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The Lost Book of the Grail

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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookman's Tale comes a new novel about an obsessive bibliophile's quest through time to discover a missing manuscript, the unknown history of an English Cathedral, and the secret of the Holy Grail.

Arthur Prescott is happiest when surrounded by the ancient books and manuscripts of the Barchester Cathedral library. Increasingly, he feels like a fish out of water among the concrete buildings of the University of Barchester, where he works as an English professor. His one respite is his time spent nestled in the library, nurturing his secret obsession with the Holy Grail and researching his perennially unfinished guidebook to the medieval cathedral.

But when a beautiful young American named Bethany Davis arrives in Barchester charged with the task of digitizing the library's manuscripts, Arthur's tranquility is broken. Appalled by the threat modern technology poses to the library he loves, he sets out to thwart Bethany, only to find in her a kindred spirit with a similar love for knowledge and books and a fellow Grail fanatic.

Bethany soon joins Arthur in a quest to find the lost Book of Ewolda, the ancient manuscript telling the story of the cathedral's founder. And when the future of the cathedral itself is threatened, Arthur and Bethany's search takes on grave importance, leading the pair to discover secrets about the cathedral, about the Grail, and about themselves.

321 pages, Hardcover

First published February 28, 2017

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About the author

Charlie Lovett

24 books1,018 followers
I was born in Winston-Salem, NC and grew up as the child of an English professor. We spent our summers in the rural North Carolina mountains, so I felt an early affinity for the countryside. I was educated at Summit School, Woodberry Forest School (VA), and Davidson College (NC) and in 1984 went into the antiquarian book business with my first wife, Stephanie. About the same time I began to seriously collect books and other materials relating to Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

When I left the book business in the early 90s, I continued to be a book collector, and now have a large (and growing) collection of rare (and not so rare) books and artifacts connected to Lewis Carroll and his world.

In 1997 I received my MFA in Writing from Vermont College (now Vermont College of Fine Arts). During my work on this degree I researched and wrote Love, Ruth, a book about my mother, Ruth Candler Lovett, who died when I was two years old. Maya Angelou called the book “tender, sensitive, and true.”

After completing my MFA, I traveled with my wife, Janice, and daughter, Jordan, to England where we lived for six months in Kingham, Oxfordshire. We immersed ourselves in the culture and made lifelong friends. Ten years later, we purchased the cottage we had rented in 1997 and renovated it. My wife and I now spend about 6–8 weeks a year in Kingham, and have traveled extensively throughout the UK.

In 2001, my wife was hired to oversee the third grade drama program at Summit School. Bemoaning the dearth of good material, she asked if I would write a play. Thus began my career as a children’s playwright. For eleven years, as Writer-in-Residence, I wrote plays for third graders and for eighth and ninth graders. Nineteen of my plays have been published and have proved extremely popular and have seen over 3500 productions in all fifty states and more than 20 foreign countries.

During all my years as a writer, I have worked on writing fiction. I wrote my first novel-length manuscript in the early 1990s and, with luck, it will never see the light of day, but it did prove to me that I could write a book-length work of fiction. In 2008, my novel The Program, about an evil weight loss clinic, was published by the micro-press Pearlsong Press, which later published my YA novel The Fat Lady Sings.

But my big break-through as a writer came when I put together two of my passions—rare books and the English countryside—to write The Bookman’s Tale. It was a New York Times bestseller, a Barnes and Noble Recommends selection, and has been translated into several foreign languages. Parade Magazine called the book “[A] delightful tale of love and bibliophilia.”

My next novel, First Impressions, is another literary adventure, this one starring Jane Austen. People Magazine called it “a delightful novel that weaves together a modern love story and a literary mystery involving Jane Austen.”

2015 was a busy year for me, being the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I curated a major exhibition called Alice Live! at the New York Public Library for Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. I spoke at the international gathering of Carroll enthusiasts in New York and wrote the introduction to the new Penguin Books edition of Alice. 2016 also saw the publication of my Christmas book, The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, which USA Today called “[a] clever, merry, and, yes, convincingly Dickensian reimagining of this Victorian tale.”

My new novel, The Lost Book of the Grail, will be published on February 28, 2017. Set in an English cathedral library, and reaching through centuries of English history, it tells the story of bibliophile and Holy Grail enthusiast Arthur Prescott as he works to uncover a centuries-old secret about the cathedral’s history.

None of this could have happened without the support and love of my wonderful wife, Janice, and my fabulous children, Jimmy and Jordan.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 937 reviews
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
696 reviews3,264 followers
March 10, 2017
Arthur Prescott has been enchanted by stories of King Arthur and the Holy Grail since he was a boy. When he's not teaching English at the University of Barchester, he retires to the Cathedral Library to quietly nurture his secret obsession with the Grail. His quiet study is shattered by the arrival of Bethany Davis, who is tasked with digitizing all of the manuscripts in the library. First at odds with one another, Arthur and Bethany soon discover a mutual love of Grail lore, and their interest in learning more about it sends them on a quest to find the lost Book of Ewolda, an ancient manuscript that might be the key to unlocking the mystery of the lost Grail.

Arthur Prescott makes for a semi-likable protagonist. Because of his adoration for classic literary works, old tomes and medieval history, along with his aversion to modern electronic devices, he feels he would have been happier living in an earlier generation. Those attributes are perfectly fine, except that Arthur conveys his lack of satisfaction by being a pretentious and irascible grump, prone to complaining and closed-minded thinking. After a while, his negativity and whining grows wearisome.

"Oh, you must be Mr. Prescott. [. . .] You're exactly who I need to talk to."
"I beg your pardon?" said Bethany.
"I am whom you need to talk to."

It was a cruel trick of fate that had landed him in a century when universities had "core modules" and taught courses on "anagnorisis [to the Existential Hogwarts]" to students who couldn't be bothered to read books they hadn't already read in childhood.

It's Arthur's bibliophile traits and love of libraries that act as his redeeming qualities.

One year he had spent his Easter holidays ensconced in a reading room at the British Library. He had toured the libraries of stately homes and visited fellow book collectors in their own private havens.

