Book Review: The Lost Book Of The Grail
By Charlie Lovett
Arthur Prescott is happiest when surrounded by the ancient books and manuscripts of the Barchester Cathedral library. Increasingly, he feels like a fish out of water among the concrete buildings of the University of Barchester, where he works as an English professor. His one respite is his time spent nestled in the library, nurturing his secret obsession with the Holy Grail and researching his perennially unfinished guidebook to the medieval cathedral.
But when a beautiful young American named Bethany Davis arrives in Barchester charged with the task of digitizing the library’s manuscripts, Arthur’s tranquility is broken. Appalled by the threat modern technology poses to the library he loves, he sets out to thwart Bethany, only to find in her a kindred spirit with a similar love for knowledge and books and a fellow Grail fanatic.
Bethany soon joins Arthur in a quest to find the lost Book of Ewolda, the ancient manuscript telling the story of the cathedral’s founder. And when the future of the cathedral itself is threatened, Arthur and Bethany’s search takes on grave importance, leading the pair to discover secrets about the cathedral, about the Grail, and about themselves. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
Step 1 : Enjoy the cover. Don’t we always judge a book by it’s cover to some degree? I love what Will Staehle did on the jacket design. I could tell before I even opened the book it would show me how books; the written word fills our lives.
Step 2: Read the inside cover.
In an English cathedral city, passionate bibliophile and Holy Grail enthusiast Arthur Prescott works to uncover a long-lost secret about the cathedral’s past, and its connections to King Aurthur and the Knights of the Round Table…
Step 3: Ready to read, so read!
The book opens with a mystery. During the night of a bombing of WWII in 1941 of a cathedral the choir boys and town work to save the precious books. Is there magic in the book? Soon this mysterious book is stolen, with one witness, a child.
“He reached out to keep it from falling to the floor, only to find the ancient tome floating in midair. It must be a magic book, he thought, watching transfixed as it swayed in front of him, its pages illuminated by the orange light.” (p. 3)
After the mystery opens we jump forward to meet the protagonist, Arthur Prescott – a confirmed bachelor and fusty man of 40. He has such a love of books and abhorrence of technology and is barely able to communicate to his few friends let alone the public.
Next, we delve back in time to the creation of the missing book – the Book of St. Ewolda, in the year A.D. 560.
The reader continues to progress in the search with Arthur, though we get extra insight from learning about the past.
I have thoroughly loved this book! It has mystery, history, love and books. Because of Arthur’s reaction to digitizing the books so anyone could read them on the internet, I had to check if The Lost Book OF The Grail was available as an ebook – and it was. I’m trying to decide if it would feel morally wrong to read it as an ebook. In addition to everything else I have laughed while reading. Here is a moment of Arthur’s confusion:
“‘I’m sorry, you want to do what?’
‘Well, tweets today are like letters.’
‘What in God’s name is a tweet?’
‘You know, like on Twitter? A tweet.’
“Miss Stanhope, this is not an ornithology class.’
Twenty minutes later, Miss Stanhope had finally explained that a Website called Twitter allowed people to exhange messages of up to 140 characters (though why this particular number Miss Stanhope could not say) and that she thought this was the modern equivalent of civilized correspondence. The only satisfaction Arthur had in the conversation was in his own adamant refusal to allow her to rewrite Fanny Burney’s Evelina as a series of these tweets.” (p. 67)
Another moment of insight into Arthur:
“‘We didn’t waste anything like an hour,’ said Bethany. ‘And besides, you like talking to me. It allows you to be righteously indignant and that’s your favorite state of being.'” (p. 72)
I truly feel Arthur’s frustration! How many times I have seen young people on their phones instead of living their lives? They barely talk to each other!
“Was their no way to get students to actually interact with books even in a building once devoted to those very objects? Arthur wasn’t sure he yet understood what the media center’s purpose was in this digital age, but he hoped he might find a way to make it more than the provision of hot beverages and comfy chairs. (p.94)
I have a theory as to why we love stories about the Holy Grail. We like the sense of hope and mystery. With technology so much of faith has been eroded, and there is still a place for the stories associated with faith and mythical characters like Arthur. A book like Lovett’s is a joy to read because it allows us a moment to live in the world where we can believe that the Grail might be in a simple place like Barchester.
Lovett has done a wonderful job from choosing historical names, to details about English history and changes within religion. His descriptions are beautiful and the characters feel like I could go sit with them for a cup of tea.
As the intensity of the search, for St. Ewolda’s book and the grail continued I couldn’t put Lovett’s book down. I highly recommend it! I will have to read another of his books soon.
If you liked this one I would recommend The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool and Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns.