The Once and Future King by T.H. WhiteThis book terrified me, on many levels. Its 667 pages long, to begin with. Its been a while since I read a serious chunkster like that (besides Harry Potter, which somehow in my mind doesnt really count...).
Besides that, I am just not a fan of Authur stories, despite my deep love of the Disney movie The Sword and the Stone, of course. Ever since I saw the musical Camelot in the theater when I was in high school, the story just didnt appeal to me. Then my book club chose this as our monthly selection and I finally decided it was time to tackle this monster.
Was it worth reading? Absolutely. This book is so much more than just Arthur and Camelot. The first section of the book is essentially the Disney movie, and that part does grab you and you love Wart so much that you keep reading just to find out how it ends for him (although, it got harder and harder to keep reading for a while there, in the middle - it got a bit slow).
White, our beloved author, is a genius, really. Hes like your friend or fellow book club member, who just happened to be there, in the middle ages, and hes telling you the story with his own language and always using references to modern day concerns and people. He sometimes appears to mock them and their ways (oh, especially those blundering old knights...), other times he pities them, but mostly, I felt as though he was trying to understand them and why they made the choices they did.
The book is, to me, chiefly three different things.
First, it is a historical study of England at the time, which is both interesting and confusing, with many Lords and Kings and battles etc. Obviously this is a fantasy book and its based on legend, but either way, we read a lot of political and historical stuff.
Second, much of the book is devoted to a character study of Arthur and Guinevere and Lancelot. Arthur, the imperfect, naive, thoughtful and above all, forgiving king. Guinevere, the stubborn and difficult to understand queen/mistress - White often just tells us straight out that he doesnt know why she made the choices she did. And Lancelot - the ill-made knight, the self-loathing hero of the round table who made a lot of mistakes and yet always tried his best to be moral (except where Guinevere was concerned, of course).
Thirdly, I felt like this was a very moral and philosophical book. White asks difficult questions, usually through Arthur, trying to figure out issues like: Is man inherently good? Why do we have wars and what causes them? Which do we owe more loyalty to, our family (clan) or our country? Is it better to get revenge or to forgive? How do we best create peace: through worship, through wars or through civil justice?
This book is truly a work of art. I must admit however, that as soon as the Sword in the Stone section of the book is over, the story was completely depressing, in every way imaginable. Nearly everyone is either deceived, deceitful, or unhappy. Bad things are constantly happening to good people and even the good people seem to be constantly making bad choices. I must also admit that it was still insanely interesting and worthwhile - and, even amid the depressing things, I found myself laughing out loud. Often I found myself pondering the idea of actions and consequences and how often our actions can lead to things in our future that we never couldve imagined. My heart ached for Arthur, for what he had and for what he lost.
But, you should read it. Read it for Arthur and Sir Pellinore and for Whites use of the word chuckle-head. Id be surprised if you regret it.
The Once And Future King by TH White
Born on May 29 th , to parents in a strained marriage, he would later recount the tension and sometimes violence between his alcoholic father and emotionally distant mother. The troubles left a lasting impression on the boy, and would later influence his writing. By , White found himself in England, and over the next two years, his father and then mother returned to India, leaving him with his grandparents. In September of , White enrolled in Cheltenham College in Gloucestershire, where he faced a cruel and violent primary education. In , he graduated and left for Queen's College in Cambridge, where he was introduced to L.
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It ought to have been Proust and it almost is, but, if I am honest, The Once and Future King has had a much greater impact on my life. Soon after the book came out, my mother borrowed it from Guildford Public Library and posted it to me at my boarding school. I devoured it in every spare hour and during those hours it delivered me from what felt like prison. I have returned to the novel many times. Appropriately enough, the first part, which was originally published independently as The Sword in the Stone and aimed at children, deals with the education of a boy and it opens with this sentence: "On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it was Court Hand and Summulae Logicales, while the rest of the week it was Organon, Repetition and Astrology".