He stood a moment with his eyes closed and inhaled the smell of antiquity. He could catch a hint of charred wood and a dash of dried mildew. The library smelled substantial; it smelled of both life and death. The air was stale and still and Arthur felt the atmosphere of the place envelop him. He was home.

Arthur is pitted against Bethany Davis, a beautiful American girl fourteen years younger than him. Her hyperactive dialogue is tiresome, as is her lack of depth as a character. She acts as the token female among a group of scholarly males. It seems her primary role in the book is to be used as a tool at the author's convenience to emphasize Arthur's character. Bethany is Arthur's opposite in every way, and the author goes to such great lengths to continually point out the chasm between their diametric personalities that it starts to feel redundant and forced.

Each chapter begins with what is essentially a short story that follows a particular item through the course of history, from A.D. 560 to 1941. These chapters are repetitious in nature - each written merely to depict how the item was handed off to another person - and effectively slow the plot. It's understandable why the author chose to include them, but the book may have benefited from having fewer of these episodes.

The book also slows a bit when Arthur discusses some of the more technical aspects of his work. Reading about him decoding old scripts, for example, is particularly befuddling.

"OK, let's see," said Arthur, running his finger across the coded manuscript. "Here - this is the first numerical combination for which we have the key. He pointed to a string of letters reading ADUUFHDDRR. DUU means XII and DD means II. The rest of the letters are just trash, I think."

"Now," said Arthur, "the very first string of cipher text contains embedded Roman numerals, so I think the key unlocks the section of text that follows, not the one that precedes it. So here, where we found the combination of twelve and twenty, we see three strings of cipher text before the next string embedded with numerals."

After a quest that doesn't require Arthur to journey much farther than his own front door, the book reaches a satisfying conclusion, but its strength lies in the reverent descriptions of things sacred to the average bibliophile.

A library is like an art museum where you're allowed to touch the paintings and embrace the sculpture, run your fingers across every brushstroke and chisel mark.

The Lost Book of the Grail reads like a watered-down Indiana Jones narrative that's occasionally tedious but ultimately offers lore, mystery, and a fervent search for ancient artifacts.
Profile Image for Sean Gibson.
Author 6 books5,681 followers
March 25, 2017
There are a number of things in life for which I am an absolute sucker, including, but not limited to, and in no particular order, the following:

*My kids
*Saved by the Bell (as I proved at great length here)
*Suckers (like, lollipops…not like people who are also suckers for things like Saved by the Bell, though I am fond of them as well)
*Iced mochas
*Using words that sound dirty but aren’t (e.g., kumquat, mastication, bisectional)
*Books about mysterious and long-lost books (bonus points if those missing books pertain to some mystical/magical historical item, and double bonus points if that item relates to Arthurian lore)

Given that The Lost Book of the Grail relates to one item on my sucker list, it’s getting at least a 0.5 star bump.

Lovett’s books tend to be breezy in a good way; even when the plot takes a turn for the serious, his style is light and nimble, and he generally strikes a good balance between literary intrigue and romantic interludes (which are generally of the sweet, PG variety).

Grail continues in that vein, with our aptly named protagonist Arthur searching for both a long-lost book about the patron saint of his beloved (fictional) Barchester cathedral (yes, Lovett drops mad Trollope references) and the Holy Grail, which he believes, based on cryptic comments from his grandfather, has a connection to Barchester. Along the way, introverted Luddite Arthur finds love, gains a new appreciation for friendship, and even learns to not throw up in his mouth a little (we call that a “hot snack”) at the mention of the word “digital.”

Because of the meet-cutes, Moonlighting-inspired romantic sparring, and languorous nature of Arthur’s approach to problem solving, this is not a fast-paced thrill ride—so, it’s probably not optimal if you’re looking for something that’s going to keep you up at night tearing through pages to solve the mystery.

But, if you appreciate slow-burn literary mysteries, Arthurian lore, religious history, romance, and quaint English towns, it’ll go down easy (not unlike an iced mocha, or a…well, I was going to make a very non-PG joke there, but I’ll show restraint for once and refrain).

(On a more self-serving note, if you like the slow-burn mystery-solving and Arthurian aspects of this book but think they’d be better complemented by action and magic (and bromance) than romance, might I humbly suggest checking out The Camelot Shadow.)
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,697 reviews14.1k followers
March 5, 2017
A charming and delightful mix of Arthurian legend, Christian beliefs, myths, history and the blending of new and old technology. Arthur, a lowly professor in Barchester (nod to Trollope) was raised by his grandfather with the belief that not only was the Holy Grail real, but was here, hidden in Barchester. The monastery named after Saint Ewolda, has gone though many reincarnations, which is where the history comes in, the plundering of the monasteries by the Saxons and later by Henry VIII and Cromwell.

Arthur loves the old manuscripts in the library and when a young woman arrives sent to digitize these old manuscripts, Arthur is not pleased. Common grounds are found, secrets exposed, some great and very likable characters, love of books and legend, and a grand adventure is afoot.

A fun read, but often bordering on too sweet, too predictable, though nice and interesting change of pace read. I enjoyed this, hard not to when it was such a wonderful ode to books.

ARC from Viking.
Profile Image for Jessica J..
1,013 reviews1,924 followers
April 27, 2017
I chose this book entirely because of the ridiculously beautiful cover, which is actually not something I do all that often anymore. My husband picked it up off my desk after I got home from the library and read the summary and the author bio and then gave me a skeptical look. "An antiquarian bookseller and rare book collector?"

He assumed that it was going to be something uptight and snobby and inaccessible. And, being completely unfamiliar with any of Lovett's previous work, I was a little nervous that he was right.

But you know what? He wasn't. This couldn't have been more fun, sweet, and well-done. It was actually kind of adorable.

When I was done with it, I described this to my still-skeptical husband as "If Indiana Jones didn't need to leave the classroom for his adventures, and if the Last Crusade had been written as a rom-com instead of an action movie." I'm not entirely sure that eased his skepticism, but this is a story about Arthur Prescott, a middle-aged literature professor in a small town in England. He's been obsessed with Arthurian legend, particularly the Holy Grail, since he was a small child and has longed believed that the Grail actually exists--and that his deceased grandfather knew something about it. Arthur's also supposed to be working on a guidebook to the university's cathedral, home to a small but significant collection of old manuscripts, but he can't finish because the book detailing the story of the cathedral's founder has been missing for centuries.

