Cover Image: The Good Wife of Bath

The Good Wife of Bath

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Medieval Wife’s Tale! A pleasure!

How could I not want to pursue this title? I love Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and the Wife of Bath was a particular favorite. Dare I say a post modern look at the Wife? Probably not, but this raucous tale  hits all the right notes, exploring the roles and expectations of and for women in the Middle Ages, and giving us an alternative story that fills in the “who” of the Wife of Bath. The Good Wife, Mistress Eleanor Cornfed is the protagonist. We see her story from her perspective, complete with five husbands. A keen wit keeps the novel moving along. Randomness and playfulness present opportunities.
I kept thinking about previous novels I’ve read where women at these times have similar struggles and stories. I remember well Brooks’ The Lady Brewer of London. If you liked that, you will also like this. Yes, this is bawdy and the language is earthy, but the Anglo Saxon language has always had short four letter words. The Anglo Saxons ate fish, the French Normans poisson. So different! And this follows through to other regularly used words that are frowned upon today. Brooks has once again given us a realistic slice of a medieval woman’s life—The Good Wife of Bath. Her Author’s Notes are definitely worth perusing.
To hear tell it’s the Poet who’s shielded Eleanor “from the consequences of my darker deeds by distracting those who would call me to account. For, while folk are titillated and shocked by his portrait, they don’t see me.” Now Eleanor declares, “it’s time for me to wrest my tale back and tell it in my own way.” And she does! A solid read that raised my eyebrows quite a few times. I enjoyed this immensely. Brooks has done justice for Eleanor.

A William Morrow & Custom House ARC via NetGalley 
Please note: Quotes taken from an advanced reading copy maybe subject to change
(Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)
Was this review helpful?
Brooks offers another adventure-crammed frolic through the London of an earlier era in this prequel to her bestselling The Brewer’s Tale/The Lady Brewer of London. Alyson aka Eleanor, a successful bawd and minor figure in the earlier book, becomes the central character in this sprawling, picaresque tale, with her life modeled closely after the autobiographical Prologue to Chaucer’s famous Wife of Bath’s Tale.

Orphaned Eleanor Cornfed of Bath (the first and briefest of many surnames) is married at the age of twelve to an elderly farmer in the year 1464. She’s appalled at the lack of control she has over her life, but the union surprises her by providing opportunities to learn the trade of weaving, to gain a loving family, and eventually, to experience marital joy. Readers might be squeamish about a child forced into a sexual relationship (even though such unions were common in the medieval world), but Brooks handles the relationship with such sensitivity and empathy that one soon finds Eleanor’s affection for her elderly husband quite understandable.

But this is only the first tenth of an entertaining narrative that follows Eleanor (who later takes the name Alyson for dramatic reasons) through five marriages, countless liaisons, numerous reinventions, and several journeys as a pilgrim across the Known World of the 15th century. Her most important relationship, however, is her friendship and correspondence with the poet Geoffrey Chaucer—until he betrays her by transforming her into his most notorious fictional creation.

Brooks not only offers fascinating details about life, work, and relationships in medieval England, but creates a “chosen family” for Eleanor/Alyson whose warmth and loyalty create ample opportunities for truly heartwarming (and sometimes heart-rending) moments along the way. At the end of the 560 pages of this ambitious tale, the reader will be eager to hear more about this loud, loving, unforgettable character.
Was this review helpful?
Wonderful humorous book. The “good wife” from Chaucers Canterbury Tales gets to tell her story. Married to an old farmer at 12 it is just one of many marriages in a long and musty life. There is murder, hunger and scalliwaga - but she prevails. This book had heart and humor
Was this review helpful?
The Good Wife of Bath was a fun retelling of a well known story.  The author fleshed out a character that before we had never heard from.  I love when old stories become knew when explored in a different way.  I highly recommend and think this appeals to many different types of readers.
Was this review helpful?
A bawdy and hilarious retelling of Chaucer's "The Wife of Bath's Tale." Bogs down around the fourth husband, but still enjoyable.
Was this review helpful?
This was an interesting book - although very long - but interesting take on The Wife in Chaucer's tales. If you like historical fiction of any time era, and don't mind length, this will be a good one to pick up. I liked the characters and I felt pretty emersed in Medieval England for the week + it took me to finish!
Was this review helpful?
In this book Chaucer’s Wife of Bath tells her own story. In Chaucer’s time a woman’s life  was not in her control, But, Eleanor, learns through the course of four marriages and multiple pilgrimages that there may be exceptions. This is an excellent historical novel. Kudos to the author for her fearlessness in being true to the social norms of the time-  twelve year olds married off to old men!
Thanks to NetGalley for providing an advance reader copy
Was this review helpful?
I have always loved medieval literature, and out of the Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath was always my favorite. I truly loved this fresh take on Chaucer's character. It hit me because her character was real. She was growing through life in all its trials and tribulations, loving, hurting, and showing a reality to womanhood and its truths. I will be purchasing this for myself as I can see myself picking this up again in the future. I will also be recommending it for my library.
Was this review helpful?
This is a great read. Taking the Good Wife’s point of view, it is a great twist on a well known tale.. it is a long book and unless someone is really interested in historical fiction might be a tough sale but I think there will be a market for this book in most locales.
Was this review helpful?
I vaguely remember parts of The Canterbury Tales--I read it once in high school, and I didn't really enjoy it. 

