TRISTAN AND ISEULT
In presenting stories from the past, Rosemary Sutcliff has an unusual capacity for retaining the flavor of the original while discarding antiquated syntax and inconsequential detail. Here, however, although her technique is sound, the power of her story is diminished by a strange (and self-confessed) alteration of the traditional texts. In all other versions Tristan and Iseult are lovers doomed after drinking a magic potion intended for lseult and her husband Marc; Miss Sutcliff considers this "artificial" and prefers a love springing from natural sources. What follows is a triangle similar to Arthur Guinevere-Lancelot, dramatic in its own way but not as distinctive, as the original. The story is filled with adventure and adversity -- a firedrake killed, intrigue at court, a death sentence and escape, the separation of the lovers. Tristan marries another Iseult, remains loving and then breaks with his real love, but they are reunited in death. With all the vagaries of the romance and the conventions of the code it has a strong appeal, but it's not the real thing.