Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Mists of Avalon--Marion Zimmer Bradley

Genre: Fantasy
Year Published: 1983
Pages: 876
Rating: 5/5

"Even in high summer, Tintagel was a haunted place; Igraine, Lady of Duke Gorlois, looked out over the sea from the headland."

I have been putting off writing this review, because there is no way I can do this book justice. This is one of my favorite books of all time. I have read it many times, and each time I am as moved by it as the first time I read it, in the early nineties. I find it interesting to note how my reactions to the characters and to events in the novel have evolved each time I read it, due to my own evolution through the years. For instance, as a mother I respond differently to parts of the novel than I did before childbearing. But I digress...

Essentially, this novel is a retelling of the King Arthur legend from the female characters' points of view. It brings Morgaine--aka Morgan LeFay--into the spotlight, as a separate character than Morgause or the fairy queen. It is also a study of the dichotomy between Christianity and the "old religions"--the Druids and Priestesses of Avalon who worshipped the Goddess. Which, in a way, explores the relationship between the masculine and the feminine in general. Like other Arthurian works, it also explores the concept of destiny, and whether one can avoid fulfilling their fate. And for you Joseph Campbell fans, Morgaine fits neatly into the steps of the Hero's Journey!

Why do I love this book so much? Well, from a critical standpoint, it is a monumental work, spanning the character's entire lifetimes. It begins when Morgaine is a young child, before even her half-brother, Arthur, is born. It ends when Morgaine is an old lady, after Arthur's death. It brings detail to characters who are often overlooked, like Guinevere. I have heard people complain that they were disappointed in the focus on the women, that the women's roles were typical and boring, but I disagree. Yes, the women spin, and weave, and gossip, just as women did in that time period. But it is that which lies within them that brings life to this novel, and all the characters are complex--even Morgause is more than just an ambitious, plotting queen but a woman of emotion and feeling.

And from an emotional standpoint, this book changed my life. It opened my eyes to a way of thinking that I had barely scratched the surface of. It brought magic into my life, at a time when I was drifting and unsure. It drew me to places that exist, far away, and places that may never have existed--or did they? And it's just a damn good story, full of unrequited love, ambition, power, magic and fate.

OK, I've gushed enough. We now return to our regularly scheduled book reviews.

Book-a-Week # 4 (1/11/09)
Challenge/s: Arthurian, Read It Again

1 comment:

Nebula said...

I lost a whole weekend of my life to this book--and it was well-spent! I can't agree with you more about the profound impact it has.