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Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Company of Liars (original 2008; edition 2009)

by Karen Maitland

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1,255956,309 (3.7)139
Title:Company of Liars
Authors:Karen Maitland
Info:Penguin (2009), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 592 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Tags:fiction, crime, historical fiction, read 2012, anglophone

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Company of Liars by Karen Maitland (2008)


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English (91)  Dutch (3)  French (1)  All languages (95)
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
Company of Liars
4 Stars

The year is 1348 and the Pestilence has come to England. Among those fleeing the spread of the deadly disease are a company of nine travelers, each possessing a unique gift and each concealing a dark secret, but none is darker than the one that may spell the destruction of them all…

Note: Although the publisher claims this is a reimagining of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Cantebury Tales, there is no resemblance between the two other than a group of travelers sharing their stories. While Chaucer’s classic is vastly entertaining in its own right and well worth the read (if one can cope with the Old English), it is not necessary to read it in advance of this book.

Company of Liars is a dark and disturbing tale of the secrets people keep and the lies they tell. The rich historical detail concerning the social, cultural and religious beliefs of medieval England along with the twists and turns of the plot make Karen Maitland’s writing style gripping from the first page to the last.

Each of the characters is more fascinating than the next and while some of their secrets are obvious, others are virtually impossible to guess due to the well concealed clues and hints. The primary antagonist is exceedingly creepy and their actions truly horrific given their identity.

Unfortunately, the audiobook narrated by David Thorpe proved impossible to listen to as he spoke too slowly (even speeding up didn’t help) with long gaps between paragraphs. Thankfully, the switch to the Kindle version was more successful.

In sum, this book made me very grateful that I did not live in the Middle Ages and I look forward to reading more of Maitland’s work. ( )
  Lauren2013 | May 8, 2016 |
  johnrid11 | Feb 14, 2016 |
This multi-genre book kept me mesmerized all through! I classify it as mystery with horror, set against a medieval background. It was difficult to put down. The format reminded me somewhat of Chaucer or Boccaccio, but with mysteries to be solved and secrets to be revealed in the life of each figure. My opinion is that the blurb overstated the Chaucer comparison. A Camelot [or peddler, this one selling fake relics] is de facto leader of a group trying to escape the 14th century Plague, ravaging England at that time: the unnamed Camelot, a minstrel and his apprentice, a mysterious albino child who casts runes, a one-armed/one winged storyteller, a magician jealously guarding his boxes, a painter and his pregnant wife, a midwife. Each of the characters has something to hide and has lied; none is what he or she seems. This group is fleeing the plague in 14th century England.

Characters seemed types, and just filled the author's purpose--to move the action along. Tales the characters told reminded me of the Grimm Brothers' original folktales--not the more familiar bowdlerized versions we know. The last one of the Storyteller, Cygnus, reminded me of the Lohengrin legend--the swan-knight. The strongest aspects were the medieval atmosphere, the sense of dread and superstition hanging over all and the creativity of the author's fitting them together into a satisfactory novel. I didn't understand how the end fit in until I reread the Prologue. The story was filled with menace, murder, manipulation. I liked that this medieval novel involved common people--one medieval novel not involving royalty, lords and ladies, gallant knights or mystery-solving monastics. I did catch a couple of inconsistencies but I could overlook them for the sake of the story.

Very highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | Nov 24, 2015 |
way too heavy for me, so I couldn't finish the book.
  kara-karina | Nov 20, 2015 |
A good book taking place in England in the plague years. The main character who makes a living selling religious relics ends up joining others as they travel around trying to stay ahead of the plague. Most people were very ignorant and more than willing to blame foreigners and Jews for the plague. Everyone in the group has a big secret and they all come out during their travels.

So that's settled then; we bury her alive in the iron bridle. That'll keep her tongue still.

They say that if you suddenly wake with a shudder, a ghost has walked over your grave. I woke with a shudder on that midsummer's day. And although I had no way of foreseeing the evil that day would bring to all of us, it was as if in that waking moment, I felt the chill of it, glimpsed the shadow of it, as if something malevolent was hovering just out of sight.
  taurus27 | Oct 3, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
Every historical novel has its “Aren’t you glad?” moments. In COMPANY OF LIARS, a jewel of a medieval mystery by Karen Maitland, those would be the times when you realize how lucky you are not to be living in England in 1348, when three separate plagues broke out among a population already beaten down by the deprivations of the Hundred Years War.

added by y2pk | editNew York Times, Marilyn Stasio (Oct 31, 2008)
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The truth is often a terrible weapon of aggression.
It is possible to lie, and even to murder, for the truth.

Alfred Adler, psychiatrist

Wir haben die Lüge nötig ... um zu leben.
We need lies ... in order to live.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, philosopher
In memory of my great-aunt, Jane West. A woman of infinite compassion, who taught me to love nature, history, and stories.
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'So that's settled then, we bury her alive in the iron bridle'.
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Haiku summary
The plague has arrived.
The liars' company flees.
Secrets are revealed.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385341695, Hardcover)

In this extraordinary novel, Karen Maitland delivers a dazzling reinterpretation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales—an ingenious alchemy of history, mystery, and powerful human drama.

The year is 1348. The Black Plague grips the country. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the certain death that is running inexorably toward them.

Each member of this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller who will become the group’s leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed storyteller . . . from the strange, silent child called Narigorm to a painter and his pregnant wife, each has a secret. None is what they seem. And one among them conceals the darkest secret of all—propelling these liars to a destiny they never saw coming.

Magical, heart-quickening, and raw, Company of Liars is a work of vaulting imagination from a powerful new voice in historical fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:18 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In 1348, as the Black Plague holds England in it's grip, nine strangers attempt to outrun death. Each member has their own story to tell and each has a secret.

(summary from another edition)

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