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'Winters in the World' Review

Figured I'd read Eleanor Parker's 'Winters in the World: A Journey through the Anglo-Saxon Year.' Should you read it, too?



You know how I complain about the lack of focus and organization in books, especially nonfiction books? That is not Ms. Parker's problem. This book is about how the Anglo-Saxon's in Early Medieval England saw the seasons. It starts in Winter and ends in Autumn, each important Anglo-Saxon seasonal celebration getting its due in chronological order. Super easy to navigate and understand- this is a woman who understood what she was doing and did it.

And this is a bit of feat on her part. Anglo-Saxons had multiple calendars and tended to treat the year as two seasons/months: Winter, and the growing season. She sticks with their reckoning as much as possible.

Point of Interest:

The Old English poems and translations are interesting. Trying to sound out the words for a couple of lines is entertaining, especially when you guess at their meaning and get kind of close. Her honest explanations of what we know about different holidays is refreshing as well. If the evidence for something is slim and you're guessing at something, say so.

There are asides about medicine and agriculture roped in as well.


Some of the Poems are a bit of a Reach:

The Phoenix poem that has a couple of lines describing eternal summer kind of fits her theme, and The Wanderer poem is strongly linked to the seasons, but Beowulf and The Wife's Poem? They have maybe two lines that describe weather or seasons. When she starts focusing on the use of the word 'fallow' to connect a sad poem with autumn.

Overall Take:

I appreciate the book and marked it up aplenty. If you have a very niche interest in Anglo-Saxon social history, this is for you.


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