Arthur Gallops to a Photo Finish in TH White’s The Once and Future King


As has been mentioned in previous posts, reviewing five-star books is a task better off eschewed because the most thorough analysis is superseded by the simple proclamation of “just read it!”

While tempted to do that now, I am encumbered with an additional complication after reading TH White’s The Once and Future King. Halfway through, I was unconvinced it deserved five star accolades, but the volume and scope of the novel has continued to wallop me in a delayed fashion and the more I ruminate on it, the more I’m liable to believe it is a five star book after all.

Only a cursory summary is needed as the story encapsulates almost the entirety of the Arthurian Legend starting from Arthur’s boyhood all the way up until his final battle as an aged patriarch. However, perhaps why novel is hitting me in waves is that initially (in all of part one, and half of part two) I was unprepared for the intense, insistent humor. I thought I was going to get the straight and classical telling of King Arthur so little did I know that TH White’s seminal work was a precursor to Mel Brooks’ Monthy Python and an accurately adapted Disney movie in The Sword and the Stone. You’ll understand then, why I was once again not ready for the narrative to turn from whimsical—even downright slapstick—to dark, to somber, and eventually to tragedy. It took a few days for my feelings to congeal.

But what a story! And what else to say?

In lieu of sounding off too long, here ends the review with the original decree: just read it. As feats of contemporary Olympic might are recording down to the millisecond, Arthur’s epic gets the same photo finish treatment: 4.92748/5 stars.


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