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Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country


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About the Author

Rosalind Miles is a well-known and critically acclaimed English novelist, essayist, and broadcaster. Her novels, including Guenevere, I, Elizabeth, and Return to Eden, have been international best-sellers.


Prolific English journalist and novelist Miles (I, Elizabeth) offers a feminist, New Age version of the Arthurian legend in her amply stocked but overripe work. Through his marriage to Guenevere, queen of the pagan matriarchy of the Summer Country, Arthur is well on his way to becoming king of all the Britons. However, Merlin, his tutelary spirit, frowns upon this marriage and prophesies that Guenevere will prove untrue. Guenevere is bedeviled by the machinations of her malevolent step-cousin/uncle Malgaunt, while Arthur's unknown, unhappy past invades his life in the figure of his half-sister Morgan le Fay, who seduces him and lures Arthur and Guenevere's only son, Amir, to an early death. The incestuous fruit of Arthur's union with Morgan‘Mordred‘becomes Arthur's nemesis. In Miles's take on the legend, the principals are locked in passionate conflict: Queen Guenevere is stronger, more resolute, courageous and persevering than King Arthur. Though portrayed as a frank, generous golden knight, Arthur nevertheless proves putty in the successive hands of Merlin, Guenevere and Morgan le Fay. Merlin, a wild, withered, yellow-eyed druid, is also undone by Morgan and appears to abandon Arthur to his fate. Only when Arthur falls under Morgan's sway does Guenevere succumb to her love for Lancelot, one of the novel's freshly conceived figures. The matriarchal way of life in Guenevere's Summer Country, with its capital at Camelot and its goddess residing in the misty Vale of Avalon, appears as infinitely more civilized and attractive than those states where men rule. Unfortunately, the novel's characterization is sometimes trite, and its prose style is trying, veering between downright coarse (perhaps in an attempt to be lusty) and syrupy. Aficionados of Arthurian romance will be pleased with the included maps, family trees and list of the novel's 75 or so characters. (Feb.)

British novelist Miles (I, Elizabeth, LJ 5/15/94) takes her readers to the oft-traveled realms of King Arthur and his noble knights. This story, however, is told from the point of view of Guenevere, a queen in her own right and one well versed in the old ways of goddess worship and the right of the queen to choose her own consort. When Guenevere's succession to the throne of Camelot is threatened by her cousin, she chooses the young, impetuous, unacknowledged son of Uther Pendragon. Together, they reign in Camelot in spite of machinations by an ambitious and insane Merlin and the murderously jealous Morgan le Fay. Miles is at her best in her descriptions of everyday life‘customs, food, dress, and religion (both pagan rites and early Christianity). Although not a memorable addition to the ranks of Arthurian literature, this is an entertaining tale that tells an old story from a new perspective.‘Jane Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK

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