Arthur's a bit of a curmudgeon, set in his ways and unwilling to break his routine. Then one day he crosses paths with Bethany Davis, a young woman who has traveled from the US to help the cathedral digitize their manuscript collection. Arthur, a lover of old books and a Luddite through and through, is at first skeptical. But he discovers that she shares his fascination with the legend of the Holy Grail and his feelings toward her begin to soften.

There are some elements of the story that are fairly predictable--the rom-com part of it, for instance--but Lovett manages to make those elements sweet instead of trite. And the deeper mystery of the cathedral's connection to the Grail remains intriguing even if it wasn't exactly a surprise. This isn't the kind of book you're going to want if you're looking for nail-biting suspense and shocking plot twists. It's light-hearted, for the most part, but it struck the perfect balance between sweet and engaging without being overly syrupy or convoluted. I'm so glad I picked it up!
Profile Image for Annette.
743 reviews323 followers
August 24, 2020
The premise of the book is interesting. Love for the books and the stories they bring, and further transporting a reader back in time to those stories as they were happening. However, the style of writing is descriptive, which makes the pace very slow for me.

I’d say that the writing of this author is characterized by something unique. I think that’s what he aims for, which is great. He always tries to come up with something new. I don’t think he’s ever written a linear story. It just happens that the style of writing is too slow for me.

I loved the First Impressions by this author so much that I kept reaching for his books. But I think it’s the time to give up.
Profile Image for Malcolm.
69 reviews19 followers
July 30, 2017
I'm a sucker for books about books and Charlie Lovett writes those kind of books. I just can't resist.

Arthur Prescott teaches literature at a glass and concrete English university in the town of Barchester, but his passion is to be in the library of the local cathedral which houses books and manuscripts dating back centuries. When Arthur is in the library, he is in his element as he researches the history of the cathedral to complete a guidebook that is long overdue. He is convinced that there is a lost manuscript about the original founder of the cathedral and is determined to find it. Arthur is also a secret enthusiast of the legend of the Holy Grail, and is convinced not only that the Grail is real, but that it has a connection to Barchester Cathedral and that perhaps, the missing manuscript could contain clues concerning the Grail.

But when Bethany Davis, a young American researcher arrives charged with the task of digitizing all of Barchester's manuscripts, Arthur's world is turned up side down. Not only resistant, but downright unaware of, of modern technology, Arthur is determined to thwart Bethany's efforts as much as possible. That is until he finds out that Bethany is a Grail enthusiast as well.

As sure as opposites attract, Arthur and Bethany combine their individual talents to the search for the manuscript and, along the way, discover how each compliments the other. An adventure and a mystery, wrapped around an improbable love story.

With well crafted, easily readable prose and characters that are likable and well developed, Lovett has given us another book about books that both entertains and informs.

Don't let this one pass you by.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews109k followers
September 29, 2017
If you love books about books, you HAVE to read this novel. Arthur Prescott is a bibliophile and luddite who should rightfully be teaching at Oxford. Instead, he’s at a small uni in Barchester, England, carrying out research in his beloved Barchester Cathedral Library. His monk-like existence is turned topsy turvy when an Instagramming American named Bethany Davis shows up to digitize the library’s medieval manuscripts. There is sooo much to love about this book. The Cathedral Library, for example, reminded me of the Bolton Library in Cashel, Ireland, my favoritest library ever; and as a former academic, I found the portrait Lovett painted of university life to be spot-on and hilarious. All the scenes relating to the “Media Center” were particularly brilliant. I even enjoyed the things that usually annoy me: the slow beginning would normally be a deal breaker, but it served to contrast the pace of Arthur’s life before and after the arrival of Bethany. This book is pure fun, but also smart, with awesome characters and a perfectly paced literary mystery. It’s basically everything I could ever want in a novel.

— Tasha Brandstatter

from The Best Books We Read In May 2017: https://bookriot.com/2017/06/02/riot-...
Profile Image for David Eppenstein.
680 reviews162 followers
January 20, 2023
Do you like reading books? Not those e-things or audio things I mean books. I'm talking about books with paper pages with ink on them, with texture, with weight, with fragrance and color both real and imaginary. Yes, those kinds of books. Do you like them? Do you also like those books to contain stories with mysteries and quests and would it be even better if such stories were set in a small English town populated by an endearing collection of inhabitants? Well if you answered in the affirmative to any or all of those questions then you will probably be as charmed by this book as I was.

This book is about one Arthur Prescott. Arthur is an Englishman of the old school. He is 40 years old and a professor of literature at a university close to the town of Barchester, England. Arthur doesn't like his students referring to him by his first name, undignified. He is a technophobe of the highest order and cringes at the idea of his university library being referred to as a "media center". Arthur loves books and everything about books and his personal fortress of solitude, his personal sanctuary, is the library of the Cathedral of Barchester an edifice of long history and little financial support. The library however does possess some 83 volumes of handwritten manuscripts that are centuries old and Arthur treasures these manuscripts above all else. Arthur, however, has a secret.

As a young boy Arthur annually visited his beloved grandfather at his home in Barchester. It was his grandfather that introduced Arthur to books and it was from his grandfather that he learned that he was named after a famous English king of legend, Arthur of Camelot. Thus began Arthur's life long fascination with all things Arthurian. But Arthur's fascination wasn't simply some boyhood phase. After some time Arthur's grandfather pledges him to a secret that he must never reveal. It seems that the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend maybe real and that it has a definite connection to Barchester.

Arthur grows to adulthood and takes a teaching position at the university not far from Barchester where he now resides. He spends his life pursuing the mystery imparted to him by his grandfather and it seems to revolve around the 6th century martyred Saxon saint that founded the religious community that built the nearby ruined priory and the extant cathedral. Unfortunately, virtually nothing is known of this saint as her life story was contained in a book now lost and in this book may also be the key to finding the Holy Grail. Now a young American woman arrives at the cathedral and invades Arthur's sanctuary, the cathedral library.

