Turner is a smooth, engaging writer and an exhaustive one. She obviously cares about keeping her readers interested (and she herself seems raptly interested throughout), but she’s likewise unwilling to skirt, condense, or over-simplify, and she has an enormous story to tell ... Turner follows every detail of every one of these lives, reads them all with unfailing complexity, and even manages to be a good though sometimes tone-deaf guide to the poetry itself ... through it all, she’s alive to the same quality of mutability that so fascinated the poet himself ... for readers who already have a familiarity with Chaucer’s life and times, this meaty new biography is likely to be the best book on the subject for decades to come.
In this fine biography, Marion Turner...gives us new images of the poet ... Turner’s biography takes us from birth to death in 1400, but focuses on the spaces through which Chaucer moved, in reality and in poetic imagination. This is a clever move because there are any number of guides to Chaucer’s writings, and Turner’s technique means that the poet’s works can be woven organically into an account of his life ... The book is elegantly written ... it would be accessible to the general reader as well as the scholarly specialist. Throughout his works Chaucer refuses again and again to weigh things up for us and come to a decisive conclusion; nor does Turner, imitating her subject, but in suggesting further questions and presenting an array of new images, her book gives us back a Chaucer more melancholy and mercurial than the cosy figure we thought we knew.
It’s all about the context. And in Marion Turner’s brilliant Chaucer: A European Life ... you will learn not only about the life of the man behind The Canterbury Tales, you will learn about the bustling, fast-changing world in which he lived and traveled ... It’s a long book, and very detailed. But if you are interested in history, poetry or the man who invented iambic pentameter, it’s fascinating.
A hazy memory of a few lines of the opening Prologue to the Tales of Canterbury suffices for most, from a dusty classroom early in a term assigned to English Literature Survey, high school or college. Marion Turner's tome may not change this much. Yet her enormous contribution to our comprehension of Chaucer's moves and maneuvers within his culture will alter scholarly contexts, at least for a few attentive professors and, it is to be hoped, patient readers outside of the seminar or AP course ... Instead of relegating Chaucer to a Ricardian dynastic set of conniving yes men, Turner moves him into an elevated cabal: that of his poetic inspirations across Europe, among his esteemed forebears of what everyday language could become when wielded by masters Dante and Boccaccio in Italy, and Guillaume de Machaut from France, and back to Ovid and Boëthius at Rome.
A thorough look at the rich 'imaginative development' of the author of The Canterbury Tales ... Turner also diligently explores the inspirations behind Chaucer’s recurrent metaphors ... Though perhaps too dense for general readers, the book is well-suited to scholars and students of medieval literature. A meticulously researched, well-styled academic study showing Chaucer as the 'consummate networker.'