"Clever, sharp, and with surprising turns in each of its twelve delightful stories, Hanrott and Horsley's Telling Tales reworks Chaucer for a contemporary readership. The latter's Franklin and Physician become an Investment Banker and a Plastic Surgeon, while his Prioress and Friar become an Herbalist and a Talk Show Host. Their confessional narratives abound in insights about modern life, from dating and divorce in the private sphere to workplace intrigues and conspicuous consumption in the public marketplace. Each of the tales is crafted au point to bring a smile, a laugh, a wise and sometimes a withering reflection. Not the least of its charms is a wonderfully accomplished verse prologue and connecting verse linkages among the tales. In all, Telling Tales will engage you on every page."
William J. Kennedy, Professor of Comparative Literature, Cornell University and Mary Lynch Kennedy, Distinguished Professor of English, State University of New York at Cortland
"Telling Tales" is more than funny, it's also, by turns, serious, poignant, and occasionally just bawdy enough for the authors to lay claim to kinship with Chaucer's earthy-kindly take on the human condition.
The authors have enveloped their cast in a spritzy atmosphere. Chaucer, with whom the authors are obviously well-acquainted, would have appreciated the acerbic wit tinctured with understanding of human folly chronicled in this worthy update of human tenacity in a careening world.
The authors' takes are never cloying. For example, demure Shirley the Bureaucrat, part of a world familiar to anyone who ever wedged into a surreal universe of cubicles and flow-chart organizations, played very rough (but fairly.)
The authors' energetic muse shines most brightly in the creative quirkiness of their surprise endings. The randy airline pilot, for example, or the herbalist with her secret aphrodisiac recipe - neither goes where you are sure they're headed. It's not giving anything away to note how hilariously fitting is the closing line in the personal trainer's tale: "Hey, I think I'll take one of those cream tarts." I don't usually notice illustrations but the caricatures opening each tale are great, friendly expansions of the wry humor of the tales themselves.
The authors do fair justice to Chaucer's appreciation of human joie-de-vivre but they avoid going over the top (or under the bottom, as the case may be.) I liked best Hanrott-Horsleys' using the great author's structure and kindly if skeptical world-view to hold up little mirrors to ourselves and the people we bump into at the gym, on the TV set, at the coffee shop - in short, in life! Cheers for us all!!
Reviewer: A reader from Washington, D.C., USA, January 27, 2003
Telling Tales is like a good box of chocolates; each chapter is delicious in its own way. The eclectic group of walkers is very diverse, and each tale has a subtle twist, so that one just wants to enjoy more and more. The personalities of the supposed walkers are readily imaginable; one could visualize some very lively dinners in the evening. It is a clever book, with elegant language - and the touch of verse introducing each chapter adds a deft touch. The authors throw in quite a bit of trivia at the same time (such as various herbal remedies, British history, and the options for a personal trainer). My favorites are the Counselor and the Retired Colonel. It is a perfect bedside book.
Hazel Denton, an Anglo-American hiking enthusiast
This book is a sequel, if you will, to Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, in which a modern cast of characters tell tales involving very personal episodes in their lives. The authors have written a series of short stories that are at the same time didactic and entertaining. Martha and Bob Hanrott delve into the lives, indeed the very souls, of their characters with an introspection of human nature that is truly alarming. A description of the French countryside as the travelers progress on their journey provides a light diversion as the travelers amble on.
The Hanrotts seem to have a handle on their chosen art form, the short story. This is after all what the book is, a series of bedtime short stories, interspersed with an interesting attempt at Chaucerian verse. A good short story will generally have the following characteristics:
- Have a moral
- Offer a surprise ending
- Be entertaining
The tales in Telling Tales do not disappoint. My personal favorite was the Lawyer's Tale, but everyone will have their own favorite!
Gerda Grindstaff, Santa Cruz, California, USA
With Chaucerian wit and acuity, Telling Tales gives voice to human dreams, dilemmas and delusions of every kind. This book is a delight.
George Constable, author of Where You Are
A fine, funny, witty book.
Heddy Reid, writer
Like the life stories told by Chaucer's Wife of Bath and Pardoner, many of Hanrott and Horsley's tales are confessional, relating to the failures of the teller, while others are about friends or colleagues of the teller. There is even one fable starring an over-ambitious bird told by the talk show host. This story is most satisfying for its layers of meaning and humor. It serves as an allegory, warning of the dangers of xenophobia and strident conservatism and the hypocrisy that often goes along with them.
Teresa P. Reed, The Gadsden Times, July 10, 2003
I read this book with much delight this Spring, and the sheer imagination of the story-telling pulled me right out of the funk I was in. The tales are funny and full of quirks and turns of real life - how anyone can be blind-sided or miraculously spared, how sometimes it actually works to keep paying attention and reaching for the right response.
Suzanne Snell Tesh, Editor, 1818 Society Newsletter, Spring/Summer 2003