RaveThe Times (UK)It is difficult to imagine anyone seriously interested in Dante who will not want to own this book, because it weighs all the sources, checking Boccaccio and other early writers against the archives and the documents. It traces who Dante’s family were ... Barbero is a solid, reliable guide to the complex story of internecine Tuscan rivalries ... A general reader who starts to wonder about the difference between the White Guelphs and the Black Guelphs, and the mafia-style warfare in Florence between the separate factions, will definitely need some help, and this is patiently, coolly and wisely given here ... So frequent are the references to actual people and actual events in his life that we need an accurate historian to escort us through the maze of what is fact and what is fiction. Barbero’s book, then, will be essential reading for anyone wanting to know the bare bones of Dante’s earthly pilgrimage. On these biographical details, Barbero is your man ... How reliable is Dante’s version of the actual historical circumstances in which he lived, the families and feuds of Florence, the rivalries of French kings, popes, and Holy Roman emperors? That is the moment when you reach for Barbero, and you will not find a better guide.
RaveThe Financial TimesCrace paints a beautiful Brueghel-like canvas of the harvest. It is the one season of the year when the whole village comes together to reap; and together they work – the women binding the sheaves, the old men making lines of stooks, the children helping, the strong men swinging ‘their sickles and their scythes at the brimming cliffs of stalk.’ As they do so, they indulge in lewd gossip and banter. We, the readers, share their sense of kinship and dread the interlopers … One of the most brilliant things about the plot of Harvest is that it is like an envelope gradually turning itself inside out. We seem to be reading about a tightly knit group of insiders (‘the paltry fifty-eight’) being threatened by outsiders. But there is no such certainty. Our narrator, the honest, wistful Walter Thirsk, the clever peasant, is eventually turned loose in the world.