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Arthur Rex: A Legendary Novel Paperback – April, 1990

3.9 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Paperback, April, 1990
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Little Brown & Co (P) (April 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316091464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316091466
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 4.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,057,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The irreverent Thomas Berger, author of Little Big Man as well as Arthur Rex, takes on the Arthurian legends and tells them as they ought to have been lived. Setting aside the facts of history that stubbornly refuse to conform to the superiority of legend, Berger gives us 5th century Britain landscaped with towering castles, peopled with knights clad in full plate armor of a thousand years hence, and filled to brimming with villains, heroes, worthy quests, and enough glory, sadness and good cheer to burst the covers of five novels this size. Every one of the popular legends is here, along with a few new ones. Tristan and Isolde fill a chapter, as does Sir Gwain and the Green Knight. The tortured, heroic Lancelot and his faithless queen factor into the novel, as does the evil Mordred, the scheming Morgan Le Fey, and the wise, time-traveling Merlin. This is great stuff, people, and easily my all-time favorite of any of the tales of Camelot and its residents I've ever read!
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Format: Hardcover
Berger has selected and arranged a great many of the tales of the Round Table in a particularly harmonious and agreeable book--all the most beloved knights and the bravest quests and the noblest love affairs are here included. He writes with a high-tongued humor that revitalizes the telling of the familiar stories; through a beautifully (and mildly) archaic style and voice, he manages to wed a modern sense of metaphysics and ethics (moral and political) to the age-old celebration of chivalry, adventure, and love. A wonderful read, masterfully crafted and deliciously entertaining.
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Format: Hardcover
I wish I could rate Berger's novel more highly, but, ultimately this is about 2.5 stars for me. When it comes to irreverent and anachronistic takes on Malory's stories, The Once and Future King sets the standard, and Arthur Rex suffers by comparison.

I am most interested in Arthur, as opposed to all of the ancillary characters, so Arthuriana that focuses more on others, with Arthur as a symbol but not a realized human being, is not satisfying to me. This is why I love Stewart's Arthurian Cycle and White's book (because, even though there's a focus on other characters later in White, Arthur's character is well-established and his sensibility and the reader's appreciation for him is what makes the book so powerful). I have mixed feelings about Berger's Arthur--in some ways he's simplistically rendered and a non-entity, but there is power in that simplicity, particularly in the final chapters of the novel, as Arthur's dream begins to crash around him.

I'm still processing the depiction of Lancelot and Guinevere's relationship. I appreciate Berger's take on it as being more about power dynamics and desires to control or be controlled than about love, but those dynamics make it more difficult to be sympathetic to either character or the betrayal of their husband/best friend.

But I'm very glad that Berger gives Gawaine his due. Stewart's cycle focuses on the twisted aspects of the Orkney clan's dynamic, and Gawaine loses much of his charm. It's refreshing to read a portrayal as filled with affection and admiration for the character as Berger's. In the end, however, I think he paints himself into a corner.
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Format: Hardcover
Most of the books on the Arthur legends are steeped in battle glory and mythical images, though Bergers imagery is good, what you'll take away from Arthur Rex is the emotions.Berger has a tremendous way of making you feel for characters while being able to see their funny side at the same time. They feel like real people who happened to live extraordinary lives nearly a thousand years ago. It's not all Arthur and Lancelot either, you'll get to know Gawaiyne and Gareth. the stor about Tristram and Isolde with melt the iciest of hearts. This book is a treat for anyone who loves Arthurian stories or satires. With vicious wit and strong characterization, how could you go wrong?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From the author who gave us Little Big Man, Killing Time, and the Reinhart saga (Reinhart in Love is the masterpiece), this is an adroit and sensitive re-telling of the Arthurian legend. Berger tracks his source closely, but imbues his story with modern sensibility. Although I haven't read her, from what I read of her, I would think that if you like Hilary Mantel's stuff about Cromwell, you will like this. Arthur and Guinevere and Lancelot and all the rest of them have never seemed so human, yet Berger never crosses the line into anachronisms. He stays true to legend.
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Format: Hardcover
By far the best telling of the Arthurian legends and by far my favorite book by Thomas Berger, Arthur Rex is a book of tragic-comic genius and a work of great art too. The author adopts the language and style of Malory's La Morte d'Arthur, conveying a tale that made this reader laugh out loud at the comic moments and weep at the tragedy that befalls the noble company of the Round Table. Not many books can carry off such a dichotomy, but Thomas Berger is no run-of-the-mill storyteller.

It is a mystery why this book was not well received when it was published, as it deserves a better fate. Maybe future generations will rediscover it and know it for the masterpiece it is. In my view, it is Berger's best book.
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