When I received a message from Dr. Norman Mounter, seeking that I read his latest publication, I could not wait to discover what the author had penned or how I would feel about it. His premise was simple, yet somewhat complex at the same time. ‘What prompted Geoffrey Chaucer to write The Canterbury Tales? And what became of him afterwards?’ I will be the first to admit, I am no Chaucer fan, nor have I ever had the inclination to read the Canterbury Tales—I suppose I did not inherit those English teacher genes from my father—but I am usually open to something a little off the beaten path. Plus, with a title as scandalous as the one presented here, how could I refuse? Mounter reveals all in his fourteenth-century tale that explores some of the events that led Chaucer to come upon a number of individuals whose personal vignettes were worthy of addition into a larger poetic expression. There are both delights and horrors, some events so graphic that they will make your skin crawl, but all told in as realistic and detailed prose as one would likely have uncovered with the locals who had little interested in censoring their speech. Church and State prove not only to be intertwined, but make strange bedfellows, at times taking a young maiden along with them for a pox-filled night of glorious debauchery. Mounter brings the journey to Canterbury alive and provides Geoffrey Chaucer with more personal characteristics than are present in the classic piece of English literature. Most likely a stunning piece for those who love such things, though as an outsider, I felt as though I played my part and did not emerge contented. But, such be the nature of the beast at times.
One cannot always expect to love a book, especially if it is written from outside one’s zone of comfort. It does raise the question about whether someone with little interested in a topic beforehand ought to pen reviews of books, which may skew the sentiment and overall passion that others would feel for the piece. While I choose not to wade too deeply into the debate, I can admit that since the author sought me out, my voice should not be diluted. Additionally, there are times when books should be held to play a role other than to entertain, but also to lure the reader into the middle of its plot. This book did not do this for me, though I refuse to pan it entirely for that shortcoming. Mounter does offer up a wonderful story related to Geoffrey Chaucer and those he met during his foray through England. The details attributed to many of the characters kept me raising my eyebrows. I will admit that I could picture some of them as they developed, even if I was not entirely taken by their presence. From powerful clergymen to pox-filled whores, the vivid description, both in the narrative and through recounting dialogue help bring these folks to life in many ways. The story seemed sound and Mounter surely has researched the topic, as well as injected some of his own creative sentiments throughout. I can only hope that those who enjoyed Chaucer’s epic Canterbury Tales will find something interesting herein. I can say this for Mounter, if nothing else: he surely loves to find a way to use the title in the story proper, for it comes up in some form or another in most every part of the book. I have even found myself using it when speaking to others, creating a meaning to fit my need for its use. One might also say that Mounter is accurate in his depiction of the time period and those aspects of Chaucer’s journey, so there is that. Entertaining for some and riveting for others, though I find myself unable to admit to either aspect entirely.
Kudos, Dr. Mounter, for this interesting piece. I am pleaded to have said I tried, though will by no means feel as though I succeeded in wanting to know more about Chaucer or his misadventures!
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons