Friday, June 19, 2020

NetGalley ARC | Living in Medieval England: The Turbulent Year of 1326


I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

If you know anything about medieval history, and especially the Plantagenets, then you know 1326 was kind of a big deal. Queen Isabella (of France, commonly referred to as the She-Wolf of France by guys who don't like powerful women) was done with King Edward II and invaded England with an army to prove it. Her goal was to topple the man rumored to hold her husband's affections, Hugh Despenser the Younger and while she was successful, she also brought Edward down in the process. Personally, I have always felt bad for Edward II. He wasn't really cut out to be king, and was happy in the company of commoners, doing all the things that made the nobility look twice such as thatching roofs, digging ditches, building walls, etc. If only he could have abdicated and been allowed to go off and life like a regular person. Considering the fact that Edward III would grow to become one of England's most successful monarchs in history, we can all probably agree that Edward II simply wasn't meant to govern and did not do it well. He rewarded his close friends (rumored lovers, but I don't really give a shit about that part. Unfortunately, the rest of the nobility did) with lands and money and titles, and this made a lot of others very, very angry.

The book, however, does not focus solely on this event, or any other happenings exclusive to the royal family. Instead, we have a month-by-month account of the year with highlights of both the royal family, and the everyday lives of their many subjects as well.

I appreciated what the author did, in bringing to light stories of people we would otherwise never know about. Some of the stories were humorous, others troubling, and a whole range in between. After a while, however, it did begin to feel repetitive. I still think ordering it by month was the way to go, given that all the stories could be grouped easily that way. I just don't know if all the stories were necessary. I also found it to be very interesting to see what was going on in the lives of the people, against the backdrop of the massive upheaval going on in terms of Edward and Isabella's actions.

There is a lot of detail here. So much so, that one almost drowns in the massive amount of detail, and that is why the book remains a three-star for me. I liked it find enough and am glad I had the chance to read it. I just found that the author's strength came to writing about Edward II, and looked forward to those sections far more, though the daily life glimpses were interesting most of the time. I think that might have to do with the writing style, because as I said, I definitely found the passages dedicated to Edward's movements throughout the year to be much more engaging.

Recommended for those who enjoy medieval history.


  1. I like books that give the details of daily life from a past era.

    1. Have you read any of the books by Frances and Joseph Gies? They wrote many books about the Middle Ages, which I really enjoyed.

  2. i was going to say i'd look in the library for this but...

    1. I know!! It's published now, but still might be hard to get a hold of in the US.


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