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The Once and Future Queen: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend

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Guinevere’s journey from literary sinner to feminist icon took over one thousand years…and it’s not over yet.

Literature tells us painfully little about Guinevere, mostly focusing on her sin and betrayal of Arthur and Camelot. As a result, she is often seen as a one-dimensional character. But there is more to her story. By examining popular works of more than 20 authors over the last one thousand years, The Once and Future Queen shows how Guinevere reflects attitudes toward women during the time in which her story was written, changing to suit the expectations of her audience. Beginning in Celtic times and continuing through the present day, this book synthesizes academic criticism and popular opinion into a highly readable, approachable work that fills a gap in Arthurian material available to the general public.

Nicole Evelina has spent more than 15 years studying Arthurian legend. She is also a feminist known for her fictional portrayals of strong historical and legendary women, including Guinevere. Now, she combines these two passions to examine the effect of changing times and attitudes on the character of Guinevere in a must-read book for Arthurian enthusiasts of every knowledge level.

278 pages, Paperback

Published November 21, 2017

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About the author

Nicole Evelina

13 books181 followers
Nicole Evelina is a USA Today bestselling author and biographer who writes historical fiction, non-fiction, and women’s fiction. Her books have won more than 50 awards, including four Book of the Year designations. Nicole is now a hybrid author but was named Missouri’s Top Independent Author by Library Journal and Biblioboard as the winner of the Missouri Indie Author Project in 2018 and has been awarded the North Street Book Prize and the Sarton Women’s Book Award. One of her novels, Madame Presidentess, was previously optioned for film.

She is represented by Amy Collins of Talcott Notch Literary. You can find her online at http://nicoleevelina.com/.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews
Profile Image for Alex Bledsoe.
Author 61 books750 followers
April 30, 2018
I've read a lot of Arthurian non-fiction, including other books on Guinevere, but this was the first that tracked the chronological changes in her presentation from the earliest mentions to date. Seeing the way society viewed this queen in various eras helps understand how they viewed the Arthurian story as a whole. Of interest are the changes that occur once female writers begin telling her story, giving her a voice denied by centuries of male-dominated literature. The book is also written very smoothly, with clean prose that makes its points clearly and concisely. If you're an Arthurian fan, I think you'll really enjoy it.
Profile Image for Andrea Stoeckel.
2,580 reviews104 followers
December 7, 2017
"The timeless universality of the themes in the Arthurian legend might also account for the continuing attraction. No matter the year, love, loyalty, might versus right, betrayal, and equality are part of our lives."

Geunivere: saint, or sinner? Model wife or feminist? Historical or fantasy metaphor? Nicole Evanilina's seminal overview of both fiction and fact is a lot to take in as she visits and revisits the historical record of the woman known as Guenivere, a chess piece of both romance and theology/theology. Steeped in tradition of courtly love, authors have used her to symbolize the wanton one, the pure one, the wished for savior, the devil incarnate, Arthur's helpmeet or his destruction.

This is an extant piece of work and a welcome overview of the tradition for centuries with enough notes to make your head spin. ASA theologian and a church historian I welcome this book into the cadre, and highly recommend it. 5/5
1 review
November 21, 2017
Clearly a 5-Star worthy book. I highly recommend Nicole Evelina's newest, meticulously researched book describing the life of Guinevere. Much has been written about this woman, many truths, and quite a few myths. Nicole reveals both and turns this woman's remarkable life into a turn-the-page account. I believe that somehow, this author managed to dig up every truth and rumor told about this multi-faceted Medieval woman and weaved the account like a painter of words. Excellent!
Profile Image for Nicole Evelina.
Author 13 books181 followers
March 6, 2018

The Once and Future Queen: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend by Nicole Evelina explores the origins of one of literature's most legendary queens. Arthur's wife and queen of Camelot has seen several changes which are often interpreted as a result of the time period. Diving into the myths and literature, Evelina explores Guinevere in every connotation from adultery to witchcraft to her role as a feminist icon. The author is well-known for her own Guinevere trilogy, which explores her personal perspective on the queen and the hope to see more recreations of the character in the future. The Once and Future Queen gives an in-depth and well-researched look into the role Guinevere plays in the story of Arthur and Camelot, as well as her role as queen, a woman, and an individual. Nicole Evelina is clearly passionate about the topic and brings to light several aspects of the legendary queen's evolution over time. It's an intriguing concept to see such a notable character, mostly known for either her relationship with Arthur or her affair with Lancelot, as her own independent character.

Guinevere's original conception often had her as an one-sided character that was there to betray Arthur through her affair, and her tragic love story with Lancelot. Her personality has evolved through various facets, which include traits such as being selfish, docile, self-centered, and passionate. The examples are clearly laid out with Evelina providing equal time exploring each source material. Her character has been tinkered with over time, which often depended on whether the writer was a man or a woman. T.H. White painted her as a “bitter shrew” while readers found Lavinia Collins' portrayal of her in Guinevere: A Medieval Romance to be “selfish” and one that “ruined lives.” In older tales, Arthur is perceived as a “god-like” king so he wants Guinevere to be “perfect” and to embody what are referred to as Victorian ideals - qualities such as being pure, angelic, fertile, and supportive. Instead, the queen is often the opposite, painted as barren, brash, vain, and jealous. The Once and Future Queen fully explores Guinevere as her own person and is perfect for those readers that love Arthurian legend.
Profile Image for Linda Smith.
256 reviews14 followers
January 3, 2018
Nicole Evelina clearly adores Arthurian legend and this book stands as a tribute to Arthur's queen, Guineviere. This meticulously well researched book contains info gleaned from a ton of sources.
This could easily be a companion read to Evelina`s previous novels about Guineviere; Daughter of Destiny and Camelot`s Queen. She has a third novel in the series arriving this Spring (which I am so anxious to read).
Fans of Arthurian lore will gleefully absorb every tidbit in this book.
Profile Image for Julia.
970 reviews28 followers
January 2, 2021
Five stars for the concept of this book: analyzing how the character of Guinevere has been interpreted by different authors in different historical periods. I learned things, as well as being reminded of various books that I have read.

Three stars for the execution:
This is an overview, attempting to cover one thousand years in less than 250 pages. It goes from Celtic tales of the 12th century, through medieval stories, Victorian interpretations, and feminist visions from the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
In order to cover all this, the author draws deeply on other people's works. I don't think there are more than ten pages that don't have quotes and footnotes (Bonner says, Howey says, ...). This reminds me of how I wrote papers in college - finding a number of secondary sources and trying to summarize them, rather than doing research from primary sources.

Things to think about:
- Medieval/religious interpretation that Guinevere's affair with Lancelot led to the downfall of Camelot is comparable to Eve's sin leading to the expulsion from Eden.
- Does The Mists of Avalon portray Guinevere more as a villain or a victim?
- When Guinevere falls in love with Lancelot, is this a step towards reclaiming her own body and sexuality? Or is it a case of only defining her in relation to a man?

If any of those questions sound intriguing, this is a good book to read.
Profile Image for Samantha.
284 reviews24 followers
December 31, 2017
I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads giveaway program. This book was an analysis of Guinevere through literature. It wasn't quite what I was expected, but I found it a very educational book. I'm honestly not that familiar with Guinevere so this definitely broadened my base of knowledge.
Profile Image for Christie Sitterly.
259 reviews11 followers
February 26, 2018
This book provides everything you ever wanted to know about Guinevere, and more! Author, Nicole Evelina, has scoured many scattered and slim resources to provide the reader with one source of information about the legendary wife of King Arthur. And, even better, the book does not read like a boring nonfiction work. It flows extremely well and is interesting, to boot!
Profile Image for Greyscotty.
193 reviews
November 23, 2017
I must start by thanking Nicole and my stepdaughter for turning me onto this superb book. I have long been a follower of Arthurian lore & legend and find anything I can get my hands on most desirable. To read specifically about Guinevere and the many roles that have been assigned to her over the past millennium-and-a-half was definitely a dream come true for me. I must say I have, for most of my life, seen her as the quintessential women's champion; even when others - mostly male authors and Christian monks - were going out of their way to chastise & ridicule her. Even Monmouth, Malory and all the way up to Tennyson & White simply did not "get" it! How could they? We are looking back at over 1200 years of history. Of course, there will always be detractors no matter what the situation but I - for one - choose to believe in her. Further, I like to think that Guinevere, in one incarnation or another, is the inspiration behind many of today's strong female characters in both literature and other media.

