2019 Week Fifteen

Paris, 1200

I’ve finished Die Chronistin by Julia Kröhn and have to say that I didn’t enjoy it at all. It tells the story of Sophia, who’s taken out of a convent as a young teenager and becomes a lady-in-waiting to Ingeborg of Denmark. In 1193 she accompanies the princess to France for her marriage to Philip II. Sophia’s life touches that of Queen Ingeborg and the French court over the next forty years, until Sophia is murdered. That’s not a spoiler, in case you’re thinking of reading the novel, since the book opens with the discovery of Sophia’s body. She’s an unpleasant woman who stops at nothing to get what she wants and has little understanding of the people around her. The only surprise is that no one killed her sooner.

Although I didn’t enjoy Die Chronistin, it has encouraged me to read Paris, 1200 by John W. Baldwin. The book has been sitting on my shelves for a couple of years, but now seems like a good time to read it, since I’ve encountered many of the people it talks about as fictional characters. Baldwin limits himself to dealing with the ten years either side of the turn of the century, focusing on the efforts of Philip II to increase the size of his kingdom, the creation of the university in Paris and the papal interdict which closed churches in most dioceses in France for a year. All of these things feature in Die Chronistin. One of the things the novel does well is to present the horror that it meant to a medieval person not to be able to go to mass and not to have babies baptised. I’m not sure how the king managed to hold out for as long as he did.

Christine de Pizan’s The Treasure of the City of Ladies continues to be a delight. Her advice often goes against how men were telling women to behave, particularly in regard to courtly love. De Pizan knew that courtly love, far from honouring women, was just another way for men to take advantage of them, with no consequences for themselves.

Books read in challenge: 3

Books read in year: 16

April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

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