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The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling

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3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  1,739 ratings  ·  96 reviews
"A romp for the ages" - Vanity Fair - now with a graphic cover and deluxe packaging

Renowned novelist, historian, and biographer Peter Ackroyd takes on what is arguably the greatest poem in the English language and presents it in a prose vernacular that makes it accessible to readers while preserving the spirit of the original.

A mirror for medieval society, 'The Canterbur
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Paperback, Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 464 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by Penguin Classics (first published April 2nd 2009)
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K.D. Absolutely
Feb 24, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core, 501, poetry
God bless you, Peter Ackroyd for making this book very easy to read. It did not lose its original meaning. He only used the words that are familiar to us. Consider this example in the original 14th century English in London:
My konnyng is so wayk, O blisful Queene,
For to declare thy grete worthynesse
That I ne may the weighte nat susteene;
But as a child of twelf month oold, or lesse,
That kan unnethes any word expresse,
Right so fare I, and therfored I yow preye,
Gydeth my song that I shal of youw se
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Chris
Dear Duke Thesus,

What is it with you and threatening women with death during your wedding? Do you think it is romantic?


Dear Wife of Bath,

You go girl!

Dear Chanticlear,

Foxes like chickens in all the wrong ways. Just saying.


Dear Mr. Ackroyd, World's Greatest Renassiance Man,

I've read Chaucer in the orignal both Tales and Trolius. I've tried to read various modern translations.

Tried being the operative word.

Yours, I finished. It's wonderful.

In part, this must due to the fact that you are a poet. You
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Tony
Ackroyd, Peter. THE CANTERBURY TALES by Geoffrey Chaucer: A Retelling. (2009). ****. Many of us probably have bad memories of struggling with Middle English in school, trying to translate Chaucer and make sense out of it. What made it worse was that our teachers always gave us versions that were edited to a “G” rating, down from the “R” that really described the originals. Many of us – me included – found translations to help us, but found that they were stilted verse versions of the original, w ...more
Kyle Muntz
of the translations I used as a reference point, i enjoyed this one the most despite how intensely liberal it is (not a translations but a "retelling), as its the only one i've seen that holds up on an aesthetic basis--though, i think it's pretty important to remember, the aesthetic is ackroyd's, not chaucer's, and in a lot of ways this is a completely different book
Jim Mullen
Since I didn’t have to learn French to read “Madame Bovary” or Russian to read “War and Peace” I’ve always wondered why academics think we should only read the Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English with its archaic words and cryptic spelling. Most of us have slogged through a page or two of that and given up. Enter Peter Ackroyd with a wonderful prose translation into contemporary English of Chaucer’s most famous work. I’ve always wanted to know why this book so famous; it sounds so ve ...more
Anne Nikoline
Jan 13, 2015 Anne Nikoline rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of historical lit
Recommended to Anne Nikoline by: no one
I read "The Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer as the last in my Read-a-Thon 2013, and my feelings for it might be coloured by the sleep in my eyes and the squeezing pain in my head as I had only had three hours of sleep.

“People can die of mere imagination."

Is piece of literature is a British treasure of most importances, and I can honestly understand why. It has affected lots of other great literary works including "The Tales of Three Brothers" by J.K. Rowling. The concept is fairy fine and
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Jim Mullen
Since I didn’t have to learn French to read “Madame Bovary” or Russian to read “War and Peace” I’ve always wondered why academics think we should only read the Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English with its archaic words and cryptic spelling. Most of us have slogged through a page or two of that and given up. Enter Peter Ackroyd with a wonderful prose translation into contemporary English of Chaucer’s most famous work. I’ve always wanted to know why this book so famous; it sounds so ve ...more
Cecelia Hightower
The setting for this book is fourteenth-century London and was written by Chaucer late in his life. The book is based on a group of about 26 people on a pilgrimage from Southwark to Canterbury (Southwark is a community in Central London). This group all met at the Tabard Inn with introductions made all around.

The inn-keeper proposed to the pilgrims that to make the journey more pleasant each member will provide an interesting story or tale and the one that provides the best story would be provi
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Julie Davis
After days of careful consideration, listening to audio samples, and having too many choices in my new Audible subscription ... I decided to throw caution to the winds and try something completely different from my usual fare.

