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Medieval Historical Fiction Novel of the Week

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Down the Common A Year in the Life of a Medieval Woman, Ann Baer, Historical Fiction, Medieval History, Novel, Middle Ages, Medieval England, Medieval EuropeDown the Common: A Year in the Life of a Medieval Woman by Ann Baer

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: M. Evans and Company, Inc. (October 25, 1998)
Average Customer Review on Amazon: 4.5 stars

Editorial Review from Kirkus Reviews:

More a feat of historical imagination than a conventional novel, this 82-year-old author’s first fiction presents a year in the life of a rural peasant in medieval England. Marion, wife of Peter Carpenter, has had a life marked by tragedy–most importantly, the deaths of several children, one of whom she still most especially mourns. She has also enjoyed some relative good fortune, with a generally reliable husband and, as the miller’s daughter, automatic respect in the community. As the year passes, Marion is principally occupied with preparing for the winter ahead and tending to her children. She worries about the future of her lame son Peterkin, who will never be able to do an adult man’s work, and she is pleased, if bemused, by the rapid development of her gifted young daughter Alice. Marion’s year is filled with chores–baking, spinning, gardening–and with routine hardships–dealing with cold, hunger, illness, and pain. Meanwhile, some change occurs: Marion’s sickly daughter Margery dies; a friend’s husband, whom Marion once loved herself, falls victim to an infection; M’Dame, wife of the feudal lord, becomes pregnant; Peter acquires new authority after participating in a successful expedition to get salt; and a neighboring family descends into squalor. But as Marion goes about her day-to-day activities- -figuring out how to put out a fire when her only pails are full of milk, wondering what she really looks like when she has seen her reflection only in pools, mediating Peter’s anger at his son’s carelessness, or enjoying a rare good night’s sleep–her greatest concerns are immediate, practical, and intimately related to the circumstances of time and place. The need to turn Marion into Everywoman sometimes puts an undue burden on the novel, but, still, Baer has crafted a persuasive and scrupulously detailed account, locating the universal in the specifics of one modest life. — Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Editorial Review from Midwest Book Review:

While Down the Common is actually a novel and could have been featured in our fiction section, it also provides plenty of realistic scenes which will prove complimentary and compelling to any nonfiction study of women in Medieval England. Descriptions are exact and well done, while the plot of a carpenter’s wife who struggles to hold her life and family together provides an involving story line. Down the Common is easy to pick up, hard to put down. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.