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Chaucer Reviews

Chaucer by Marion Turner

Chaucer: A European Life

Marion Turner

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1 review

Imprint: Princeton University Press
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 1 Mar 2019
ISBN: 9780691160092
  • The TimesBook of the Year
5 stars out of 5
29 Mar 2019

"her book gives us back a Chaucer more melancholy and mercurial than the cosy figure we thought we knew."

In this fine biography, Marion Turner, a fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, gives us new images of the poet, who was born to a family of well-to-do London vintners around 1342 and became a bureaucrat, diplomat, courtier and friend of the powerful as well as one of the most famous poets of his day. Some of the images Turner gives us are well known to specialists, but some are surprising. Chaucer began his career as an adolescent page in the “great household” of Elizabeth de Burgh, where he was kitted out in a fashionable kind of tunic called a “paltok”, which Turner shows was so skimpy that it did not cover one’s backside or genitals...The book is elegantly written, with a set of well-chosen maps, family trees and colour images. It would be accessible to the general reader as well as the scholarly specialist. Throughout his works Chaucer refuses again and again to weigh things up for us and come to a decisive conclusion; nor does Turner, imitating her subject, but in suggesting further questions and presenting an array of new images, her book gives us back a Chaucer more melancholy and mercurial than the cosy figure we thought we knew.

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