I've always wanted to tackle The Canterbury Tales but never felt brave enough. It was a conversation this morning that turned the tide. Our priest said that, although he had a great affection for Dante's Divine Comedy, it was The Canterbury Tales that he found most helpful
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Allison
Well, I'm glad i read it if for no other reason than i can now say that i have... i enjoyed the beginning in which all of the characters were introduced and described in fascinating detail. It seemed like a fun challenge, to write from over twenty different perspectives, however, it didn't take long to realize that there are really only two voices here: the lewd and the prude, each given a multitude of names so as to claim having written as many different voices. Some (perhaps many, if we're bei ...more
Ian
Ever since I read "Hyperion", which I learned was a modern, SF version of "The Canterbury Tales", I have wanted to read the original. Then I read a recommendation about this particular "translation" by Peter Achroyd so I got a copy from the library. Considering the fact that this was written over 700 years ago, it was surprisingly good. Really good, in fact. A very interesting mix of moralistic tales, with some really ribald tales. Surprisingly, women come off particularly strong in some of thes ...more
Violet
That’s the thing with classics: I’m always haunted by the Mark Twain quote, a classic is “a book which people praise and don’t read.” From my experience, that certainly can be true. I try not to follow that trend, but there’s a reason why Mark Twain said that. Sometimes classics are just…well, boring. You can appreciate the quality of the writing and/or the profound effect it has had on the world of literature, but that doesn’t guarantee a satisfying read.

I picked up this book on a whim. I’ve he
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Shay E
Wow! The best translation I've come across by far, although I hesitate to call it a translation. The spine calls it a retelling, which fits better. Ackroyd takes many small liberties with the original, but they mostly color in rather than obscure what was already there. I particularly enjoyed reading some of the stories alongside the original, and was frequently surprised to find a modern-seeming image or phrase was actually a direct translation. (The Host gets an excellent "take my wife - pleas ...more
Katie Goldsmith
A raunchy collection of short stories, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales includes accounts from a diverse group of pilgrims traveling together en route to Canterbury. As a reader you are swept into Chaucer’s times and are exposed to their (the pilgrims) attitude about various aspects of life like love and the Church as well as the details in their every-day life. Canterbury Tales takes a liberal approach about sex which is mentioned throughout whereas others in that day and age complied with the Church ...more
Dusanima
Wonderful retelling of The Canterbury Tales in contemporary English. The verses are turned into prose but the original text is followed very carefully and a most exquisite vocabulary. A range of different stories are presented to the reader: from courtly tales, nighthood bravery and religious moral tales to utter bottom-like slapstick scenes and unadulterated sexual acts. The author itself acts in the book himself as a storyteller and is ridiculed for the poor quality of his tale telling qualiti ...more
Kayley
My favorite part about this book was how personal and in-depth description we got of each of the characters. The prologue was interesting and I liked getting to know so many different people. However, when the book went further on and you got to hear the tales, it was even more interesting because you already had background information on the characters. The Wife of Bath was my favorite part of the book, I liked the different perspective she had on her past husbands. I like thinking about things ...more
Dhara Mehta
The Cantebury Tales
I always wanted to read the Cantebury Tales. But the language was to foreign and I could not appreciate the humor in it. This is before I discovered Peter Ackroyd’s rendition in prose. The prologue introduces the 28 pilgrims that are going to make the journey to Cantebury to pay tribute to St. Thomas, the curer of all maladies. The host is an innkeeper states each one is responsible for telling a story. He who tells the best wins a free lunch. The tales range from the lewd to
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umberto
This hardcover is simply a delight to me since this newly-released hardcover helps me better understand and appreciate Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterburry Tales" in prose instead of those in verse I studied as part of English literature some 40 years ago. In brief, we can enjoy reading each tale with diverse characters in the context and thus learn from Chaucer's wit and wisdom revealed through the lenses of the fourteenth-century London.
This book is recommended to anyone interested in reading
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umberto
This hardcover is simply a delight to me since this newly-released hardcover helps me better understand and appreciate Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterburry Tales" in prose instead of those in verse I studied as part of English literature some 40 years ago. In brief, we can enjoy reading each tale with diverse characters in the context and thus learn from Chaucer's wit and wisdom revealed through the lenses of the fourteenth-century London.
This book is recommended to anyone interested in reading C
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Terri
Am very glad I finally got a chance to read this, but now that I have, I don't know what to make of it. It reads in equal parts as literary fiction, memoir, monty python-esque slapstick, satire, and pornography. It may be the weirdest story ever told. The characters are so real in how they bicker, interrupt each other, cut each other off if someone is getting too prosy, ramble, and lose track of the story they are telling that, at times, it seems likely that Chaucer is retelling a story of actua ...more
Miryeo
I know many people like The Canterbury Tales for a lot of different reasons: it's a classic, it's funny and witty, it's insightful, the poetry is amazing, etc. Unfortunately, none of those things worked for me.

