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Down the Common: A Year in the Life of a Medieval Woman (1996)

por Ann Baer

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230690,333 (4.38)32
Gifted with an appreciation of beauty, Marion, the carpenter's wife, becomes the salvation of her village because she gratefully receives the bounty of the world in which she lives. Marion is everywoman - steadfast survivor, gentle accommodator, and strong yet flexible reed.
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This book puts you smack down in a reality we'll never experience but which many of our ancestors did. The main character, a serf on a small farm in rural England, has a husband and a couple of children and lives in a one-room shack. Her main concerns are having food for the winter and earning enough goodwill from the landowners that her family will receive blankets and other items to ensure survival in the worst months. She worries about her living children (and about getting pregnant again), mourns those she's lost, thanks the heavens for a strong husband she both admires and loves, and observes the limited world around her. Most terrifying for her is the fate of a neighbor whose husband dies and who is forced to move to the "big house" because she no longer has need for privacy and space. She now sleeps on the floor of the hall with others like her. Another neighboring couple doesn't provide enough for their children, who are always begging. Since food is available only to those who work, the children get little consideration from other serfs or from the landowners. The lives of the landowners don't sound all that wonderful either, but at least they have more security, warmer lodgings, and better food. And the local priest - let's say you'll never again presume the purity of how doctrine was spread.

Life in this hamlet is detailed for one day each month over a year, giving the whole spectrum of such an existence before the endless cycle repeats. It's moving and guaranteed to stay with you over the years. You may even come back to it, as I have. ( )
  auntmarge64 | Mar 30, 2019 |
This is one of my favorite historical novels. Baer perfectly captures the tone of ordinary life in medieval England. ( )
  pandorasmuse | Aug 5, 2010 |
This novel follows the life of Marion, a medieval woman of the peasant classes, through the course of a single year. It's a lot more exciting than it sounds. Survival was an ever-present issue, so the novel actually has a lot in common with the typical thriller, although the enemy is as likely to be the weather and such freak accidents as stumbling into the open-hearth fire as it is to be a jealous neighbor or a selfish aristocrat. Ann Baer's writing puts us right inside her heroine's skin. Don't read the winter chapters in winter unless you're bundled up by the fire - or you're liable to feel as cold and uncomfortable as Marion. But there's beauty here, too. Marion is one of those people, who probably existed in all times and places, who notice things. She may be illiterate and have little time for activities that don't produce food, clothing or shelter, but she reflects on her life and the people around her in ways that illuminate her time and place for the reader.
  margad | Apr 2, 2010 |
More a series of beautifully descriptive anecdotes than a novel, Down The Common: A Year In The Life of A Medieval Woman by Ann Baer was a delightful read.

The book is divided by the months of the year, and each month we are given glimpses into the life of Marion, married to the village carpenter, Peter. We share in her day-to-day life that is mostly pure drudgery. We see how precarious life was and how difficult it was to raise healthy children. We also see how these people band together and all work for the greater good of the village. Along the way, many of the village characters were introduced, which enabled the book to give a varied and in-depth look at everyday life in Medieval England.

The author also showed us that although their life was hard, there were still times of joy and love. Marion has an eye for nature, from a colourful bird wing to a frosty winter dawn, she is able to appreciate the beauty around her. This book made me appreciate all the comforts of modern life that I often take for granted, and has shown me that our sense of family and community has deep roots. If you enjoy historical fiction, I would recommend this book about Medieval life, as it really gives you a sense of time and place. ( )
2 vota DeltaQueen50 | Mar 24, 2010 |
If you've ever wondered what daily life was really like in Medieval times, this is a highly readable source of information. Written as a monthly account of the life of one woman in a tiny village, "Down the Common" provides a harsh and unflinching examination of the hardships and small consolations of daily life. The text is accompanied by charming drawings done by the author. ( )
  turtlesleap | Mar 7, 2010 |
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Gifted with an appreciation of beauty, Marion, the carpenter's wife, becomes the salvation of her village because she gratefully receives the bounty of the world in which she lives. Marion is everywoman - steadfast survivor, gentle accommodator, and strong yet flexible reed.

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