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Austen to Zafón

Reading widely since 1972.

Currently reading

A London Family, 1870-1900: A Trilogy
Molly Hughes
The Cellist of Sarajevo
Steven Galloway
Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher
Lewis Thomas
All the Names
José Saramago, Margaret Jull Costa
A History of the World in 100 Objects
Neil MacGregor
Down the Garden Path
Beverley Nichols
Virtue Betray'd, Or, Anna Bullen
John Banks
Year of Wonders
Geraldine Brooks
Swallows and Amazons
Arthur Ransome
Illusion in java
Gene Fowler
The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century - Ian Mortimer A sort of Baedeker or Lonely Planet guide to what you'd see, hear, taste, and oh yes, smell (always good to know) on a journey though medieval England. What I knew about the English middle ages came largely from historical novels, learning a bit of middle English in college, and reading my Chaucer (Twas brillig and the slithy toves...oh wait, wrong poem). So I was in for a lot of new material.

It's thorough. It has things every travel guide should have, such as what manners will be expected of you, what interesting diseases you might be exposed to, how to deal with money and bargaining, the laws of the land, and what licensing you might need for a variety of occupations. One reviewer said, "I am unreasonably delighted the licenses required to build castles or fortifications. James Bond can keep his license to kill – I want a license to crenelate."

It also has lots of lists. On the list for things to see in London, of course you must see St Paul's, the Tower, and Westminster, but in addition, make sure to go to Tyburn, where you are likely to see an execution since there's one nearly every day. You're covered for emergencies too. You learn what to do when you are shipwrecked. One option is to tie your entire family to a piece of wood so that you when you are found, you can be buried together. Or, you can pray and hope that in exchange for promising to go on many pilgrimages, God or the saints will help you to dry land. And that brings the book to that epic road trip of the middle ages, the pilgrimage. Lists of destinations and relics to see help you plan yours.

Should you become ill on your travels, you learn how to recognize leprosy and TB, and what to expect from a physician. You probably won't even have to be examined. The doc will just taste your blood, smell your urine, and check some astrological data before prescribing a course of leeches or cupping. And you'll be, well, not better, but supplied with an engrossing tale to tell the folks at home, should you survive.

The book is well-organized, has an index and bibligraphy, and I enjoyed the two sections of glossy color prints. It's a nice reference.