Chaucer's Tale

Chaucer’s Tale

1386 and the Road to Canterbury

Additional Formats
  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9780670026432
  • 304  Pages
  • Viking Books
  • Adult


A lively microbiography of Chaucer that tells the story of the tumultuous year that led to the creation of The Canterbury Tales

In 1386, Geoffrey Chaucer endured his worst year, but began his best poem. The father of English literature did not enjoy in his lifetime the literary celebrity that he
has today—far from it. The middle-aged Chaucer was living in London, working as a midlevel bureaucrat and sometime poet, until a personal and professional
crisis set him down the road leading to The Canterbury Tales.

In the politically and economically fraught London of the late fourteenth century, Chaucer was swept up against his will in a series of disastrous events that would ultimately leave him jobless, homeless, separated from his wife, exiled from his city, and isolated in the countryside of Kent—with no more audience to hear the
poetry he labored over.

At the loneliest time of his life, Chaucer made the revolutionary decision to keep writing, and to write for a national audience, for posterity, and for fame.

Brought expertly to life by Paul Strohm, this is the eye-opening story of the birth one of the most celebrated literary creations of the English language.


Praise for Chaucer’s Tale

“Paul Strohm illuminates how 1386 marked a decisive year for Geoffrey Chaucer, one in which he went from accomplished coterie poet to the popular author of the work of genius for which he is celebrated to this day: The Canterbury Tales. In Chaucer’s Tale, Strohm, one of the finest medievalists of our time, brings this turbulent moment in Chaucer’s England to life, recovering in vivid detail the professional and creative pilgrimage that led Chaucer to compose so memorable a fictional one.”
—James Shapiro, author of 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare
“Strohm uses his analysis of Chaucer’s annus horribilis of 1386 as a jumping-off point for exploring no less a question than who Chaucer was—as a functionary, a resident of London, a member of the King’s circle and of Parliament, and a writer working in the fourteenth century. Strohm’s scholarship is scrupulous; his conclusions fascinating. This is a portrait not just of Chaucer but of the complex and rapidly changing world in which he lived, worked, and wrote—a tale that intrigues at every turn.”
—Charlie Lovett, author of The Bookman’s Tale and First Impressions
– Paul Strohm