If you don’t have a woeful countenance already, this knight’s tale will slap one on you right quick.
It’s 1483, and down in Cornwall, a knight is writing a farewell to his children against the possibility that he may fall in battle in a war against the Thane of Cawdor. Not the one whose title King Macbeth usurped 400 years earlier, it would seem—though, given the anachronistic nature of this book, anything’s possible. Take, for instance, a moment just a few pages in, when our seasoned and grown-up knight, settling into his yarn, recalls that the knight to whom he apprenticed as a young man began his tutelage with a nice cuppa. That’s all very well and good, except that tea was unknown in the Middle Ages; a stickler will tell you that it first turns up a century and a half after the events actor/novelist Hawke (Ash Wednesday, 2002, etc.) recounts. That’s either magical realism or sloppiness, both of which this latest effort abounds in. Take the nostrum that Good Sir Knight Senior imparts to Junior: “You are better than no one, and no one is better than you.” All very nicely egalitarian, that, but a bit out of step with the elaborate hierarchy of medieval equerry and nobility. And more: “The simple joys are the great ones. Pleasure is not complicated.” Tell it to Abelard and Heloise, oh Obi-Wan. Elsewhere Hawke merrily (and again anachronistically) stuffs in a well-known Buddhist tale, the punch line to which is, “I set that boy down hours ago, but I see you are still carrying him.” Ah, well. By all appearances, Hawke aspires to write a modern Siddhartha, but what we wind up with is more along the lines of watered-down Mitch Albom—and that’s a very weak cup of tea indeed.
Just the thing for those who want their New Age nostrums wrapped in medieval kit.