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Canterbury-esque Books

This is a list of books which use the same basic plot device as Chaucer's classic Canterbury Tales (that is, the same framing device). That is, a group of individuals meet and share their different stories. The narrative of each vignette is told from the perspective of a different person. The connecting plot is usually minimal.

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is so well known in Western literature that all authors who this plot device do aware that they are borrowing something from Chaucer. This plot device is similar to, but different from, "1001 Arabian Nights," which involves a single story-teller.

We wish to list as many "Canterbury-esqe" books here as we find out about, but this is not thought to be a comprehensive list.

Canterbury Tales (1380)
  by Geoffrey Chaucer
This is the original, about which nothing more needs be said by us. It is one of the most studied and analyzed works of fiction in history.
Burning Bush Patrol
  by Rich Marshall
  (Bookcraft, 1991)
The "Burning Bush Patrol" of this book's title refers to a Boy Scout patrol with a very unusual mascot: a burning bush, as in the bush from the Genesis account of Moses.

In this novel, adults who were part of a particularly close-knit Latter-day Saint Boy Scout troop reunite as adults for a weekend in a cabin and share stories from their lives since the time they were boys.

Now out of print, this is an insightful and impressive work by first time author Rich Marshall.

  by Dan Simmons
This immensely popular, best-selling science fiction novel by Dan Simmons won the Hugo and Locus awards. Hundreds of years in the future, a small number of very different people, from different professional and religious backgrounds, journey to a remote planet where they have been invited to meet the Shrike, an enigmatic alien creature at the center of the powerful "Church of the Shrike." En route, they share their fascinating life stories. The group includes a soldier, a Catholic priest, a Jewish university professor, a popular author, and others.
Star Trek Voyager: Pathways
  by Jeri Taylor
Co-creator of the television series "Star Trek: Voyager" wrote this book about the lives of the principle Voyager crew. Pathways is indespensible for any Voyager fan, and comes as close to being Star Trek cannon as any novel can be. Taylor had already written about Captain Janeway's life story in Mosaic. This book features the life stories of Chakotay, Harry Kim, Torres, Tom Paris, Neelix, Kes, and Tuvok. Each can be read alone.
Pilgrimage: The Book of the People
  by Zenna Henderson
First published in 1961, Pilgrimage was the first collection into book form of some of Zenna Henderson's brilliant and popular "People" stories. (These stories were the basis for the William Shatner movie "The People" and probably for Disney's "Escape to Witch Mountain" and "Return to Witch Mountain.") Just a few of Henderson's "People" stories are in this volume, but they are some of her earliest -- stories which established the basis for the entire "People" mythos: "Ararat", "Gilead", "Pottage", "Wilderness", "Captivity", and "Jordan."

Even though these stories were originally published separately, and still stand nicely on their own, they are so beautifully bridged and so clearly cut from the same cloth that Pilgrimage reads very much like a seamless novel -- a novel which just happens to highlight six different experiences of six intriguing individuals.

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Page created 19 May 2000. Last modified 26 June 2000.
Research supported by East Haven University.
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