I say that because there might be people who also have hazy memories of TCT and are wondering if you need to be familiar with it in order to enjoy it--you definitely do not! 

Actually--I was wrong. You do need to know that bawdiness and down-and-dirty details are a part of The Canterbury Tales. If this is going to bother you, you might not be the right reader for the book. 

With that out of the way--this is a devastating, moving, witty, and unforgettable read. The relationship with Eleanor and Alyson is beautifully rendered. 

Librarians/booksellers: Your historical fiction fans (and fans of retellings) will jump at this. Would be a great book club pick! 

Many thanks to William Morrow/Custom House and NetGalley for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I rarely take the time to leave an actual review of a book and it’s even more rare when I’m left pondering a book long after I close its pages. This book is such a strange mix of themes and characters and places that it’s almost impossible to pinpoint exactly why it all works and melds together as such a great story. And it is an AMAZING story. It’s a book of literature which, let’s be honest, aren’t actually written in the modern age. 

It begins with the premise: In the middle ages, a famous poet told a story that mocked a strong woman. It became a literary classic. But what if the woman in question had a chance to tell her own version?

And, unfortunately, the publisher’s summary would lead you to believe it’s simply another feminist retelling of an old book (Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales).  I hated Canterbury Tales, for the record. Maybe because it was required reading and I’ve never sought out to read it on my own (going to rectify that now). But I digress.  This book deserves its own place in history.

It is the story of a girl’s pilgrimage through life: the good; the bad; the men she meets; the men she beds; and the turns of her heart as she tries to serve others and be a “good” person but refusing to accept society’s definition of “good”.  Sometimes she’s a foolish child (even once she’s grown). Sometimes she’s led by her heart and pays the price. Sometimes she’s stubborn and wins. Other times her obstinate nature causes irreparable harm to herself and those around her. In other words – she is human. Real. A bit of every woman if you are willing to embrace your own character with truth, honesty, and a bit of grace for your mistakes.

Obviously, I highly recommend this title. Put it in your cart or pre-order so you don’t forget it!  Ironically, it’s set to release on my birthday: January 26, 2022.  For librarians and booksellers, it is currently available for review through NetGalley, Edelweiss, and directly from William Morrow
Was this review helpful?
There's something wonderful about reading historical fiction that is either based on a real story of a woman or based on a historical depiction. It's magical for me in many ways, especially if it's set in a medieval period, where we know so little about women's lives or habits. Historical fiction authors determined to write Herstory to give 21st century readers a sense of a woman's life is even more difficult, and my hat is off to Karen Brooks for this one. 

Set in 14th century England, the famous (infamous?) wife of Bath from Geoffrey Chaucer's classic poem gets her fictional biography with sparkling dialogue, intense drama, and all her flaws and virtues up close and personal. Eleanor is young when she first marries, and whether or not she actually had 5 husbands or not, choosing her own path is something both Chaucer and Brooks' heroine strives for quite admirably. This book is LONG, but utterly delightful for fans of historical fiction. Eleanor is a passionate, hard-headed, lusty woman, and it's hard not to root for her even when things go terribly wrong and a lot of it was her own doing. Delightful medieval English words like "queynte" and "swiving" wound their way into the 21st century reader's vocabulary to help create an amusing and entertaining medieval romp through history. Don't miss this one!
Was this review helpful?
Despite reading other NG reader reviews stating they disliked the sections of the book set in earlier centuries, I thought I'd give this book a try since I have enjoyed other books set back in early Europe. Well, they were right; I never got out of the first chapter--heavy reliance on crude language was a huge turnoff. Low status/poverty can be connoted without resorting to crude language but it takes some thought. Who wants to read this for fun? This laziness totally turned me off from reading any further because if this was the book's 'hook', then this style of writing was only going to continue.  Sad, because this could have been a good story.
Was this review helpful?