Friday, December 31, 2010

Medieval & Chunkster Challenge Wrap-Up

Way back in January and February, I signed up for the Tournament of Reading and the Chunkster challenge. I've since completed both but haven't posted until now--procrastination, I know. For the former, I signed up for the King level, or 9 books, including two from each category (history, historical fiction, literature from the Middle Ages). Along the way, I discovered/rediscovered Margaret Frazer's Dame Frevisse mysteries and Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael mysteries--tons more medieval fun!

History: A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman*
History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer (also my last chunkster)
Wow, this took me a long time! It was definitely enjoyable, just a bit of a slog, partly due to my own distractions. Anyway, I learned a ton about a time period that I realize now I knew very little about. A repeated and global theme seemed to be how loose nomadic tribes grew into nations with a shared history, language, and religion. Also, how those nations used or misused their varied religions for political ends. I have to admit that the Asian and South Asian sections were less interesting to me, perhaps because I found the names hard to keep track of, even within the chapter, let alone across chapters. Maybe I should reread those sections. I'm also curious as to how the author arrived at her definition of medieval as spanning the years from 312-1129.
The Discarded Image by C. S. Lewis (history/literary criticism)

Historical Fiction: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset*
Morality Play by Barry Unsworth*
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
Since I was reading this with a child I tutor, I wasn't quite in the full flow of the narrative. Nevertheless, it was an engaging book, with some predictability. I enjoyed the way the main character changed throughout the novel and I thought Avi did a good job conveying the medieval setting as well.
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
An intriguing read, confusing at times in terms of genre--not sure if she wanted to be historical fiction or some sort of fantasy/supernatural thing, maybe a bit of both. I ended up feeling like I mostly liked the characters. A bit like Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" because they started gradually dying off. In some ways I'd like to read it again and pick up some more clues and make connections between events but I'm not sure it's a book to reread in terms of holding my interest. Excellent as far as historical detail goes, however.

Medieval Literature: The Book of Margery Kempe*
Dream Visions and Other Poems by Geoffrey Chaucer
I really enjoyed The Parliament of Fowls and The Legends of Good Women. The first was very humorous and the second was a nice defense of womanhood against courtly love and exploiting men. My edition also had critical essays and background sources. The sources were interesting and a few of the essays were but some of them really got on my nerves. Over all, I enjoyed reading the Middle English because it's pretty similar to modern English but different enough that it was like reading a foreign language at times--a fun challenge.

*already reviewed previously

No comments: