My second book for the What's In A Name? challenge is The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett. It covers the category, 'The word 'the' used twice'.
Arthur Prescott, is rather old-fashioned, a university professor whose heart really isn't in his job, but he has a secret. Unbeknown to his friends he is someone who is trying to track down the location of the Holy Grail. To that end he's moved to Barchester, a city he regularly visited as a child, staying with his grandfather. It was his grandfather who introduced him to King Arthur, his knights, and the mystery of the Holy Grail. He believed the grail was somewhere in the vicinity of Barchester and tasked Arthur with the search on the condition that he must keep his mission a secret.
Arthur's other obsession is books. Old books. Specifically the books and manuscripts presently residing in the cathedral library. He knows them all intimately... in fact, because the library is used by very few people, Arthur feels rather territorial about it, like they all belong to him. Which is why, when a young American woman, Bethany Davis, comes to digitise the library, Arthur's nose is put somewhat out of joint. He's not much into computers and isn't sure putting the manuscripts online is a good idea, despite Bethany's enthusiam. He tries very hard indeed not to like her and in some respects succeeds: in others, not at all.
It turns out Bethany is also a Grail seeker. But what is she doing in Barchester? How has she come to the conclusion that this is the place to search? And what's her connection to an American millionaire evangelist who collects religious artifacts?
What an interesting character Charlie Lovett has created in Arthur Prescott. Bookish, an open and curious mind about subjects such as King Arthur and The Grail, a man who obsessively goes to the quiet services at the cathedral but does not believe in God. He goes because he loves the atmosphere, the building and the music. I can relate to that completely. He's also deeply skeptical about the internet and modern living and although I am an internet user I can still relate to his misgivings, no problem at all.
This book reminded me a bit of M.R. James. Not so much in the writing and supernatural themes but his stories have been described as 'Cathedrally' and that's how I would describe this book. I don't know much about cathedrals... I've been to a few, Truro, Exeter, Wells, Bath, York, Ely, Salisbury, Winchester, St. Pauls, more than I thought actually... but, not being a Christian, I don't know all the terms for the sections of the buildings or the services and wish I did because, like Arthur, I think they're wonderful places.
I also loved to bits the bookishness of this book. I love how important the history of ancient manuscripts is in it, there are short sections set centuries ago where the author tells us how certain writings came into being and what happened to them when the vikings came raping and pillaging or during the disolution of the monasteries etc. I found it all very interesting and enjoyed wallowing in the monastic, bookish, cathedralish atmosphere of this gentle, relaxing story.
I gather Charlie Lovett is the author of The Bookman's Tale, a book I remember seeing quite a few reviews of a couple of years ago. I shall definitely be reading that at some stage.