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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2008 Karen Maitland (P)2008 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"[Maitland] brings to life a medieval England of muddy streets and half-naked children fighting each other for pieces of dog dung to sell to the tanners, as sheep-stealers swing purple-faced from the gallows...She neatly catches the spirit of primitive superstition that governed every aspect of 14th century life and then rolls on with it for her own story-telling ends...Company of Liars is a richly evocative page-turner which brings to life a lost and terrible period of British history, with a disturbing final twist worthy of a master of the spine-tingler, such as Henry James.” (Daily Express - UK)

“Transports readers back to the days of the Black Death...Paying homage to The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales, this is a gripping read...As a reader you are taken as close to the plague as you would ever wish to go.” (Bookseller)

What listeners say about Company of Liars

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful story...

and a conclusion you will never anticipate. I LOVE this book. Beautiful language, interesting characters, visual landscape. Excellent narrator. I have a long commute and looked forward to it so I could listed to Company of Liars.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful story

This audio fully engaged me. One of the most enjoyable experiences I've had. I am a fan of Maitland's imaginative vision. Beautifully crafted and pulls you all the way to the surprising end of this tale. Happy it's in my library for repeat listenings.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A satisfying tale

I was intrigued by this richly developed rendition of Chaucer's classic from the start. Maitlin is a master storyteller. Her well-crafted tale has the kind of astute characterizations, haunting detail and flowing narrative that makes her a true visionary in my book. The narration is beautifully performed with each member of its cast of characters clear and distinct. It's tone takes the reader/listener effortlessly into the medieval world with all its suffering, superstitions,wonders and vices. I'm so glad I got this one. I recommend you add it to your collection. You'll be returning to it. Enjoy.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Pilgrimage to escape the plague

The story has been described as a variation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; however, it has been a long time since I read that story so relationships I make may not be completely accurate. It is a story of 9 people thrown together in attempts to escape the plaque ravishing England as it spreads through the country. Each member has a secret that they are hiding or running from so it helps to loosely bind them together initially out of need and gradually out of friendship.

Some of the ‘lies’ are more transparent than others. The story does touch on religious beliefs and cultural opinions of medieval Christians on Jews, homosexuality, holy relics, witches, religious rites and clergy. This is where the similarities to Canterbury Tales probably is connected. They are not structured discussions but intertwined with the relationships of the group as they face challenges and tragedy. These issues arise organically as these 9 strangers travel and in medieval England.

Overall, I liked the story. I guessed most of the hidden lies, some are more obvious than others. But then, so are people. There is a slight layer of supernatural that is intertwined in through out the story. It adds a little twist that could have been overblown but I think it enhances the ending.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Hard to Evaluate

A dark tale, well researched, well written and well performed - but not my cup of tea. By the end of the pilgrim’s trek, I too was exhausted.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Maxwell Caulfield gives a stunning performance

I read this many years ago and loved the rich storytelling. I don't often revisit books, but this book particularly lends itself to listening so I eagerly ordered it. I was in no way disappointed in Maxwell Caulfield' s performance. He brought each of the characters alive in distinct and memorable ways. His voice is also rich and distinctive. I hope he has a long and thriving career in audio book narration as he is particularly well suited to it. It's a shame we didn't see much of him onscreen in years past as I enjoyed looking at him too ;)

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

No real plot

This was one of the strangest books I have ever read. Unless I missed something major in the beginning, the story essentially seems to have no real plot. It is about a group of travelers that end up banding together and mysteriously killing each other (or being killed by other means) but there is no real reason for the travel or the murders and although there is a twist at the end, all I felt like saying was SO WHAT! It felt like one of those long rambling stories told by a child that just kept going on but never really got anywhere. The only reason why I listened to the whole thing was in hopes of something finally happening at the end to pull it all together but alas, no such luck.

2 people found this helpful