Employed by a mega-rich American collecting Biblical artifacts to house in a Bible museum he intends to build this young woman is in Barchester to digitize the medieval manuscripts in the library and make them available free online. Arthur is horrified. The woman is the opposite of everything Arthur believes in but she is no patsy. She stands her ground against this English curmudgeon and their banter is most entertaining. Her name is Bethany and she too has a secret. Her arrival in Barchester is no accident of fate. This book will ensnare you in the mystery of finding the Book of St. Ewoulda and then learning the secrets that might lead to the recovery of the Holy Grail. Along the way you will learn about Arthur Prescott and his love of books and the people that inhabit his life and the town of Barchester. This book is pure mystery and quest without evil villains or explosions or people disappearing or dying mysteriously. This book was just fun and delightful and I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Andrea.
882 reviews132 followers
June 6, 2017
*I received a free copy from Viking via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Arthur Prescott sometimes thought he as born in the wrong generation. It's not that he thought he should be a Knight of the Round Table, but he should at least be living in the 1920s with Jeeves pulling on his morning coat for him.

Arthur Prescott, 40, professor at a small university, prefers spending time in the ancient cathedral library and losing himself in history (especially searching for clues to the resting place of the holy grail) to dealing with his students he is unable to connect with- students who call him by his first name often don't even read actual books any more... He would love nothing more than to go back to living in a simpler time, without the internet and all those newfangled innovations of this century and so often hides in his precious manuscripts, where he feels a deep connection to the past. All of that changes though when his entire world becomes threatened by a pesky American who was hired by a rich megachurch priest to hunt for old books, digitize them, and upload them to the internet so everyone can access them. At first, he is appalled by this intrusion and keeps arguing with the little baggage, but he soon discovers that he has to chose: stay stuck in the past, connected only to historic figures who have long ago been forgotten, or join the beautiful Bethany and his friends in the 21st century on a quest for a missing manuscript that could not only save Arthur's beloved cathedral from ruin, help discover a long-forgotten Saint the cathedral was originally dedicated to might, but might just lead to the holy grail...

I absolutely LOVED this book. I could completely lose myself in the story (I did, in fact become totally oblivious to my surroundings a few times only to be rudely pulled back to real life by annoying questions like "what are you laughing at so hard?") and I absolutely adored the characters, Arthur especially. The self-proclaimed bibliophile, bit of a loner, and someone who cannot imagine a live without books, quickly managed to weasel his way into my heart, and I loved following both his inner journey and his adventures in the big bad outside world. I can understand how people could easily be put off by him though. He can come across as a bit of a snob (I mean, he holds flaming speeches in front of his colleagues to berate one of them for his shocking cultural illiteracy when he discovers that he doesn't know who Jeeves is (in fact, you have to be a bit of a P.G. Wodehouse fan to appreciate some of his jokes), bemoans the fact that the university doesn't offer a single Shakespeare seminar, and is appalled that the library has been renamed "Media Center" and has become a place where students go to surf the internet and drink coffee), but I personally loved the man. He made me lough out loud with his dry humor (there's a scene where he writes a cathedral guide in the style of Gussie Fink-Nottle that was just hilarious!), and I found his worries relatable and endearing.

All in all, this was the perfect book for me: loveable characters, witty banter, a quest for a missing artefact... What's not to love?
Profile Image for Anne Bogel.
Author 6 books52.3k followers
January 19, 2023
A literary mystery, scavenger-hunt style, from one of my favorite authors. Arthur is a staid and steady—perhaps a trifle boring?—old-school Brit; Bethany is a techie American who's come to his English library to digitize his beloved ancient manuscripts. Arthur's smitten, yet quite concerned—will she interfere with his personal quest for the Grail? Books, romance, and literary high jinx—what's not to love? This book is perfect for readers who love a page-turning puzzle, minus the murder and violence of many crime-driven mysteries. I couldn't put it down because I was equally delighted with the literary references and wanting to know what would happen next.

I enjoyed getting to talk with Charlie in What Should I Read Next #208: The underappreciated art of literary forgery.
Profile Image for Julie  Durnell.
1,005 reviews93 followers
March 9, 2017
This was a thrilling adventure that hit so many notes for me, on faith, British history and church music, King Arthur and the Holy Grail, and a love story too-so very well written and researched!
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,328 reviews128 followers
March 18, 2017
“The gifts of God are rarely what we expect”

The Lost Book of the Grail is the fifth novel by American teacher, playwright and author, Charlie Lovett. Arthur Prescott often thinks he was born in the wrong century. The forty-year-old university lecturer barely tolerates students and their modern take on classics; he hates the endless meetings and committees, and would much rather spend his time in the Barchester Cathedral Library handling ancient manuscripts written on vellum. His real passion, fostered by his grandfather from age nine, is all things pertaining to the Holy Grail. His extensive collection of books on the subject is not something he shares, even with his fellow bibliophiles and closest friends, Oscar and David.

Arthur’s not exactly a luddite but he can’t conceive of a library whose main focus is not real, printed-on-paper books, like the 1634 William Stansby edition of Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, or better still, hand-written manuscripts like the Barchester Breviary. Understandably, when young (and attractive) Bethany Davis turns up from America to digitize the manuscripts in his beloved library, he’s not impressed. But her enthusiasm for the Grail gives him pause, and her astute observations soon have them joining forces to track down a missing book, a book that may well help them to locate the Grail (which they both firmly believe does exist).

Before long, and against his better judgement (he had solemnly promised his grandfather he would keep the secret), he has enlisted the help of Oscar and David. They make some startling discoveries and, just when he thinks the manuscripts, through his little team’s clever detective work, have given up all their secrets, he uncovers another, perhaps the most important of all – and is faced with a monumental choice.

