Another blogger who responded to my call for Witch Week posts was Katie of Doing Dewey, who reads and reviews all kinds of books but has a particular love for nonfiction. Along with posting several book reviews from various genres every week she runs a weekly feature, Nonfiction Friday, where you can get the latest nonfiction news, share your posts about nonfiction books, and find other readers who love nonfiction. Katie is also one of my fellow co-hosts for Nonfiction November, currently taking place this month.
She offered to review The Discovery of King Arthur by Geoffrey Ashe (first published in 1985), and though she can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, it does sound like it contains many fascinating facts that invite further exploration. Read on for an intriguing preview…
The Discovery of King Arthur
By Katie Wilkins
The Arthur legend has captivated people since at least the middle ages and continues to fascinate us today. From new bookish retellings to TV shows, this is a story people tell again and again. In The Discovery of King Arthur, historian Geoffrey Ashe explores the possibility that a historical figure inspired the myth and considers what cultural factors give this myth its enduring appeal.
For me, the experience of reading this book was hit or miss — 3 of 5 stars. Sometimes the author would share a relevant snippet of history, told in narrative form. Those bits could be extremely entertaining. They read like a story and often contained delightful, absurd anecdotes that made me laugh. Other parts that focused on the dissection of old texts were too dry for me. I’d definitely not recommend this book as a first experience with nonfiction, for fear it might put people off the genre. However, if you’re willing to persevere through some dry sections to learn more about an intriguing topic, this could be the book for you.
To give you an idea of what you might expect, I’ll leave you with some of the fun facts that stuck with me from this book. No spoilers on the answer to the question of Arthur’s basis in reality 🙂
- The same text that is the source of many key parts of the Arthur myth also inspired Shakespeare’s Lear
- Vortigern, a villain of the Arthurian legend, did have some roots in history, although Vortigern was not a name. Rather, it is Celtic for “overking”
- The author suggests that the Arthur legend was born out of a 5th century hope for a “world restorer’, someone who would rebuild the empire. This constant hope led one poet to write hyperbolic paeans to no fewer than 3 emperors he thought were ‘the one’ in his lifetime.
- One of the sources referenced by the main text this book analyzes was written by a monk who wrote a little bit about history, but was mostly just grumpy about how politicians in his day were ruining everything.
- Scholars were debating when/if Arthur lived as early as the 13th century
- Some authors, such as T.H. White, opposed the search for a historical basis for the Arthur myth on the grounds that it would reduce a great story to a disappointing reality
And there’s more where that came from, so if you enjoyed those tidbits, consider picking up The Discovery of King Arthur to learn more!
Katie’s blog bio says, “I love reading in every genre, but my favorites lately have been nonfiction, historical fiction, and literary fiction. I’m particularly passionate about nonfiction because I feel like the genre doesn’t get enough love from readers, even though there are nonfiction books to suit any interest. When I’m not blogging, you’ll find me playing computer games with friends, going on hikes, working as a computational biologist, and doing photography.”