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Down the Common: A Year in the Life of a Medieval Woman

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  277 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Gifted with the ability to see beauty when others only see hunger, brutal work, and disease, Marion becomes her medieval English village's salvation, in an evocative celebration of Everywoman.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 9th 1998 by M. Evans and Company (first published December 31st 1996)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jan 18, 2009 Jody rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Ok, this is NOT the best book ever written. In fact it is pretty simplistic. However it is the 1st historical fiction book I've ever read - and I read LOTS of them to talk about what the life a common everyday womand was like.

Marion is not a beautiful woman, I'm guessing her age at somewhere between 20-30 (her 1st child had lived to be 12). She has no one to dress her or put her hair up or make her food... The wife of a carpenter still puts her pretty high up on the food chain, but what she goe
Aug 11, 2010 Lindsey rated it it was amazing
This book is simply amazing. It is an account of everyday life in a medieval village through the eyes of an ordinary woman who is married to the village carpenter. There are no battles, no kings and queens, no pilgrimages or Crusades. In fact, not a lot happens in this novel. The narrator never even tells us what year the story is set in and the events are just everyday happenings in a medieval village. The book is split up into months and is more of a diary about village life than anything else ...more
Mar 22, 2011 Linda rated it really liked it
A diary well, no, not really, but this novel of a woman and her family in the Middle Ages has that feel. Each chapter is an account of a day in the life of Marion, and the twelve chapters take her through a year. There is not much plot in the chapters; I hesitate to call them short stories, but the joys and sorrows and harshness of their lives come through loud and clear. This is a very human novel. Marion's husband is the village carpenter, and their two children are Alice, a toddler, and Peter ...more
Feb 02, 2008 Sumi rated it really liked it
The title sums up the book. Starting with March, a slice of daily life for Marion Carpenter is given from month to month for a year.

The manor in the book is not some grand holding. It seems like it's just a very large farm. It's also difficult to determine exactly in what year the story is set. The author doesn't give you much more than what Marion herself would have known or understood and it's apparently a VERY remote little village.

Still, it's the details of her everyday life that pull me to
Jul 21, 2012 Ellen rated it it was amazing
All too often, our glimpses into the past are all about the movers and shakers of the time. That is only to be expected since they were the people who shaped their times. However, whatever the age, there were always common people who lived and died along side them, usually without any notice given to them. This book changes that. It is a chronicle of a year in the life of a common woman and her fmily. The year is not explicitly given, neither is the location. All the better to tell the story of ...more
Carole Roman
May 20, 2013 Carole Roman rated it it was amazing
Ann Baer writes a terrific and sensitive book about the life of a serf in England during medieval times. Using one day each month for a year, she almost diaries Maggie's life. We get an honest picture of the daily struggle to survive for that era. Both heart wrenching and joyous, we get to know her friends, family and contemporaries. Totally from her viewpoint, we watch her deal with sorrow , adjust and then oddly enough grow to notice things that will be passed onto the next generation. I wish ...more
One of the reasons I adore historical fiction so much is because I am absolutely fascinated by how people lived well before modern times. Even something as recent as the 1930s and 1940s are fascinating to me because of how quickly our world has changed with the advent of televisions, telephones, the internet, and smartphones.

