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SusannaG - Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady

Just another GR refugee.  Other than that, I had a stroke in 2004, and read almost anything I can get my hands on, though I have a particular weakness for history, mystery, and historical fiction.

Currently reading

Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition
Paul Watson
Progress: 6 %
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
Ed Yong
Progress: 40 %
Wizard's First Rule
Terry Goodkind
Progress: 49 %
Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant
Tracy Borman
Progress: 14 %
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life
Helen Czerski
Progress: 20 %
The Hanover Square Affair
Ashley Gardner
Progress: 10 %
Medieval Tastes: Food, Cooking, and the Table (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History)
Beth Archer Brombert, Massimo Montanari
Progress: 10 %
Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth
Holger Hoock
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari
Progress: 9 %
Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years
John Guy
Progress: 20/512 pages

Terry Jones' Medieval Lives

Terry Jones' Medieval Lives - Alan Ereira, Terry Jones

Terry Jones (yes, that one - before he was a Python he read medieval history at Cambridge) does a good job in his Medieval Lives of painting how the medieval period isn't one huge monolith of culture and situation.  That it's a lot more than endlessly toiling peasants, knights in shining armor, and damsels in distress.  (Most of the damsels he discusses seem to have rescued themselves, actually.)


I was tempted to lower the rating to 3.5 stars, however, on the basis of the last chapter, "King," where he discusses how medieval kings are "the good, the bad, and the ugly," but not necessarily the ones that we think of.  He looks mostly at England's three Richards.


I agree with his assessment of Richard I - not nearly as fair as his medieval propaganda paints him.


On the other hand, his attempted "John: not so bad" rewrite I don't give a pass to.  If you are a medieval monarch and:


A. your barons rise up and make the kingdom ungovernable, and force you to terms

B. the Pope invites the neighboring king to invade you because you're annoying him so much

C. the king of France takes him up on the offer

D. you try to get around C. by giving your kingdom to the Pope


E. you are succeeded by a regency for a nine-year-old (a complete disaster in most medieval cases) AND IT'S AN IMPROVEMENT,


you might not be a great king.  John may not be a cardboard villain, and his brother Richard the shining superstar, but John still wasn't a great king.  And he spent more time in England than Richard (Richard spent only six months there, in ten years as king) largely because he couldn't hold on to most of his French holdings.


On Richard II and Richard III, I'll just say that the material here is so complex that it doesn't work well for this kind of format, I think.  (I'll give a pass on one outright error in the Richard III segment, because this book was written in 2004, when they hadn't found his body yet.  He did indeed have a bad case of scoliosis, and probably some sort of hunched back.)