A lively re-telling of the medieval classic.
One fine spring day, thirty pilgrims set off from Harry Bailey's inn in Southwark for the shrine of Thomas A Becket in Canterbury. The innkeeper makes an offer that none of the travellers can refuse: a free dinner at his inn, on their return, to the person who can tell the best story. So begins the assortment of tales from such varied characters as the Knight, the Wife of Bath, the Miller and many more.
Ackroyd's retelling of Chaucer's classic isn't exactly like the Ethan Hawke'd film version of Hamlet, but it's not altogether different, either. Noting in his introduction that the source material is as close to a contemporary novel as Wells Cathedral is to an apartment block, Ackroyd translates the original verse into clean and enjoyable prose that clears up the roadblocks readers could face in tackling the classic. The Knight's Tale, the first of 24 stories, sets the pace by removing distracting tics but keeping those that are characteristic, if occasionally cringe-inducing, like the narrator's insistence on lines like, Well. Enough of this rambling. The rest of the stories continue in kind, with shorter stories benefiting most from Ackroyd's treatment, though the longer entries tend to... ramble. The tales are a serious undertaking in any translation, and here, through no fault of Ackroyd's work, what is mostly apparent is the absence of the original text, making finishing this an accomplishment that seems diminished, even if the stories themselves prove more readable.