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Of all the legends of Western civilization, perhaps the glorious adventures of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are the best known. The Quest for the Holy Grail, and the undying illicit love between Sir Launcelot and Queen Guenevere, have provided inspiration for storytellers and poets down the ages, and sparked so many films and books of our own time. Fifteenth-century knight Sir Thomas Malory penned the book with relish, packing his story with tales of heroism, treachery and revenge, noble suitors, beautiful princesses, dragons, sorcerers, giants, and bloody deeds of derring-do on and off the jousting field.
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Ce que les auditeurs disent de Le Morte d'Arthur
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- Tad Davis
Brilliant and powerful
Bill Homewood has a voice and a style of delivery that has not always been well-suited to the material he's been given. Even when he's not a good match, though, you can always count on three things: meticulous preparation, expert pronunciation of all proper names, and the ability to rise to whatever heights of passionate intensity are demanded by the material.
Fortunately in the case of Thomas Malory you get all that AND a nearly perfect match between Homewood's voice and the story he's narrating. I've listened to three other renditions of Malory, and with one exception I can say that this is the best I've heard, and in fact the best I can imagine hearing. The exception is the recording by Derek Jacobi. There are two problems with Jacobi's reading, though: it's severely abridged, and the audio quality has suffered in the transition from older technology. I would still recommend it if you're not ready to tackle Malory whole and in one piece; but if you want the original straight up, Bill Homewood is your man.
As is (apparently) the case with all audiobooks based on Malory, this uses the Caxton edition rather than the Winchester manuscript; I believe there are still copyright issues involved in the latter that make its superior organization of the narrative off-limits for most audiobook publishers. That's OK. Caxton has at least the advantage of being broken down into short chapters that make it easier to swallow the epic a little bit at a time.
It's a powerful, tragic story. After all its digressions, it finally boils down to a terrible war between Arthur, Gawain, and Lancelot over Guinevere; Lancelot has rescued her from the flames for adultery and has proclaimed her innocence, laying waste to the knights of the round table in the process. But he knows that he's lying. Malory makes clear that Lancelot lay with the Queen by night and by day; Arthur's kingdom is undone by the malice of Agravain and Mordred, but Agravain and Mordred are telling the truth, and it is Lancelot and Guinevere who have actually betrayed the king. It's an awful story, all the more awful because it is so simple and so human and so inevitable.
Now, having praised Homewood for doing Malory whole, I'll come down on Malory for one thing. He makes such a terrible mess of the Tristan and Isolde story (known as Tristram and Isoude in his account) that no one will blame you, and you will truly miss nothing of significance, if you skip Books 8, 9, and 10 in their entirety. Get the story of those two lovers somewhere else. Malory doesn't even show you how it ends anyway.
Malory loses control of his story at times, but boy does he bring it in for a landing at the end. Bill Homewood never loses control of HIS take on the narrative, and when the story comes to its powerful, almost unbearable conclusion, he’s right there with it — and us.
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