A Distant Mirror

A Distant Mirror
Barbara Tuchman

Oh, the pleasures of re-reading. And the sadness that comes with the realization of how much has been forgotten! I thought I had forgotten all of this book but for a single sentence since first reading it over twenty years ago. As it turned out, I even had the sentence wrong – vindicating Pierre Bayard, I suppose. In any event, the grand historical narrative of Tuchman’s trip through “the calamitous fourteenth century” is still compelling, though using the life of Enguerrand de Coucy VII as a vehicle for the story now strikes me as having been a mistake. The “mirror” angle is also left largely unaddressed, which is surprising given the direction Tuchman’s thoughts were tending (her next major book would be The March of Folly). But perhaps we just expect more in the way of this today, as we live through our own version of the end times.