The book is well researched and written with many references to past works by respected scholars & authors. The countless sins of which Guinevere is accused are dealt with honestly and objectively.
This is a trait I look for in most of the books I read; fact or fiction. There are those who believe that all these tales were fabricated at a time when Britain desperately needed a champion but then, there are those who believe that about the Bible! Whatever your beliefs, take a closer look at some of these accounts: you might be surprised at the resemblance to "known" history. Many of us find a certain solace in reading about our past and how we arrived at where we are today.

Final word? Give it a go!
Profile Image for Selaya Morton.
221 reviews3 followers
November 21, 2017
So much detail and lots to think about. The idea of a multitude of "Guineveres" of varying moral and personal demeanours is definitely tantalizing. To see all the different ways that this historical(?) character has been treated and written over the centuries was a complete eye-opener for me. I agree completely with the notion that early renderings were most decidedly penned by Christian devotees and they, as always, only had their own self-interest at heart; namely, the perpetuation of "their" teachings.

I like the possible story-line of Guinevere being of Celtic descent. That and the possibility that she worshiped the Goddess makes this even more fascinating. Every author seems to want to instill their own slant on the legend and I do like the (d)evolution of the character back to an honest and trusted warrior queen. As you say, who knows how many more incarnations there might be in the future? The fact that this process has taken around 1500 years is a demonstration of how single minded we have to be when it comes to history - no matter how tenuous the facts might be.

Thank-you,Nicole, for opening MY eyes to some of the possibilities: or should that be "probabilities?"

BTW: only four stars because of the imprinting of page numbers over words; sometimes rendering both unreadable. Perhaps it's just an ereader thing.
Profile Image for Pat Wahler.
Author 10 books204 followers
November 21, 2017
As someone who thoroughly enjoyed the musical play Camelot, I looked forward to discovering more about the character of Guinevere. I found that after reading this book, it will be impossible for me to think about Guinevere in the same way again.

Nicole Evelina has written a well-researched but highly readable volume tracing the evolution of Guinevere in literature. I enjoyed learning about the societal norms that contributed to each author's portrayal of Guinevere, and how this changed the way Guinevere was presented in stories over the centuries. Going from a somewhat vapid helpless maiden to a strong woman in her own right, Guinevere's story could serve as a succinct allegory for the transformation of womanhood in general from the past to the present. I recommend this book for anyone interested in Arthurian legend, and particularly for those, like me, who are fascinated by Guinevere.
Profile Image for gj indieBRAG.
1,487 reviews62 followers
June 7, 2018
We are proud to announce that +THE ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend by Nicole Evelina is a B.R.A.G.Medallion Honoree. This tells readers that this book is well worth their time and money!
Profile Image for Jim Swike.
1,481 reviews13 followers
December 12, 2017
A well researched book about Guinevere in Legend and Literature. Very interesting, a great reference for those interested in the Middle Ages and Literature. Enjoy!
665 reviews8 followers
November 23, 2017
I bought this because I've read the other two Guinevere novels by Nicole and loved them, I was expecting this to be book 3 and it most certainly isn't. What it is however is a carefully research account of how the character of Guinevere has developed since the earliest surviving stories up to the modern revival. It's well structured, easy to read and very interesting.

I received and Advanced Readers Copy of this book at my request and I voluntarily wrote this review.
Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews

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