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If you ever wondered what it might really have been like to live in a "manor"
on May 5, 2014
Few books that take place in the middle ages give you a such a generous picture of every day life. The constant proximity of animals, the crowdedness before the single bedroom made its debut, the odd mix of fun and celebration in the great hall with the fasting and penance that religious life brought, the clear view of marriage as anything but an affair of the heart and the ordeal that child-bearing meant for even those who survived -- all of that is clearly drawn.
Less plausible for me was the casual way Birdy took the bruises and beatings that were administered almost as matter of course by her father and the lack of real soul-searching as Birdy herself harmed others (either truly, as when she set fire to a privy that someone was in or when she thought she had harmed her cousin George and her dearest friend with a charm to destroy their love for one another.) Perhaps the times made that much of a difference (this is a point that is hard to prove or disprove since we have little record of the hearts and minds of these girls and women) but I cannot think of any moderns who would not think a little more deeply about these things. Although she is drawn here as "plucky," Birdy's attitudes are often hard to credit. Lastly, although Birdy is often described as treating illness there is no clue as to how she may have learned those skills. That would have been interesting as it's hard to imagine her listening to a teacher rather than just being sure she already knew the best thing all the time.