingly, Chaucer had picked up the people's scandalous stories, e.g. sex, theft, and used the direct words to describe the situation. Philosopher, clerk, monk, and nun were keen to talk about Jesus and his useful advice, and Chaucer included a list of useful lessons provided by him in the tale.
Peter Ackroyd have superbly translated the masterpiece into modern English and has successfully brought the readers into the medieval period. It's easy to read and utterly convincing work.
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on 13 December 2015
I'm sure it is a great book, I've had it for ages and have read the same eight pages about four times, but very well-written first eight pages! When I have more time I will read it in full. Love the cover too!
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on 13 May 2009
The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling by Peter Ackroyd (Penguin Classics) Long an enthusiastic reader of Ackroyd's fiction, intrigued by his biography of Dickens and forgiving of his account of Roman London, I was shocked by this so-called retelling of one England' greatest works. It is shot through with bad translation, mistranslation and a general lack of sympathy with the work. Nicholas in "The Miller's Tale" does not "rub the juice of sweet herbs over his body", rather he "decked his chamber with sweet herbs ".A few lines on "His wardrobe was draped with an old scarlet curtain": why is it old and where do the girls who notice this come from? In the "Reeve's Tale" the scholars "were both from a town called Newcastle": why then ,four pages later, are they talking as if they are from 21st century South London? Ackroyd's prose is flat and fragmented, as though he translates one sentence or even one line at a time with no regard for the overall sweep of a passage. Poetry into prose is not easy but it needs to be much better than this. A student presenting me with work like this would have been lucky to get C minus. Thank goodness Penguin still has Nevill Coghill's masterly translation in its list.
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on 12 April 2012
Brings Chaucer to life, the wonderful mix of high and low, laugh out loud humour combined with great wisdom. If you ever get fooled again in life after reading this, then you deserve it!
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on 28 May 2009
I enjoyed reading Peter Ackroyd's retelling of the Canterbury Tales immensely. I was slightly intimidated by the idea of reading The Canterbury Tales, because I didn't enjoy it at school, but I found the stories really entertaining and funny. They are naughty too!
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on 12 September 2013
Has an amazing ability to bring the language up-to-date without destroying the original. Excellent in every way. For a change read his London - The Biography"
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on 10 October 2014
To rewrite Chaucer in today's idiom invites disdain from the purists, but for one such as me, whose education omitted both this vital classic, and the linguistic tools that would have given me access to the original, Ackroyd has here done much to fill the gap that I have always known. Of course I cannot more than guess at what might have been left out, but I found the version highly illuminating, and even rather curious concerning the ways in which the modern idiom might have refreshed the original. No doubt those who are better educated, and privileged with the ability to hear clearly the master's intentions might find faults, because Ackroyd's viewpoint must needs be idiosyncratic. But I learned much, and not just from Ackroyd's sweet and stimulating prose. I feel I now have an inkling of why Chaucer's work was so important.
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