Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Review: Daily Life in Medieval Europe

Daily Life in Medieval Europe
Daily Life in Medieval Europe by Jeffrey L. Singman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It turns out that I'd already read this a few years ago. The reread did a lot to refresh my memory, though, so it was a wise move.

The Daily Life in History series was once recommended as a resource for getting into the texture and details of a time period in order to write about it. These books focus on what life looked like to the people living it, rather than famous people or events or architecture. Those details certainly appear, but as context for the rest of daily life rather than the focus of the book.

As a cover-to-cover read, this book is rather dry. Some of the details are interesting enough, but it's better formatted as a reference book to find details as one needs them. Of course, for mining story ideas or inspiration, one might read chapters at a time, but it's best kept on hand and notes taken from.

There are a lot of fascinating details within the text. There's an appendix of medieval recipes, and another of games people played during the time period in question. The book contains floor plans of several styles of residence and a lot of illustrations of costumes and people. There are also dozens of resources listed to dig deeper into particular details.

This book is incredibly useful for anyone who wants to write a story set between the years 1100 and 1300, or for someone who wants to write a fantasy setting based on the time period. It's not the best read as a narrative, but, as a reference to consult as needed, it's excellent.

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