I ordered this book last week, and have been devouring it. Just can’t put it down.
All right, I’m a King Arthur buff. It’s my mother’s fault for telling me stories of Sir Lancelot. She could’ve had no idea how intently I was listening–what was I, three years old? When I was a few years older, I read my King Arthur picture book over and over again until it fell apart.
Two things make Mr. Saklatvala’s 1967 book stand out from the crowd.
First, it’s really cool! He delves into the messy, jumbled records of Dark Age Britain and the Middle Ages and ties things together that I never saw tied together before. The fragmentary records left of the last gasps of the Western Roman Empire are especially illuminating. True, the confused state of the record makes it impossible to prove any definite conclusions about Arthur. But Beram Saklatvala makes me nod my head and say to myself, “Hmm! Y’know, it really might’ve been that way!” Anyhow, who doesn’t love an enduring historical mystery?
The other thing is the mystery of Saklatvala himself. He’s almost as shadowy a figure as King Arthur. All I’ve been able to find out about him is a) he wrote some two dozen books, mostly on English history, and b) he sometimes used the pseudonym, “Henry Marsh.” Oh–and his middle name was Shapurji–is that Indian, Parsee, or Iranian? But his writing style is a comfortable read. It makes me wish his book were longer.
So it’s raining really hard today, but I’ve got a door into the year 500 A.D. and I can easily escape before the Saxons get me, just by closing the book.
I am amazed by the number of primary or close-to-primary sources Mr. Saklatvala brings to bear, some of which I’ve seen no other writer use.
This has got to be the coolest book I’ve read this year.