I’m reading Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and getting depressed. It’s not that she’s a poor writer or pens a poor story, but simply that her world is so dreary. It lacks nobility, honor, and love. Her characters do many things, and are touch with many emotions, but love doesn’t seem to be one of them. Not for themselves, not for each other, and not for their deities. Every character hides secret sins they keep locked within themselves, assuming a mere mask of integrity.  They meander through a shadowy world filled with unhappy shades following gods they fear, loathe, and fail to understand.

Perhaps it’s so disheartening because it’s disquieteningly accurate. I wonder how many people put that book down resonating with Bradley’s Morgan or Gwenhwyfar or Lancelet, living with mistakes and failures, hating their god and yet enslaved to it, without hope for the future?

Of course, I’m not finished with the book yet (I’m somewhere around page 590/873) so it might lift itself from its lachrymose pit. Somehow, though, I doubt there’ll be a happy ending.  

But life’s ending has yet to be written–and that is in the hands of one mightier than a mere tale-weaver.

Christ be with you, Christ within you,
Christ behind you, Christ before you,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger,

From the Tale-Weaver.


4 responses »

  1. Sarah says:

    Hmmmm, would be interested to hear any other comments you have on this book. I’ve heard differing things about it: it’s good, it’s horrible, it’s really feminist. I love Arthurian novels, and this one sounded intriguing, but I wasn’t sure if it was worth reading.

  2. Well, so far (and I haven’t finished it yet, but my mom has and she agrees with this), it’s complicated.

    It’s very well written, and in that respect far outstrips the majority of Arthurian literature I’ve read.

    Having said that, at the time she wrote the book, the author was a professed neopagan, strongly feminist, and distinctly anti-Christian. It seems that advancing these views was nearly as important to Bradley as telling the story, although she manages not to sacrifice her story on her soapbox.

    Now if you’re not turned off by the philosophy, all well and good, but the main character is a witch who has a child by her half-brother. These elements are very much in your face throughout the story, on top of the whole Guinevere/Lancelot thing (actually the love ‘triangle’ goes something like this: Arthur loves Morgaine, Morgaine loves her first cousin Lancelot, Lancelot loves Guinevere) . These types of behavior run rampant throughout the book, and typically characters who express disgust or shame about them are portrayed as naive or psychologically enslaved.

    Largely because of this, the characters aren’t very sympathetic. At this point, with 300 pages left, my preferred ending would have everyone from Arthur down to Elaine perishing in the Battle of Camlann because they’re all so repulsive.

    Oh, and if you do read it, you’re in it for the long haul because the book’s nearly 900 pages long.

    I say all this, but I’ve read nearly 600 pages. So I’m not saying not to read it, but think carefully before you do.
    And if you want, I could give you a more complete description/review after I finish reading it.

  3. Final Verdict: Not recommended.

  4. […] have seen me reading Arthurian literature and said I absolutely had to read Mists of Avalon. See here for what I thought of that […]

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