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  • The Black Death

  • A Personal History
  • By: John Hatcher
  • Narrated by: Geoffrey Centlivre
  • Length: 12 hrs and 25 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • 3.3 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this fresh approach to the history of the Black Death, John Hatcher, a world-renowned scholar of the Middle Ages, recreates everyday life in a mid-14th-century rural English village.

By focusing on the experiences of ordinary villagers as they lived - and died - during the Black Death (A.D. 1345-50), Hatcher vividly places the listener directly into those tumultuous years and describes in fascinating detail the day-to-day existence of people struggling with the tragic effects of the plague. Dramatic scenes portray how contemporaries must have experienced and thought about the momentous events - and how they tried to make sense of it all.

©2009 John Hatcher (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"This book uses a bit of fiction, mixing it with [Hatcher's] vast knowledge to illuminate that catastrophe." (Bookviews.com)
"The core of the story - the plague's effect on the lives of everyday people - is as true as can be surmised, nearly 700 years later." ( Cleveland Plain Dealer)

What listeners say about The Black Death

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Worst combinations of history and fiction

This book had so much potential. A historian trying to accurately depict what it would have been like living in a village in England during the Black Death, even though there are next to no personal accounts? It sounds awesome. But what it really was, was a historian with no experience writing fiction, trying to write a fiction. And the historical parts are either explicitly told to you out of the story, or they are so vague that you’re left not knowing what is or isn’t historically accurate, apart from the most boring parts. Plus his main protagonist is just annoyingly perfect, I actually hated him so much because of it. What John Hatcher should have done is, found a good fantasy/historical author and worked closely with them to make sure that it was not the pile of garbage that is was. I would rather read a textbook.

1 person found this helpful

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An interesting concept that did not work

I thought this would offer a good, historical account of the time of the black death. I hoped for a well-researched account of the immediate effects of the plague on the populace. There should have been more scope for discussions of the longer-term repercussions the plague had on England and how it was changed by the black death.

This was not a good historical account. It was fact hidden by a very poor narrative and an even worse narrator whose dull monotone made it very difficult to get to the end. I did accomplish this heroic effort, but I was left feeling cheated. I would not hesitate to recommend potential purchasers to avoid this audiobook like the plague (apologies for that!) I hope there are better histories of England during the plague years available. Look for them. Do not stop here. Move on.

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  • Runefell
  • 26-02-2014

Obviously written by a Historian

Any additional comments?

As a whole, after finishing this book, I found myself understanding the Black Death from the ordinary people's point of view better, the fears and hysteria before, the trials during, and the fall out afterwards. There is a lot of humanity in this book. Unfortunately, the author is very obviously a historian first, and a storyteller a distant second.

Getting to the point often took longer then it should have. There's a lot of good information in this book, but you'll often have to sit through trivial fact reading and, often times quite literally, church sermons. Many of the points put forward are repeated several times, and some of it seems like the author is trying to work some medieval court records in. The introduction itself is almost an hour long snoozefest, and there's author notes before every chapter that often contain spoilers on what's going to happen in this chapter.

All in all, it's informative, makes you feel for the poor people who were so terrified in the face of something they couldn't understand or prevent, but it could've easily skipped or condensed a lot of the boring bits.

8 people found this helpful

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  • N. Barnes
  • 09-05-2012

Beautiful narration for history geeks

This book is a brilliant mixture of fact and fiction, which the author Hatcher explains in his very frank preface, making it an award-winning history of the Black Death in Europe. Drawing from the unprecedentedly thorough archival records of a single county in England, this book will not tell you much about the 14th century plague anywhere else, but it does a remarkable job of describing it in medieval England. The narration is also very pleasant. Listeners who are not history geeks may find some of the story tiresome, overly detailed, or somewhat confusing, as Hatcher aimed to reconstruct medieval English village life as well as the plague's effects on it, but for a historian like myself this is a superb audio book.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Sally Davis
  • 15-08-2017

The worst narration ever

This book has the worst narration I've ever gotten from Audible.

The narrator mumbles a lot of the time. I listen while working in the kitchen and/or house and to understand him, I've had to increase the volume well beyond what is comfortable.

I bought the book without listening to the sample. That was a mistake.

The content of the book appears so far to be great.

2 people found this helpful

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  • jeffery b. howell
  • 29-03-2017

Informative on many levels!

This is a great read (listen). Hatcher does an excellent job of fleshing out 14th century Catholicism in England. He successfully portrays the efforts the Church and individuals performed to escape the oncoming plague. He then details the horror of the plague and its aftermath. He then shows how the nobility and the church tag teamed to keep down a rising peasantry who wanted more freedom and greater wages. This would be a great read for a class on the Middle Ages. The audible narration was also excellent.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tom O'hayon
  • 01-04-2015

an iteresting and informative account

this book gives a face to counless numbers who died in the black death.d
one feels the strugles of the survivers as well as the overall social and political changes that followed the plague.

2 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Caroline
  • 16-01-2010

Too Dry for a "Fiction"

I thought this would be a good listen, being written by a historian. Unfortunately, it is written like a history, and a very boring one at that. I found myself nodding off, as the author would get caught up in the minutae of land inheritances and other subjects. He spent much time at the beginning explaining that it was a fiction, but he didn't treat it like one. I told friends who are interested in the subject to steer clear of it...

13 people found this helpful

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  • W. B. Wetherell
  • 02-07-2021

A great way to enter into this period

The author established well his methodology up front, and did not disappoint, helpfully introducing each chapter with historic background to underlie the creative narrative to follow. His narrator stayed true to the period and, while the audio version is read perhaps a bit slowly for my taste, I was captured by the story and felt transported to the period itself. I do note some very minor deviations between the written and audio versions (quite unnecessary from my perspective), so be prepared if you want to enjoy both!

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  • Jacqueline Hertz
  • 07-09-2020

Pretty Dry for Something Called a Personal History

Listened to this during the coronavirus pandemic. It was very dry for something marketed as a "personal history" and contained less information than "The Great Mortality" by John Kelly. I would recommend the John Kelly book over this one. That one had both more facts and was more readable.

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  • bayschmd
  • 31-01-2020

I was so excited to find this book...

I love that this book relies dramatically on accurate historical records. My love ends here. I wanted to read a story of how the people thought, how they fared, how they interacted. I wanted to hear their reactions and interactions following services. I wanted to know how persons of differing occupations reacted to what was happening to them and to what the layperson believed the cause of the terrible sickness was. In sticking too closely to the specific historical record, the story of the people is largely lost. It is simply a third-person account of happenings. To make matters worse, the prose is repetitive, it repeats the story and then, it repeats it again. Ughh. I was hoping for more. I am hoping I can finish it, but I have been terribly distracted as it is so repetitive and repeats the story so often! Ughh. (Oh, did I repeat that?)

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  • Micah Balch
  • 24-07-2018

Descent book

If you’re looking for a book to introduce you to the Black Death this is a adequate one to start with. However if you have a fairly good grasp of the basic history of the Black Death you’re probably not gonna learn much more than apparently most people were named John.

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  • GK
  • 30-07-2011

Black Death? What Black Death?

I've listened to 3 hours of this and so far the black death hasn't even been mentioned. All there has been is a long and dull account of a priest's life story and an even longer and duller death scene (not from the plague). It is too dry to be called good fiction writing, and despite the author's intention to focus the story around a "good" priest I am so far apathetic towards him and certainly have no warm feelings for this main character. I could easily forgive the bad story-telling part if it was a good historical book but so far I'm finding that it's not. Unless you are interested in the minute details of a Catholic death scene in the 14th century you won't find anything of interest, at least in the first 3 hours of this audiobook.

This is a small point, but I don't know what possessed the publishers to have an American narrate a story about a Medieval East Anglican village??

I'm really disappointed and wish I had not downloaded this.

15 people found this helpful

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  • J. Wexler
  • 30-09-2019

Unusual combination of history with fictional seasoning

Very good history, while combined with fictional dialogue. This is NOT historical fiction. It is good solid history, with a smattering of character development. This is a very creative, yet honest approach to a period where dialogue does not exist.

2 people found this helpful

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  • gill
  • 20-04-2021

Instructive

hearing this at what, we hope, is towards the end of the Covid Pandemic (?). We are very fortunate to live in the 21st rather than the 14th century, please thankful for that..
My only criticism of the narration is the American pronunciation of dates - the author may be American but the ‘venue’ is English. Otherwise, great.

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