Well translated into fluid (not pedestrian) modern English: nice variations on a familiar theme.

THE BOOK OF ARTHUR

LOST TALES FROM THE ROUND TABLE

A kind of Arthurian apocrypha, as medieval folklorist and scholar Matthews (The Bardic Sourcebook, not reviewed) collects more than two dozen “forgotten tales” of King Arthur and his knights.

Camelot groupies everywhere will welcome this rich lode of Arthurian ore, which will go some way toward slaking their inexhaustible thirst for more episodes in the Round Table saga. All the usual characters are here—beginning, of course, with Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, and Lancelot—and the author has also dug up tales of more tangentially related figures such as Trystan and Ysolt. In his introduction, Matthews points out that the roots of the legends grow out of the fertile soil of Celtic mythology, and the first section of this volume (“Celtic Tales”) concentrates on stories in this vein; these are the earliest sagas, many (“The Story of the Crop-Eared Dog”) written in Irish, and they’re filled with wild imagery of fantastic beasts and stirring accounts of colossal battles reminiscent of the Norse epics. The stories of the middle section (“Tales of Gawain”) focus more on King Arthur’s nephew Sir Gawain, considered in the Middle Ages the model of knightly virtue, and these stand as representative of the literary traditions of courtly love and chivalry that came to England through the arrival of the Normans in the 11th century. The later tales (“The Medieval Legacy”) are richer in the Christian symbols and allegories that we have come to associate with the legends since their revival in the 19th century.

Well translated into fluid (not pedestrian) modern English: nice variations on a familiar theme.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-84333-612-X

Page Count: 416

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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