enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Bruce Holsinger, A Burnable Book

I read this book about 26-April-2015. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2014. This note was last modified Thursday, 30-Apr-2015 16:27:23 PDT.

This is book 1 of the "John Gower" series.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


A historical novel of London (with some Italy and Oxford thrown in), set in 1385, featuring Geoffrey Chaucer in a significant role, also John Hawkwook (Gordy Dickson's favorite condottiere).

Since it's set in Chaucer's era (he's just starting work on the Caterbury Tales), it's very obvious that the author is writing in modern English. But he does let a lot more old words slip through, enough that some were unfamiliar to me (they're made clear in the book, he's not being overly obscure I don't think).

Holsinger is apparently a historian of the period. It must be interesting to try to write details of domestic life and characters; a good workout for his knowledge (and he alludes to some of the extra research he had to do in an afterword).

Seems strange the trade of prostitution is plied in Gropecunt Lane, but that what people come there seeking is queynt. Though this was rather before the standardization of spelling, so.

It's a fairly bloody story, and many characters are selfish and violent. And some take huge risks for personal or even moral reasons. Kind of like real people today, if with the flavors shifted some to the bad.

Travel to Italy and back seems rather too easy, but maybe that's just because it's off-stage. The young woman who sets out on the trip is viewed as brave and resourceful to even try, but Chaucer and others pop back and forth pretty casually so far as the text goes.

Viewpoint moves around chapter to chapter. Gower's sections are first person, the rest third. Not actually confusing, that I found, but one does have to pay a modicum of attention.

Overall, hasn't captured my heart or mind the way Ellis Peters or Patrick O'Brian did. But I may well look at the next book.


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David Dyer-Bennet