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Like a holiday abroad, two weeks is ample, anything longer is excessive
on 16 September 2015
I'm guessing that the best way to read this book is to hole up somewhere, sit in front of a log fire and gobble it down in 10 straight days - maybe 11 with the introduction and the time they take to set off and leave the city. Spreading it out over three months reading, as I did, it becomes a chore and the formulae are stifling: the way each day begins and ends the same way, the exceedingly polite way each storyteller addresses the same listeners on every occasion. For me, the most interesting section is at the start, describing the plague which precipitates the youngle people's departure to a safe country abode for storytelling and play, all very chaste and elegant despite the occasionally bawdy anecdotes. The stories eventually become a bit samey, and the lack of intrusion of the outside world is as I say, stifling. But I took too long to read it.
I disagree with the other reviewers who lamented misogyny in the book: it's true that there are various statements that uphold the old idea of women as the weaker sex, but many more that uphold the old idea of women as the fairier sex too. The ladies propose the trip that brings the party to safety, they devise the format for each day which is rigidly adhered to; there are ample stories of fine ladies outwitting their men, misdirecting suitors, serving up witty ripostes to unseat their interlocutors, and enduring the pride and the caprice of arrogant husbands and whatnot. One must anticipate a Mona Lisa smile on the lips of the ladies whenever they roll off one of those women are weaker, women are less or more whatever, kind of statements. Let's not forget this was the Middle Ages and life was pretty rough.
Obviously a great and important book, but don't take so long as I did.