I understand nobody would read this book for the plot or overall story, and it was incorrect of me to assume anything would result from the pilgrims' exchange of stories. One is supposed to read the stories independently of each other and appreciate each story by itself. But the tales were
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Kater Cheek
I took a class in Middle English in college, and quickly realized that it was about as comprehensible as Dutch. Unlike Shakespeare, Middle English has to be translated. Too bad, because what I read of The Canterbury Tales seemed interesting.

So when I saw this at the library, a translated retelling of the classic Medieval document, I decided to give it a go. As many people know, it's an anthology of stories told by fellow travelers who are on a pilgrimage to Canterbury. Many of the tales are lew
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Sarah
Starting with the cover of the book, I love that the the characters are illustrated on the front. With the thorough description of the characters in the beginning, reading the book was a little easier because I could actually picture what may be happening in my head. Although the book is lengthy, I found it enjoyable. The many stories and sense of adventure allowed me to "get lost" in the book as I was reading it. I would recommend this book to anyone who is searching for a classic to read.
A.
I haven't looked at the Canterbury Tales since college. I remembered the bawdy Wife of Bath's tale but little else. Acroyd's prose translation is quite entertaining. It seems that he keeps to the spirit of Chaucer's work even though we lose the poetry. The tales get repetitive with many stories of Greek and Roman heroes and actually very few set in contemporary time. On rereading the Wife of Bath tale, what made it stand out wasn't the sexual content, but that it is set in Chaucer's time and inv ...more
Paul Dinger
I find it very hard to believe that this book is read in colleges and high schools considering how it is full of pornography. I did check the original as I read this translation (Ackroyd calls it a re telling, but it is pretty close to the original.)and sure enough it is in the original. Well to all those high schoolers that had to read this in school, go back and read the original, you won't be sorry. The church and knights come off badly, no one trusts their wives and why would they when they ...more
Natalie
I never read this in high school when it was assigned, mainly because I couldn't understand a word of what he was writing! Thoroughly enjoyed most of the stories and definitely understand why it's an important book to be read, but I think a version like this would be better for high schoolers to better understand the meaning of the book.
Dana
There was no category for "read halfway then gave up," otherwise that's what I would have checked. This book was the only way I was every going to read Canterbury Tales in my life (...memories of struggling with Olde English in my AP English class senior year still haunt me...), so I gave it a try. I'm sure Ackroyd did a marvelous job in translating the text to a more accessible version for today's reader, and even though sometimes it still sounded stilted, my problem was not the prose, but the ...more
John Murdoch
I had to study the Prologue from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales more than 40 years ago when I was doing A Level English. It was somewhat frustrating, because it would have been interesting to have been able to read and study the rest of the stories in the cycle. With this book, Peter Ackroyd translates the stories (they are in Early English, which is virtually imposssible to read and understand if you have no background or some knowledge of this.) There are verse translations, for example, the famou ...more
jzthompson
"Read" is stretching things a bit - this was the first abandoned book of the year. It wasn't terrible by any means just a pointless use of reading time. Awkward prose paraphrases of a Middle English poem... wobbling between Games of Thrones-esque cod Medievalese and glaring anachronisms like the Wife of Bath declaring that she "was hot." Useful for understanding the contents of a poem that can be - lets be honest here - very difficult to follow but then so is a wikipedia summary. I really strugg ...more
Sandra
This is a great way to introduce Chaucer's famous tales to a modern audience. The stories are written in today's vernacular but are every inch Chaucer's sense of timing, humor, and raciness. Loved it from front cover to back and HIGHLY recommend it.
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Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.

Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age
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More about Peter Ackroyd...
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