By Johannes Fried
Published in October 2016
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
This book was excruciatingly boring. It took me 3 painful months to read, and I wimped out and didn’t finish the last quarter.
Johannes Fried opens by saying clearly that “this book is fiction.” Many historical details are missing, so the best Fried can do is make educated guesses based off of the sources. Fried attempts to reconstruct Charlemagne’s life in extreme detail.
There are many fascinating nuggets - especially information about the geopolitics of the time and how Charlemagne came to power. However the endless pages of details about Christological debates, political minutia, and architectural history prevents the good information from really coming onto its own. Even as an amateur historian of the Middle Ages, I also thought that the book lacked enough context to draw me in. I wished that there was more explanation of the technology, of the legacy of Rome, and of the era as a whole.
This book was originally published in German, then translated into English. That probably accentuated its problems. I’ve read several biographies of Charlemagne, and this one is probably the worst. I really cannot recommend this book to anyone, not even the most hardcore Charlemagne fans.
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