A Search for the King by Gore Vidal

Some time back I read this and I’ve been meaning to write a review, as it is very good book on several levels.

Gore Vidal wrote a number of historical novels — I’ve only read Julian and Creation, being more interested in ancient than Ameircan history — but this is not one of them, although many of the characters are in fact historical people.

 The gist of the sotry is that King Richard the Lionheart has been captured on his way back from the the third crusade and one of his loyal retainers, the troubador Blondel, tries to find and rescue him.  The resulting quest takes Blondel across much of Europe, where he encounters many legendary people and creatures (a giant, werewolves, a vampire, and so forth, not to mention Robin Hood!).  The monsters are mostly startlingly human, although in a few cases there is some ambiguity.  Along the way Blondel becomes quite angsty and introspective, and it becomes fairly clear that his quest is no really about the finding Richard… but I may be spoiling the book.

 There are a few scenese of action and a stirring battle at the end. It always surprises me that vidal can write action so effectively. Being more used to his essays and politcal writings I expect him to be far too … civilized … to write well about swords dismembering people and masses of troops clashing on a battlefield.  The aftermath of the battle is suitably awful and somber too. 

 So the bottom line is that is a great story, and can be appreciated as an adventure yarn, as an existential allegory, and as an inventive demythologization of medieval legends.

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Published in: on September 6, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. exemplary excerpt?

    • I guess I could go back and look for something to quote, but it’s been a while since I read it, so nothing stands out. It’s a short book though and well worth the time to read it yourself.

  2. 3 days to read it?


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