Marion Turner tells the story of where Chaucer's favorite character came from, how she related to real medieval women, and where her many travels have taken her since the fourteenth century, from Falstaff and Molly Bloom to #MeToo and Black Lives Matter.
Turner shows with great care how literature and life come together in Chaucer’s writing ... She piles up fascinating evidence about women’s economic power in England after the Black Death, about the anxieties independent widows like Alison provoked in society, about women’s hopes for healing (and fear of assault) on pilgrimages... The history of women in the Middle Ages is fraught with uncertainties, especially when it comes to source material and authorship; Turner unfurls this complexity in elegant, quietly angry prose, grounded in deep scholarly research ... Turner’s biography of Alison of Bath demonstrates the stunning resonance of medieval prejudice in the present. But Turner also shows the many ways that writers through the centuries have subverted the misogynist canon: none more revolutionary than Chaucer himself.
Turner’s immensely entertaining 'biography' will make you fall in love with the Wife of Bath, whom she crowns 'the first ordinary woman in English literature' ... Turner’s greatest skill is her ability to present years of arcane research in chapters that are always wonderfully accessible and briskly entertaining ... Turner’s most audacious claim is that Chaucer created what we now think of as real people with interior minds in fiction.
... this book is an intriguing combination of the fantastically bawdy and the deadly serious. It contains all the academic throat-clearing you might expect from a dissertation... and all the forensic research, too ... Turner is clearly a Wife of Bath megafan... and readers are assumed to have a thorough knowledge of the original text.