A World Lit Only by Fire 101 Hello- I have started this discussion because I am required to read this amazingly sarcastic novel and would like to understand it to the best of my ability. At this moment, I have read through the insightful first chapter of "The Medieval Mind" and have quickly read a portion of the second chapter "The Shattering" but am still unsure as how to absorb all the newly given information. I have reached a bit of a dilemma, for you see, I have read until the section on Cesare Borgia and the bed-sharing of himself and the lovely Lucrezia, but still have quite a bit to go and have given too much time in between the point that I have started the story and then began to continue and have now forgotten much of the story that I started to enjoy. Do I start the book over or do I continue without a clue as to what is going on and how it impacts the story that is showing itself to me? I really do need a bit of help as to how to understand the text of the novel and how to properly absorb it. Can someone please help me decide where to go from this point on? Oh and also, I would like to know if the beginning of this wonderfully insightful historical story ends in the same way. Thank you, tunia329 

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One thing I have learned in graduate school is that when you read massive amounts of material, you cannot possibly expect to remember it all. The Manchester book is full of interesting vignettes, some of which are crucial, others are not. Forge ahead, finish the reading, then return and give it a brief skim, and you'll be shocked how much you retain. If its appropriate (i.e. if you own the book) annotation, or underlining, as I tend to do, is a great strategy as well.

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Press on, and then read over the beginning of the book when you finish. If possible, annotate the text, marking passages you are unfamiliar with. At the very least, put sticky notes in the book to mark the parts of the book you want to ask questions about. Ultimately, when you read a history book, it is far more important to identify the argument (or arguments) than it is to memorize every fact. Nobody can do that.

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From my own experience, I would advise a quick re-read of the beginning of the book. The reason for this is from my own experience I have found that when you do this you actually remember far more than you think and that you can do this quite quickly. Then you can get back up to speed with where you were before you go on again and continue finishing the book.

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I would suggest starting over. If you are already struggling, it seems to me to be more worth while (especially if you want to have a greater appreciation for the text itself). While you may fall behind for a bit, you will be able to grasp things which follow. I would also suggest speaking to your teacher about the time-line. He or she may be willing to accommodate you given your interest.

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Here's a possibility.  To refresh your memory, skim through the part of the book you have read so far. Pay special attention to the beginnings of paragraphs and the ends of paragraphs. Writers of history often state, in the beginnings of paragraphs, the points they intend to make; they often summarize, at the ends of paragraphs, the points they have just made. By doing this and by taking notes, you may be able to refresh your memory sufficiently to proceed with the rest of the book.

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My own experiences say the best advice is "Keep going." (1) You have a time constraint. (2) The content is new and of an unfamiliar nature thus rereading may only be of insignificant value. (3) If you continue on, you may begin to understand the style and content, so the rest of the reading will make sense. (4) You can raise questions and discuss the unclear parts in class. (5) After the style and content begins to make sense to you, you can then go back and reread to great effect.

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My suggestion is to write down the questions that come to your mind as you read.  Based on your description, it sounds like you feel like you have the big picture but are missing the details.  Slowing down and re-reading certain portions might help.  You can also look things up as you read, or ask specific questions here.

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Although eNotes doesn't have a study guide for this book, a good place to start is Wikipedia. My Google Search turned up several good links as well. By the way, reading the book all the way through is always your best bet; although it feels like you've forgotten the first part of the book, I guarantee you will remember and connect parts in your head when writing or looking for themes. The information is not lost, it is just hibernating.

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