But usually historical fiction stays in pretty safe waters, generally no earlier than the 1700s because people didn't really start writing down what life was like until the
Nov 23, 2007 Nicole rated it it was amazing
This truly brings history to life. I was fascinated by the day to day existence of a medieval woman. By the end of this novel, I felt as if I had been through the year with her and felt grateful for being born in the twentieth century. Even though it is fiction, it brought affirms that people have had the same feelings, frustrations, and hopes no matter when they lived.
Madeline Solk
Apr 26, 2013 Madeline Solk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this unusual book. Every day while reading this, I thought about the main character, Marion. She lived in a society and time when life was just plain hard, dirty and tough. Her mantra was, endure, endure, endure. This is all she and the rest of the village in these medieval times would ever know. There was no soap and rarely did anyone think of washing their body or clothes. Since soap was not invented or heard of no one could be clean even if the thought ever occurred to them. Water was ...more
Lora Shouse
Dec 14, 2015 Lora Shouse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not the kind of book you get for its flashy writing. The subtitle is ‘A Year in the Life of a Medieval Woman’, and that is a good description of the book. It is set in a village apparently in England; the name of the village is never mentioned although the nearest larger town and another even tinier hamlet that is an offshoot of the main village are named. The exact year is never mentioned either, although as life seems to go on more or less the same from year to year for a very long tim ...more
Apr 05, 2009 Allison rated it liked it
I found this book fascinating; not a whole lot happens in terms of plot, but it was so interesting to read what life might have been like for a Medieval woman. Everything from parenting, to food, to work, to the homes they lived's incredible to get some idea of how different life was. Really made me glad to live in the 21st century, that's for sure!
Sep 12, 2009 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I loved this book. It gave a great perspective on hard life was in the Middle Ages. I have a newfound appreciation for soap, hot water and owning more than one set of clothes!
Martine Taylor
Aug 06, 2011 Martine Taylor rated it really liked it
really interesting perspective, makes you appreciate your modern conveniences, like having a bathroom and more than one bowl.
There is a loose story with dialogue, but large sections of the book are description, more nonfiction than fiction. The author does a great job providing the nitty gritty details of what day to day life was like for the peasants in medieval England. Life is very hard and short. You'll have a newfound respect for modern conveniences after reading this book. Marion, the heroine, is a poor but skilled woman in a good, happy marriage to a carpenter. She has children, and like many other women of tha ...more
May 27, 2013 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite 'historical novels,' this book is a fascinating look at one year in the life of Marion, a medieval peasant woman in a small, isolated English village. Just where and when this story takes place is undefined because the first-person narrator has no concept of when or where she is living. Her setting is her village and family, and she gracefully observes the small dramas, joys, and sorrows of her life as a daughter of a miller, wife of a nearsighted carpenter, and mother of two ...more
Jul 27, 2015 Kathy rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I cannot read this and will have to put it on the bookshelf for a wintry day when I have nothing else to read as it is truly depressing. I bought this at Newberry Library Book Fair because I do enjoy reading novels set in Medieval time period but this describes drudgery and daily life of the most dispirited village of people I have come across in literature.
Jan 20, 2016 Kathleen rated it liked it
This is a really excellent story of the life of a medieval woman in a small English village. The author does a great job of conveying the challenges & rewards of such a life, as well as the importance of the cohesiveness of the village to the survival of all.
Jun 15, 2014 Amanda rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, adult, women
This book is mostly notable for being about a serf! A while back I was complaining about the absence of historical novels about peasants (rather than your Tudors etc.) and my husband was like, "that's because their lives were boring." True! There's no story here - it tells you about a day each month of this woman's life, so it's a lot of tending the fire, chatting to the neighbors, and getting barfed on by kids - but the detail is fascinating and often kind of gross. If you want to appreciate li ...more
Mar 26, 2016 Deb rated it it was amazing
I have read this book twice and recommended it to several friends. It is not the happiest book, but it certainly captures the feeling of being back in the times in which this woman exists.
Barbara Froman
Jun 08, 2016 Barbara Froman rated it it was amazing
I bought this in 1998. And have read and re-read it many times. One of my faves.
Princess Pepperdoodle
Apr 02, 2012 Princess Pepperdoodle rated it it was ok
The author has a real talent for details that put you in the scene, make it seem real. That's the good part of the book.

On the other hand, there's no plot and nothing happened. There's charactors are static and they don't seem to interact or effect each other at all: it's all just told to you through the lackluster main charactor. It's all static description.

And Marion exists in limbo. I think that in order to make Marion an Everywoman, the author had to strip her of all location, all culture,
Jan 24, 2016 Monica added it
Shelves: a-favorite
One of my favorite historical fictions.
Oct 15, 2013 Crystal rated it it was amazing
This is a remarkable book. Told from the perspective of Marion, a woman married to a carpenter, who has borne several children of which two survive, it paints an extraordinarily vivid picture of life in a medieval peasant village. It has very little in the way of plot; it takes the form of 12 loosely-connected vignettes over the course of one year. The author, Ann Baer, was 82 years old when she wrote this, her first and only novel. It utterly unlike most novels I've read and I recommend it abso ...more
Feb 11, 2014 Kelly rated it liked it
Very simple read, but great character building and very hard to put down. This I will say, I have never felt more grateful for things like dry, clean clothes, food to eat everyday and not dying during childbirth. I recommend to anyone that is interested in domestic history.
Purr More
Nov 04, 2009 Purr More rated it it was amazing
I read this book years ago but really enjoyed it and still recommend it to anyone who likes to read about the medieval era. You learn a lot of about the little details of life that history books don't tell you and you get it in a more interesting fiction novel than a dry history format. It is not an exciting story but I was absorbed by all the details of what it might actually be like to live during this time period.
Apr 03, 2013 Loretta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know people feel that not much happens in this book, but lives in those days were pretty basic. I found it a fascinating glimpse into the past. Small things would have been a much bigger deal then than now. Remember travel was well nigh impossible, especially for the poor. There was little or no entertainment. So it is interesting to see the way life may have been lived. I enjoyed it.
Barbara Lipp
Sep 27, 2015 Barbara Lipp rated it really liked it
A very well written, interesting depiction of day-to-day life in England's middle ages. It's a slice of life that I have rarely imagined, or read such a vivid description of. There is little drama, just the minutia and hardships of getting by, from the perspective of one woman and her family. Very absorbing.
Absolutely fascinating story of the life of a woman and her family during one year in a medieval village. I learned alot about medieval life-what it felt like to live in those times..the disease without meds, the lack of comforts that we have, and the heart wrenching but common loss of life in the young.
Dec 20, 2013 Thelma rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Thelma by: Assignment for 9th Grade Honors World History Class
I really was not a fan of this book. I read it only halfway through! The thing is: it was an assignment for a class and that's in fact the only reason I picked up this book. I will give it this, once you start readding it its not half bad but it just does not particualely rank high on my favorites.
Jul 26, 2008 Lorrie rated it liked it
I liked this book as it gave an interesting account of everyday life, with everyday issues for the medieval family from a woman's perspective. Written almost like a diary, it doesn't have a page-turning storyline, but instead grabs the reader in the wonders and disappointments of common occurances.
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