Lovett tells two tales in tandem: the modern-day tracking down of the Book of Ewolda by Arthur, Bethany and their friends; and the fascinating series of events, starting in 560 AD, that results in that document’s current form and location. As well as giving the reader an intriguing tale that features ancient manuscripts, secret codes, a sacred spring, a treasure hidden in plain sight and a martyred saint, Lovett considers topics both contemporary and timeless: the relevance and future of physical libraries; the advantages and drawbacks of electronic documents; love, devotion and friendship; recollection and truth; setting priorities for life; and faith and belief.

Although this is a work of fiction, there’s plenty of fact included, and Lovett’s expertise in, respect for and love of old books is apparent on every page. The plot is easily believable, with twists and turns and unexpected revelations. Lovett’s characters are appealing, their dialogue witty and sharp. Each chapter is prefaced with an entry from Arthur’s Visitor’s Guide to Barchester Cathedral, and each present-day date is also described with its liturgical feast day. Not only bibliophiles will be charmed by this thoroughly enjoyable tale.
Profile Image for Holly.
968 reviews414 followers
April 23, 2017
I'm such a fan of Charlie Lovett's literary mysteries. The combination of a book lover & mystery is the BEST combination ever!! He's an automatic buy for me. This one is probably my least favorite of the 3 books I've read by him but still enjoyable. I think my problem was Arthur. It was set in 2016 but he seemed very naive & actually not that smart, he's a professor by the way. He's never done email nor does he even have a cell phone.....?--in 2016?? And for someone that has been investigating the Grail since he was a kid--he didn't seem to get anywhere. I think if Bethany hadn't come along Arthur wouldn't have gone anywhere at all! But I found the story very interesting & I just love how CL writes & weaves fact & fiction together. Overall, another winner:)
Profile Image for Melanie Schneider.
Author 20 books77 followers
February 6, 2018
Ich gebe zu, dass ich mit Religion nicht viel anfangen kann. Aber das bedeutet nicht, dass ich der Geschichte von Gebäuden und von Büchern, sowie Manuskripten nichts abgewinnen kann.

Durch Arthur Prescott, einen Mann, der wie ich Bücher liebt und die Geschichte eines Ortes bewahren und erkunden will, konnte ich diese Geschichte komplett genießen. Es wurde nie das Christentum verherrlicht, fällt es Arthur doch selbst schwer, zu glauben (so sehr er das manchmal auch möchte). In Kombination mit der Suche nach einem verlorenen Manuskript und dem heiligen Gral, sowie interessanten und liebenswerten Nebencharakteren wurde "Der Buchliebhaber" zu einer wundervollen Lektüre, in der (teilweise fiktive) Vergangenheit mit moderner Technik und dem Fortschritt kombiniert wurde. Diese beiden Welten prallen nicht nur in wertvollen Manuskripten und ihrer Digitalisierung, sondern stellvertretend auch in Arthur und Bethany aufeinander. Die Reise, ob sich nicht alles zu einem guten Ende verbinden lassen kann, war richtig schön und ich kann das Buch nur jedem empfehlen!
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,461 reviews445 followers
February 11, 2019
I can never resist a good bibliomystery. Occasionally I’ll even settle for a decent one, but this one barely got to decent. Which honestly is kinda of sad, because it has a lot of good ingredients going into the pot…ancient manuscripts and King Arthur and books, books, books. But then ingredients alone have never made a great dish as any mediocre cook can attest to. It’s all about the precision cooking and spices and all that. And this book to continue the cooking metaphor (inexplicable because I’m not even hungry at the moment, but there it is) was one bland dish, with the ingredients boiled into tasteless pablum. Ok, that’s pretty harsh, but ideally it’ll get across the idea of how disappointing this lukewarm serving of book loving adventure turned out to be. The protagonist, named Arthur after the legendary king, is appropriately milquetoast. A real yawn of a guy…a stereotypical British academic, all fusty and tweedy and stodgy, who loves old books and hates digital age and all its gadgetry. He’s 40, set in his way and has in mind to one day puzzle out the location of the Holy Grail, something he’s convinced is somewhere very close in his very own quiet sleepy town of Barchester. But then a fetching young American woman comes to Barchester to digitize the university’s manuscript collection and soon discoveries are made, sparks are flying and Arthur’s perfectly monotonous life and his perfectly monotonous soul are all atwitter. So yeah, it’s that kind of a book, saturated in quaintness, evocative of Arthur’s beloved all timey literary British comedies. And I’m sure that’ll appeal to some readers, but for me it just didn’t sing. The bibliomystery aspect was too obfuscated and somehow (despite the fascinating subject) not that interesting, the Arthur’s grand romance was just plain silly. The book has iconic settings and backstory, but it gets completely undercut by all the overplayed cuteness. All the characters were clichés easily described by one or two basic and very obvious traits…Arthur, the antiquated academic, grumpy, unadventurous technophobe…Bethany, the young, vivacious, chatterbox and so on. Perfectly cut out cardboard characters straight out of central casting. The only thing that really stood out was a very tangible sort of love for books, which is something the author does well. It’s the only thing that really stood out about his debut also. But love of books, grand as it may be and presumably shared by all of us Goodreaders, just isn’t enough to create a book worthy of love. And so this one was only mildly entertaining at best and didn’t really merit a second thought or a recommendation.
Profile Image for Rachel McMillan.
Author 25 books1,032 followers
June 30, 2019
Loved the guy. Loved the girl. Loved the church history. Loved the romance. Loved the writing. Loved the atmosphere. Loved the sense of place.


everything ! TWO THUMBS UP
Profile Image for Elaine.
1,516 reviews1 follower
April 28, 2019
I picked up The Lost Book of the Grail because it had all the elements of a fascinating story; a blend of faith and religion, saints and old legends, mysticism and miracles. In that, I was not disappointed.

Arthur Prescott is a proud bibliophile, a lover of books and the written word and a confirmed Luddite.

He is a professor in a lowly town of Barchester, renowned for its Arthurian origins and the site of a saint, its original founder long forgotten.

Stories of King Arthur have captivated him since he was a child and a promise to his dear grandfather that he seek the lost grail when he was of age has consumed his thoughts since he was young.

When a young American woman, Bethany Davis, enters his life, disrupting his routine and making him fall in love with her (how dare she?), they set out on a course to discover that Barchester has many secrets hidden within its halls, all it takes is a little ingenuity and sweat to suss it out.

