Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/
Liz has been reading A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity by Trisha Nicholson
Dedicated, “to all who love Story whoever you are,” this book encompasses storytelling since communication began and covers most corners of the globe. Story is personified, weaving through history, influencing events, and what happens affects the nature of stories.
From early Creation stories of Africa and Australia, we move through legend, myth, saga and fable. As words begin to be written down, words confer authority and as we all know, history is written by the victors. Common themes of the wisdom of animals, of good versus evil, of disguise and mistaken identity recur but there are also specific features only present in one era.
Trish Nicholson gives us tantalising details of the lives of so many tellers of tales, but as she says, “Teasing out strands of the old storytellers’ lives is like following a thread through the Cretan labyrinth; the “Minotaur” we discover at the other end may turn out to be a goat rather than a bull.” The lives of Chaucer and Boccaccio are compared and the similarities and differences in their work marked. Similarly, she shows us how Sir Walter Scott and James Fennimore Cooper reflected their era and their environment in using the tales told by the indigenous people of their countries.
My favourite chapter tells us about Marguerite, Queen of Navarre, the talented sister of the King of France. Her life was varied and eventful, surrounded by poets and writers. A politically astute woman, she was widely respected and a skilled mediator. She spent time translating parts of the New Testament and more relevantly, writing stories. When her collection of tales was published posthumously in 1558, some of her humorous stories were considered of an unsuitable bawdy nature for a woman so some were edited and credited to a man.
“A Biography of Story” is no boring book of literary criticism, since the author is herself a storyteller. She narrates significant stories to her readers, highlighting the essential strands of each literary era so that the book can be dipped into, using the clear descriptive chapter summaries or the comprehensive index. But perhaps, like me, you would rather start at the beginning and enjoy reading the entire delightful text.
Trish Nicholson brings us a unique interweaving of literature and history seen through the eyes of storytellers, making a fascinating journey for general readers and students alike. From tales of the Bedouin, to Homer, Aesop and Valmiki, and from Celtic bards and Icelandic skalds to Chaucer, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Scott and Chekhov, some of the many storytellers featured will be familiar to you; others from Africa, Asia and the Pacific may be fresh discoveries.
Beginning with oral tales of our foraging ancestors, the emergence of writing, the great migrations, the age of exploration and the invention of printing through to the industrial revolution and the digital age, Nicholson brings us voices from all corners of the world. Combining this extraordinary breadth with telling myths, epics, fables, fairy tales and legends, she reveals their story-power in the comedy and tragedy of human affairs. And what of Story’s future..?
A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity is our own human epic, thoroughly researched and referenced, and told with the imaginative flair of an accomplished storyteller. This is a book-lover’s book, illustrated and handsomely presented in hardback and paperback volumes designed ‘to have and to hold’.