Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Review:The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages

The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages, The British Isles from 500 to 1500, by Sherrilyn Kenyon, 232 pages. This book is just one in the series, The Writer’s Guide to….Lenora Good recommended that I read this book, or one like it, as a way to improve my Princess and the Blacksmith’s Son story by improving the day-to-day details with respect to the period.  Some of my assumptions, filling in for knowledge, were wrong.  I think it was Mark Twain who said, “Most folks aren’t ignorant because they don’t know stuff.  They’re ignorant because they know stuff that ain’t so.” Here are a few examples of information that surprised me.  Clothing worn by both peasants and nobility was very similar, not because of “noble” or democratic intentions, but because there were few choices. Roads were poor and travel was dangerous, so there was very little trade.  The primary way for the nobles to dress up was to wear jewelry.  Another interesting fact: only the title of King and associated land were automatically inherited.  Although the king frequently granted the title and land of lesser nobles to the oldest son upon the nobleman's passing, he might choose to keep the land or grant it and the title to someone else. 

The book is divided into four sections:
·         Everyday life
·         Rank & Privilege
·         God & War
·         People and Places
Each section includes several chapters so the reader can go directly to the desired information.  For example People & Places includes: Saxons, Vikings, France, Normandy, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Also the vocabulary for the section or chapter is arranged alphabetically.
If you are writing a period piece, books like this will save you much effort and time researching the details.  And to paraphrase from Apollo 13, “Getting it wrong is not an option.”  Too many people potentially involved with your book, especially readers, do know the details.

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