I really enjoyed a story composed of various mystical tales; the tale of a long revered saint, the miracle of her martyrdom, how the legend of King Arthur factored in, the deciphering and code breaking of an encoded manuscript, the selection of an appointed Guardian entrusted with keeping a centuries old secret, a final unlocking of a mystery and discovery of a Christian relic that has been right in front of Arthur all this time but most important, how faith is crucial in one's life, not necessarily faith in religion itself.

A few things I did not like; Arthur, whom I thought was kind of pretentious and a middle aged brat.

He shuns technology because he loves books and libraries and what they represent. Hey, I love books and the smell of books and visit the library regularly, too but I also have a Kindle.

Bethany Davis, she's American, young, bubbly, eager and a person of faith, which I appreciated, but she didn't sound very American to me.

Everyone sounded the same, to be honest, and though I knew Bethany and Arthur would fall in love, (come on, you could smell it a mile away) I didn't feel the love but their relationship is superfluous since the mystery of the manuscript is the core of the story.

The prose is very wordy, lots of monologue-ing and the action, well, what little there is, is slow, almost British in that way.

I guess I was expecting more Indiana Jones or Robert Langdon type adventuring and I got more insert slow British type movie here since I can't think of any right now.

Toward the end, I felt the blend of various revelations was starting to get too much all at once but it was still intriguing enough for me to want to keep reading.

Read The Lost Book of the Grail if you enjoy stories about saints and miracles, King Arthur and its influence on popular culture but don't expect to be cavorting across Europe dodging mercenaries and evildoers as you seek to unravel the mystery.
Profile Image for Aoi.
769 reviews74 followers
August 5, 2017
2.5 Stars

I was completely fascinated by the history of Barchester & the search for the Grail. The protagonist is also quite the entertaining, grumpy curmudgeon .

The extremely slow pacing and the complete lack of action is what killed the book. Through the last 40%, it was pretty much a skim read
Profile Image for Donna.
3,882 reviews8 followers
October 25, 2018
I expected to love this one. I think this one suffers from the ole "my expectations were greater" syndrome. I usually love books that are about books. I liked this one though, but I wanted to LOVE it.
The mystery was well done and plus I loved the historical fiction aspect of this. I'm also a sucker for the lore of this. But all the architecture talk lost me. I didn't care so much for that.

I liked the characters. I knew what was important to them and what their mission was. So 3 stars.
Profile Image for Melody Schwarting.
1,408 reviews81 followers
July 10, 2022
2022 Review
I had to re-read The Lost Book of the Grail after realizing it is set in Anthony Trollope's fictional world of Barchester, to which I had not fictionally traveled in 2020. (I mean, look at the list below--nary a mention of Trollope!) Now, having spent most of 2021 in Barset in the company of assorted Dimsdales, Thornes, Arabins, and the like, I caught Lovett's many references to Trollope's characters. It was fun to see how Lovett incorporated those elements in such a graceful way. I didn't feel like I was missing anything when I read it the first time, but reading it post-Trollope was even more enjoyable.

Arthur, our protagonist, is a dusty old crank whom I really enjoy. He complains about a course his university is offering on "anagnorisis," little knowing he is on the cusp of his own anagnorisis. That's the type of clever thing that makes Lovett enjoyable to read; he trusts his readers to put the pieces together rather than explaining it to us.

Also, this is a rare case in which I love both versions of the book cover. Yet, the paper-cut one wins out; how cute is that?

Still recommended to fans of anything on the list below, and to fans of Trollope.

2020 Review
Goodness, what a thoroughly enjoyable book. Lost books? Cathedral architecture? Medieval manuscripts? Sign. Me. Up. In fact, if you love any of the following items, you will find something to love in The Lost Book of the Grail:

- P. G. Wodehouse
- Pre-Raphaelite art
- William Morris/Kelmscott Press
- Arthurian legend
- Medieval England
- Literary mysteries
- Saints and martyrs (fictional)
- Ye Olde Booke Æsthetyck™
- Libraries
- Digital manuscript research
- Cathedral/university towns
- the Oxford Movement
- High church liturgy/music

Arthur Prescott has a lifelong obsession with the Holy Grail and Arthurian legend. An atheist who attends church daily, he is quite the contrarian. With Luddite tendencies to the extreme, particularly given that he is a 40-year-old college professor in 2016, he is most at home when surrounded by ancient manuscripts.* Into his quietude walks a digitizer, and his world turns upside down and right-side up in all the best ways....

There are two things I love, three that bring me joy. Books about books, history, and rollicking good fiction. The Lost Book of the Grail is all of these in one (the history is fictional but that doesn't make it any less fun). It's the perfect beach-type read that's not fluff, but isn't heavy, either. I have two more books by Lovett (First Impressions and The Bookman's Tale, about Austen and Shakespeare respectively, still waiting for his Dickens novel** so he can cover Arthur's bases) and am eager to read them. I picked up Lost Book on a whim, looking for a fun afternoon read, and it hit just right.

As far as I can tell, Lovett is not a "Christian author," in that he does not seem to write for faith-based publishers or for a religious audience. But, man, Lost Book was Christian fiction as it should be. Due to the religious subject matter (the Holy Grail, a martyr-saint, and cathedrals), Lost Book had to have some element of religion. Lovett didn't stop there. His protagonist was open about his religious beliefs--and lack thereof--and so were other characters. None of it was preachy or distracting from the narrative. There were many opportunities for Lovett to yak about fundamentalists, too, but they were treated with a fair amount of respect. The final scene is so gloriously Christian , yet, I imagine, not uncomfortable for the non-Christian reader. Christian fiction writers, take note!

This is the first book out of many to actually pique my interest in Arthurian legend. Perhaps it's because one of my recent obsessions has been the Pre-Raphaelites and William Morris, both of which make frequent appearances in Lost Book with reference to their affinity for Arthurian legend. However, I like to think that Lovett finally captured something about this legend, which has enraptured many hearts over the centuries, that finally captured mine. I'm also inclined to bump P. G. Wodehouse up my reading list because I just didn't get that portion of the book, but I'm sure I will.

