What I’m Reading: Mists of Avalon

What the book is about: 

Mists of Avalon is a book that explores the story of King Arthur and his court from the perspective of the women at his court and in his life. And actually, it’s a set of books combined into one grand, sweeping, epic story.

What I liked: 

  • The characters – bar none, this was the best part of the story. The characters are so rounded and so real and so full of vices and strengths equally that it was difficult to dismiss anyone out of hand.
  • The writing – I picked up this book and read all 876 pages over 3 days. I picked it up every single chance I got to read just one more chapter, just a few more pages, just a little bit longer.

What I didn’t like: 

  • The ending – even as everything threaded together and all the pieces tied into the final product, the ending felt a bit disappointing to me. Because the book is essentially told by Morgaine, we really only get her perspective on the ending, when it would have been just as fascinating to run it out as everyone processed through the flight of Lancelet and Gwenyfar or the disappearance from Morgaine from Cornwall or some of the other little bits. There were still plenty of women around to pull off a more satisfying ending.

Overall thoughts and opinions: 

Every so often, I find a book that begs to be read during every free moment and this was one of those books. Anyone who reads should read this book.

Not only does it feature all women in this very well-known tale usually featuring the men, it treats each character as a full person. Even the minor characters aren’t shallow and one-dimensional, but feel rich and fully fleshed.

It’s treatment of religion and beliefs was also very interesting to me. I have personally always struggled with certain interpretations of Christianity so prevalent in this time of actual history and so in here, I also struggled to take the side of the Christians. Even as Gwenyfar pushed and pushed for her beliefs, it made me uncomfortable because they are so different from my concept and my view of God – that it’s unconfessed sins or undone penance that points to the bad in our lives. I felt drawn to the practicality of Morgaine and the teachings of Avalon, even as some of those are diametrically opposed to what I believe to be truth. In other words, I spent a fair amount of time thinking through some of my own beliefs and comparing them to what was in the book. Honestly, I never find that to be a bad thing.

I really appreciated the struggle of the characters as Avalon drifted and the desperate struggle to keep things as they once were. I found many times to empathize with Arthur and what he was trying to do and the tears came as Morgaine realized far, far too late what Viviane was actually trying to accomplish with certain events. I felt Morgaine’s desperation as she tried to correct the course she believed was going wrong and the way she eventually came to be somewhat comfortable using people in the uncomfortable way she and her mother had been used before, only her use had much more dramatic consequences.

Finally, seeing how children were carted off to one castle or another to be raised opened my eyes to a completely different way of seeing families that, honestly as a mom, was hard to take in. Morgause’s treatment of Morgaine after the birth of Gwydion was shocking, and the success of the intended effect was even worse for me. History can be so terrible and methods seen as perfectly acceptable in one period seems utter madness in another. Of course, what will people think of us 100, 500, or even 1,000 years from now?

This book was a delight to read and I mulled and mulled over bits and pieces and I’m sure I will continue to mull for a long time to come.

I give this book 5 stars.

5 star rating