28 November 2006

Book Banter -- Mysteries of the Middle Ages

Title: Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe
Author: Thomas Cahill
Length: 317 pages
Genre: non-fiction
Summary: Cahill, in the fifth volume of his Hinges of History series, takes on the early part of the Middle Ages. Far from being the dark times for culture as widely thought, Cahill shows how the early Middle Ages gave rise to art, science, politics and feminism through some notable personalities including Eleanor of Aquitaine, Thomas Aquinas, Dante Alighieri and St. Francis of Assissi, and how their contributions continue to influence Western thought.
Banter Points: This series that Cahill is doing is a great read because it provides a relevance to all the history. Rather than tracing series of dates, coronations and battles, Cahill traces the history of ideas. He's also a good story-teller, so the prose becomes more like a novel at times and less like a history book. The book is also liberally peppered with pictures of medieval art which helps break up the text.
Bummer Points: This book wasn't quite as good as the first four in the series. It leapt around more and at times seemed to lose focus as he delved into the life stories of some of the players (Eleanor and Dante, in particular.)
Word Nerd recommendation: Cahill is the only non-fiction author, really, who Word Nerd gets excited about when he has a new book hitting shelves. Though this one wasn't as good, she still enjoyed it. Since each volume in the series is only 250-300 pages, they are easily accessible books for someone who may not be a frequent reader of history.

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