The Canterbury Tales - A Retelling, by Peter Ackroyd

A version of the CB by Peter Ackroyd, where he's turned Chaucer's poetry into prose and in an attempt to put the stories in a modern and un off-putting style.

I noticed a few reviews on Amazon that raved about this, and one that was very critical, saying pretty much that this was a much over-simplified translation that missed the beauties of the original. But, I thought, the chances of me ever reading the original (or a more faithful translation) are pretty remote, so I may as well give this one a go.

Couple of things of note: the intro (by Ackroyd, talking about the book and its influence etc.) was well over half an hour. One thing he mentioned was the separation of medieval society into three groups: fighters, workers, and clerics - the same distinction as was made in The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England. Interesting to find that this classification is generally used.

The first story - The Knight's Tale - seemed a little bit boring to me. It was a story of noble romance, but there didn't really seem to be much point to it: a load of stuff happened, but there wasn't an overall theme, and it just stopped at the end, with no kind of moral or summation that tied the bits of story together and made any kind of point out of it.

The next story - The Miller's Tale - was a lot more bawdy (this is the one where a would-be suitor tried to kiss a woman in the dark but is presented with, and kisses, her backside. It wasn't particularly great either. Then the Reeve's tale: again not great. And so it went on for a few more tales.

Until I concluded that they were all going to be like this: rather boring stories with no particular point to them (perhaps that's how stories were back then, and the idea of wrapping things up with an ending that throws everything before into a new light is a modern invention).

Basically, the stories were just not that interesting. Possibly worth noting that the travellers tried to compete with each other, e.g. Reeve doesn’t like miller’s tale - because it puts him a bad light; he tells a story that makes millers look bad. And I thought it was good that the Cook's tale was abandoned when he started talking about prostitutes, and was chastised and silenced without getting more than a few lines in.

But I got bored with it, and decided I didn't want to sit through hours and hours more boring stories. Maybe I ought to read a more faithful translation, but if I do it won't be for the stories.

Completed : 07-Nov-2013 (audiobook) - gave up

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