Sherwood Smith's Reviews > Lancelot and Guinevere

Lancelot and Guinevere by Carol Anne Douglas
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As I said in my review of the first half of this saga, I’ve never been a fan of the end of the general drift of the storyline, with the adultery shaming of Guinevere and all the murders/battles/doom.

In fact, it was while reading a translation of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Erek from medieval German to modern, back in 1973 or so, that it first hit me that Arthuriana was a thousand year old fan fiction world, participated in by pretty much all of Western Europe. Maybe farther east than that.

I thought this was pretty cool, and so, over the years, I’ve tried different people’s takes on the familiar material, especially when side or minor characters are featured.

Carol Douglas’s Lancelot saga is the first long one I’ve read, and thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve already reviewed the first half, which I had read in various drafts over the years. This second half is my first read, and I was glad to discover how much I enjoyed it.

The structure is the same picaresque intersecting of events, which calls Malory to mind. (I first encountered these tales in a kids’ version of Malory so his take operates as my ur-vision of Arthuriana.) The prose is spare and clear, and we encounter many names and tales from Malory as well as other old sources.

But in this version, we continue the theme of gender roles, which in turn leads to some examination of assumptions about gender by characters, specifically Gawaine. He is easily my second favorite character after Lancelot, who tries so very hard to be good, while being so deadly—and paying the emotional price for all those deaths. Gawaine, the roistering womanizer, makes quite a journey as he advances toward middle age along with the rest of the Camelot heroes.

I also liked how Douglas deepened the religious questions, and the difficulties of two traditions shouldering along side by side. There are good pagans and good Christians, bad pagans and bad Christians, superficial ones, deep ones, misguided ones on both sides, as well as those who shrug off the entire subject. I loved watching Lancelot’s struggle toward grace, and her own place in the world.

Arthur was more problematical in places, perhaps on purpose. He certainly demonstrated the distortion of a man with too much power, surrounded by people who are not permitted to say no. And Guinevere continued to be her own prickly, complicated self, true to her beloved. I liked where she ended.

In fact the poignancy of the end was far more satisfying to me than the doom of many poems and tales. Altogether an excellent read.
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Reading Progress

February 8, 2017 – Started Reading
February 8, 2017 – Shelved
February 8, 2017 –
page 62
"Ah, it is good to come back to this world, wherein Lancelot is a woman disguised as a man. I love the characterizations, the explorations of gender, age, attitude, even the signs of PTSD as the tale moves inexorably toward the end that must come when all men around spend their time preparing for, and glorifying, war."
February 8, 2017 – Shelved as: classics
February 8, 2017 – Shelved as: exploring-gender-in-fiction
February 8, 2017 – Shelved as: fantasy
February 8, 2017 – Shelved as: history-medieval
February 9, 2017 –
page 70
"I love Ninian in this book. And now we meet Galahad . . . and the first knell sounds through Ninian's dreams. Love this book."
February 10, 2017 –
page 190
"With a strong flavor of Malory, prose as clear as water, this story brings alive the characters, with that gender twist that makes it so fresh and interesting. But the sense of approaching doom is inexorably heightening the tension."
February 13, 2017 –
page 303
"A couple of bumps with Arthur, otherwise gaining complexity, mood, and that rising sense of doom, building through little moments."
February 22, 2017 –
page 420
"I'm enjoying how some of the minor tales take on new twists with the gender play."
February 26, 2017 –
page 466
"The endgame has begun. I've never liked this part of the Arthurian myth, but this book is an exception because I want to see what Douglas does with all the gender play. (And I love Gawaine, whose character arc has been pretty amazing.)"
February 27, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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wishforagiraffe I love new takes on the Arthurian tradition, this sounds excellent

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Sherwood Smith I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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