A delightful read, and one I'm sure to return to...after I get around to a few more books by this author.

*He bemoans his university's "curriculum expansion" while advocating more courses on Dickens, Austen, and Shakespeare (you know, the only three British writers). Dearest Arthur, an Oxford grad, doesn't know that Oxford didn't even teach Dickens and Austen--or pretty much anyone from the nineteenth century--until the mid-twentieth century (see John Carey's sparkling memoir, The Unexpected Professor, for a hot take on this and why C. S. Lewis is to blame for this, dare I say, chronological snobbery). Oxford University, over eight hundred years old at a conservative estimate, had to expand its curricula to include Arthur's darlings.
**The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge is a novella.
Profile Image for Kate Ayers.
Author 10 books19 followers
February 27, 2017
Fun book. Four stars for that. Also because it has dimension. It's a mystery, sure, but it also is a romance. While I'm not a romance fan, if you wrap it in a mystery and don't get all sappy, I'm fine with it. Besides, it has a pursuit of the Holy Grail, so what's not to like? And the history is nicely interspersed so it's interesting without boggling.

The main character, Arthur, works at fictional University of Barchester, but his off hours he spends at Barchester Cathedral library. He has always secretly been in search of the Grail, but seriously ratchets up the search when an American fourteen years his junior, but incredibly beautiful, invades his space to digitize the library's manuscripts. Well, you know his irritation at her presence turns into pleasure eventually, but can he share his quest with her? When the Cathedral is in need of costly repairs which may necessitate selling off Arthur's most favorite library books, he decides that desperate times call for desperate measures. The payoff is wonderful.
Profile Image for John.
2,008 reviews197 followers
August 25, 2017
I had trouble getting into this one at first, as I have very little interest in the King Arthur legend that's central to the plot here. I could see others giving the book a higher rating if they were into Merlin and the gang. Anyway . . .

Another reviewer mentioned that she didn't feel the brief chapter introductions following the story over a millennium worked as well in audio, but I thought they were fine, accomplishing the objective of tying the story together by the end. As far as what to expect? My loyal (masochistic) fans are well aware I loathe plot re-hashing, so here's a summary: University lecturer Arthur is driven to discover the "truth" about local St. Ewolda (c. 700) of whom virtually nothing is known. That point is put aside by the arrival of an American technician ("digitizer") Bethany, who handles Arthur's luddite digs at her mission to record the Cathedral library for posterity. Attention shifts to the Holy Grail when the two realize their shared love of the King Arthur legend. Bethany was raised by a megachurch pastor father who disapproved of a lot, but was okay with the Arthurian stuff. Her journey out of fundamentalism is alluded to, rather than stated explicitly, but she's still a Christian, joining Arthur at services (he attends for the atmosphere, not the faith). Of course, there is a Big Breakthrough at the end, both in terms of the legend, and the couple's future. Thus endeth the plot discussion.

Arthur is one nice guy, someone only a Grinch could help rooting for. I didn't care about the legend, but I cared that he cared. At one point, Arthur betrays Bethany's trust, and rather than show her explode in anger, the author gets across that she's hurt by it. Another point that's well done concerns Arthur's realization of how well she fits into his world, making friends with his set at once in the time the couple are apart. Without being soppy about it, Bethany is distraught at the death of Arthur's best friend's mother; she had been reading to the woman in the hospital. Arthur realizes "He's my good friend of many years and I never even met his mother!"

A note on the setting - the very same Barchester of Trollope (and later Angela Thirkell) fame. There are references to Septimus Harding, the De Courcey family, and others, but just enough to establish the connection here. The story is more of a spin-off than a sequel. Those looking for more in that sense as a motive for picking up the book will likely be disappointed.

Finally, a wee vent on the audio narration, specifically Bethany's dialogue. The daughter of a megachurch pastor raised in Florida is unlikely to have what sounded to me as a "New York" accent. If the narrator truly felt he had achieved a "standard" American accent, he was wrong.

Though the characters are all adults (Arthur is 40, Bethany 26), the story had a definite YA "feel" to it. I'd say the target audience as those who want a vaguely "inspirational" story, with lots of historical fiction.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
154 reviews31 followers
January 25, 2022
This book tells the story of Arthur, an English professor and Medievalist, who spends most of his free time at the Barchester Cathedral researching its manuscripts and history to produce a tourist guidebook and nurturing his secret interest in the lore surrounding the Holy Grail. Enter Bethany, an American who has been hired by a millionaire to digitize the Cathedral library and we have the main conflict of the plot. Each chapter begins with a description of an area of the Cathedral and a flashback to a vignette in the town’s past from the time of the Vikings to the English Civil War. Fans of Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles will really enjoy all the little nods to people and places we have already come to love in those books! I thoroughly enjoyed following along on the adventure in this book and deeply appreciated the nuanced discussion on the beauty and mystery of faith woven throughout the plot.
Profile Image for Leigh Kramer.
Author 1 book1,166 followers
October 8, 2017
Without a doubt, I am Charlie Lovett's target audience. His novels serve as odes to bibliophiles and I cannot resist literary origin story mysteries. Such is the case with his latest centering around the Holy Grail. I don't know much about Arthurian legend or the Grail beyond what I've gleaned from, say, Indiana Jones and The Sword and the Stone but that didn't matter.

Arthur Prescott was the perfect character to mobilize the plot. He loves Arthurian legend, debating, and remaining a Luddite. He's a confirmed bachelor and happily so, content to spend his free time in the cathedral library and seek out the mystery of the Grail and clues about St. Ewolda, who has ties to Barchester where Arthur lives. Lovett structured the novel so we are transported back to the 6th century when St. Ewolda's brother is dying and each successive chapter follows the book's Guardian through the centuries. The present day storyline follows Arthur and his friends as they try to save the Barchester Cathedral, which is in great need of repair, without needing to sell the library's rare manuscripts and figure out where the lost book of Ewolda might be. In the midst of this, American Bethany comes along to digitize the library and sweep Arthur off his feet. The love story is tertiary and almost unnecessary from my standpoint but I did love how Arthur and Bethany bantered/argued about technology and literature.

