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The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages: The British Isles from 500 to 1500 Hardcover – March 15, 1995
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Some of the books I read that this guide is a handy reference for include: Chaucer, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Edmund Spenser... Authors how were actually alive during the middle ages. This guide is very helpful in understanding the specific items and ideas those long ago bards were talking about.
By that standard it fails. This book will only get you started. But by that second definition, a "starting point", it's excellent. I have ultimately come to love it and regularly use on it as my first source. At the end of each chapter is a bibliography of books that go into a lot more depth on each topic. And the chapters, while short, are well organized and for the most part decently written, giving a good introduction to the topics mentioned earlier as well as a brief overview of kings of the middle ages (both in the British Isles and nearby places such as the Scandinavian countries and France) and invaluable discussions of the different ethnic groups that populated this place and time, with chapters on Anglo-Saxons, Britons (Welsh), and Vikings, among others.
Yes, you can find most of this stuff on the Internet. But who wants to surf through dead links and long-winded URLs trying to find out who was king of Scotland in a particular year? Besides, some of the places I go to write don't always have internet access. You have to have a few books.
Among the book's faults are the pictures, black-and-white photos apparently of friends dressed for re-enactments. Vikings didn't really wear those stereotypical horned helmets, yet she includes a picture of a strapping blonde Viking wearing one. Another shows a young man wearing a thirteenth-century cape and some hip modern glasses: groovy, but probably not accurate.
Faults aside, this is still a great starting point for any historical fiction writer's library. If I could only keep five of the pile of books I've accumulated while writing a story set in 1033 England, this would be one. I do wish Kenyon had expanded it to another hundred pages and provided more detail (particularly regarding how things changed in specific centuries and maps). I would have especially liked to see more specifics in the lists of words that end many chapters. Sometimes they appear to be French, for example, but there's no indication where or exactly when they were likely to have been used.