Bitching Bits of Bone is a novel that doesn’t mind offending any comfortable perception you may have of medieval times. The context of the story is the inspiration behind Geoffrey Chaucer’s writing of The Canterbury Tales. The entertaining vignettes encountered that influenced his tales and writing. What was life really like for all manner of people trying to survive?
There is intent to make this story as authentic as possible, including uncensored dialogue, graphic tales of sexual exploits and opportunities, colourful descriptions of the diseases and ails, and disturbingly the cures and treatments. A strong stomach is required – for all of the above. What I feel adds significantly to the story is the dark humour weaved throughout. Otherwise, it would feel like a continuous attempt to break your composure.
The characters are harsh, merciless and racked with greed – particularly those from State and Church. Not one to miss a trick, John Trent – Monk, The Pardoner, The Inquisitor, sees the Shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury as the English Church’s main asset, and a pilgrimage to Canterbury from London, a wonderful money-making scheme. He suggests a Canterbury Pilgrim’s Almanac in 4 parts: a history guide, a hagiography of Saint Thomas Becket, a prayer/sermon guide and a traveller’s guide. After researching far and wide the principal author of the Pilgrim’s Almanac is to be – Da da DA Geoffrey Chaucer.
I would say that the subject matter did at times cause me to cringe, it wasn’t that disturbing that I felt the need to extricate it from my Kindle, but it does take a bit of getting used to. The humour is clever and it felt very relevant to the time period and this was a major positive in my appreciation of the story. What caused me the greatest difficulty was that I didn’t, and although I tried I couldn’t, get fully engrossed in the story. I found the level of detail (maybe I mean disgusting detail) was too much for me and interrupted the flow of the story at times. Also, the uncensored dialogue is as crude as it comes and I have to admit I did wince on many occasions.
This is a really unique piece of literature and it’s one of the aspects of reading non-mainstream authors that is really appealing. We get a glimpse of a well-crafted unconventional novel that opens up many new perspectives on writing and insights into a history that isn’t all romantic and socially supportive.
After reading, How to Remove a Brain, a few months ago, which outlined many bizarre historical practices in medicine and with physicians, I had just managed to rid myself of an image of a doctor tasting urine to determine a patient’s ailment and here again it’s brought back to life. It’s probably never going to leave now.
I would recommend reading this book and I’d like to thank Dr Norman Mounter for providing me with a version of his book in return for an honest review.