Everything about this novel satisfied me, from the central mystery of Ewolda to the points it raises about technology to the themes about doubt and faith. The tie-in between the Grail and faith was quite moving. I only wish I could spend time in the cathedral library myself and been there to discover its secrets. If you're a book nerd like me, do give Lovett's novels a try. They transport me to magical places and I can't help but smile while I'm reading because of how evident Lovett's love of literature is.
168 reviews
March 16, 2017
I agree with the previous two reviews- interesting lore and discussion of artifacts, storyline too sweet in spots. I would also like to add some thoughts about character development. The main character just got under my skin- I found him wholly unbelievable, especially when one considers he's only 40. How exactly is he such a curmudgeon? There's really no explanation for it, and I found it distracting. I have had this problem with another book from this author- however, I keep coming back because I find the plots possibly interesting. If you're going to read a Charlie Lovett book, bear this in mind: come for the story, get frustrated with the characters.
Profile Image for Leslie.
2,721 reviews2 followers
January 27, 2022
This is book I tried a sample of - loved, bought a copy and started reading and then drifted away from it. And I couldn't remember if I had bought it/ only sampled and in my quest to find it ended up reading https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8... thinking it was the book and yet somehow knowing it wasn't

Anyway in my resolution to make heads or tails of my kindle in 2022 I rediscovered this lovely book.

This is another book that is difficult to shelve in a single genre; it's a love story, it's a fictional history of the life and times of a cathedral and it's a book about the Holy Grail, it is also a book about a curmudgeony nerd who loathes all things digital learns that digital can be good and breaking out of one's own comfort zone can lead to good things.

i liked it I would recommend it even thought there were too many characters names Arthur
Profile Image for GraceAnne.
657 reviews56 followers
January 5, 2018
Wondrous fine bibliophilic fun

Arthur. The Grail. A lost saint. Wondrous ancient manuscripts. The glories of church music. A fine and occasionally silly romance. The arguments over the physical book and the digital image. Friendship, love, and death. Oh my what a lovely, lovely read.
Profile Image for Jerrie.
985 reviews127 followers
September 14, 2017
This book is like a cozy mystery version of a Dan Brown novel. There's no danger or wild conspiracy theories, but there is the grail & a lot of musty old books, libraries & churches. Many of the characters are quite charming, as well as the setting of a small English village. It was a little slow sometimes & there were some odd points in the narration, such as the narrator's inability to stick with one regional accent for the American character
107 reviews4 followers
October 19, 2017
I wanted to give this a better review. I liked this book and enjoyed reading it. I liked the medieval, literary, religious, and mathematical references. The book was a bit confusing at times because I am not too familiar with British history, both political and religious aspects, but I researched it and feel I learned more about it. So what didn’t I like? It wasn’t thought through well enough. One of the main story lines...the mystery of St. Ewolda...why was it some secret that had to be protected? Why was Arthur not able to write the guidebook? What was known about her without the “Lost Book of St. Ewolda”? She was a saint who founded the monastery, she was a member of a royal family who pledged herself to the religious life, she converted her kingdom, she was a virgin and martyr, miracles were associated with her, she is buried under the former site of the monastery next to her sacred spring which is a source of divine power, and there are artist renditions of what they believe she looked like. How much more did the encrypted, secret story tell? How much did it matter?
Next, what kind of crazy scheme was this to encrypt the story? Coincidentally, the one manuscript still missing is the one that encrypts the end of the story? How did that happen? What if this book was lost/destroyed? The ending would never have been known? Why didn’t the Abbott who encrypted it just stick it in the “maths book”. No one would have ever found it there until Bethany came along. And how did Wigbert do all that writing on his death bed? Plus, Arthur is so amazingly brilliant that no one else will ever figure out the “hidden message” except him?
What’s the point of keeping Mensa Christi a secret? Churches do not sell relics especially one that according to legend is part of the table actually MADE BY JESUS Himself (with his father) and used at the last supper. So what fool carved “Mensa Christi” into the side of it was a secret that was to be protected with your very life! Maybe that side should have been turned to the wall so it couldn’t be seen. Actually there is a Mensa Christi in a church in Nazareth and it is a slab of rock believed to be the one where Jesus ate with his disciples after he rose from the dead. It has been there since the 17th century and Jesse Johnson has not tried to buy it. How big is this “table”? It’s used as a desk, albeit a small one, but it was put in a box and buried and handed over to the abbess in the middle of the night. Who put legs on a relic and used it as a desk? It sounds like sacrilege to me.
All right...now all my petty musings...
Why was the precentor “an ass” to Arthur? Because he knew his grandfather (and was good friends with him)? Because he was “watching him”? Arthur never even knew his name?
Why was the desk (Mensa Christi) in the same spot for 1000 years? Only one person was to ever know where it was...the guardian. The old guardian would go away and the new one would move the treasure. Someone dropped the ball on this one.
So now the library is a newer, friendlier Library with children looking at and paging through 700+ year old manuscripts.
What happened to Gwyn’s other child? It said she was a single mother of two small children but when she needs a sitter it is only Daniel who needs to be watched.
Why did Bethany and Arthur name their children after Oscar and Gwyn? I would have expected Ewolda and Wigbert.
What did the mystery of Ewolda’s life have to do with the Mensa Christi?
The precentor KNEW they took the book, but let them? Why?
It says the monastery was ruled by women after Wigbert dies (560) to honor St. Ewolda. In 794, Cyneburga is in charge but by 880 we are back to Abbotts and no women are mentioned (except housekeeper who cannot read or write). Women’s rights lost a lot of ground.
So no one ever actually counted the manuscripts? One was missing since 1941 and no one knew?
Finally, why would an English Department in the United States be looking for an Englishman to teach English? And why would Arthur want to move? The place he was in sounded beautiful, his house sounded lovely, he had friends and activities, a church to belong to, a book club, Bethany seemed to fit right in, why would they move? So she could be near her father’s mega church?
Ok, that’s it. I hate to pick a book apart and be petty but there was just so much in this book that made me shake my head and wonder.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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