Arthur Prescott is happiest when surrounded by the ancient books and manuscripts of the Barchester Cathedral library. Increasingly, he feels like a fish out of water among the concrete buildings of the University of Barchester, where he works as an English professor. His one respite is his time spent nestled in the library, nurturing his secret obsession with the Holy Grail and researching his perennially unfinished guidebook to the medieval cathedral.
But when a beautiful young American named Bethany Davis arrives in Barchester charged with the task of digitizing the library’s manuscripts, Arthur’s tranquility is broken. Appalled by the threat modern technology poses to the library he loves, he sets out to thwart Bethany, only to find in her a kindred spirit with a similar love for knowledge and books—and a fellow Grail fanatic.
Bethany soon joins Arthur in a quest to find the lost Book of Ewolda, the ancient manuscript telling the story of the cathedral’s founder. And when the future of the cathedral itself is threatened, Arthur and Bethany’s search takes on grave importance, leading the pair to discover secrets about the cathedral, about the Grail, and about themselves.
“Lovett's unique work combines literary and historical research with classic elements of cozy mysteries, classic love stories, and exciting adventure tales to create a true genre-blending masterpiece. At once funny, heartwarming, and suspenseful, The Lost Book of the Grail has something for every kind of reader, and every kind of book-lover, alike.” —Bustle
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King Arthur’s Knights had been the first book Arthur had read late at night under the covers with a torch, long after he was supposed to have been asleep. It was the first book that took him completely out of himself, of his room, of his home and his hometown to a place that seemed both mythical and real, a place where magic was ordinary and heroes were plenteous. It was, he supposed, thinking back on it, the first book that showed him what reading was really all about.
At first Arthur had been drawn to the adventure in the stories—knights battling other knights, the king holding tournaments at Camelot. Then in his teenage years, the love stories began to be favorites—the great Sir Lancelot’s tragic love for Queen Guinevere, Tristram and Isoude drinking a love potion even while he was supposed to be wooing her on behalf of another. But the Grail stories had been a constant source of fascination. In the version of Malory Arthur read as a boy, the story of the Grail was wonderfully vague, never explicitly stating what the Grail was or why Arthur and his knights were so determined to find it. It was unclear who possessed the Grail or why or what they did with it or even whether it was real or just a vision. Arthur had grown to love the mysterious nature of the Grail, but as a child it had fascinated and frustrated him in equal parts.
“What is the Grail?” Arthur had asked his grandfather the night after his first visit to the cathedral library as his grandfather read to him from an abridged version of Malory.
The popular legend of the Grail, his grandfather told him, was simple—the cup from which Christ served the wine at the Last Supper was taken by Joseph of Arimathea to the island of Britain. Arriving near what is now Glastonbury, Joseph pushed his staff into the ground and it flowered into a bush known as the Glastonbury Thorn. Joseph later buried the Grail under a nearby hill—the Glastonbury Tor—and a torrent of clean, fresh water sprang forth and flows from the spot to this very day. Centuries later, knights of King Arthur’s Round Table sought the Grail—a symbol of purity and perfection. In some versions of the tale, the Glastonbury Tor is also the Isle of Avalon, Arthur’s mysterious final resting place. In the late twelfth century, monks of Glastonbury claimed to have found the graves of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, but no one ever found the Grail. Arthur might have thought the story of the Grail no more than a mysterious legend of a magical cup with healing powers— as fascinating, and as fictional, as Tolkien’s One Ring. But the first time his grandfather read him the Grail story from Malory, he laid the book aside and looked Arthur in the eyes.
“King Arthur, and Merlin, and Lancelot, and all the rest—in all likelihood they are only stories. But the Grail, Arthur—the Grail was real. The Grail is real. And I’m going to tell you a secret—a secret you must promise to share with no one.”
“I promise,” said Arthur breathlessly.
“I believe that the Grail is right here in Barchester.”
Arthur loved no one in the world more than his grandfather, and that kindly man rarely spoke as seriously as he did now.
“I’m getting too old for adventures,” said his grandfather, “but you have your whole life ahead of you. You must be the one to find the Grail. And you must keep it secret.”
“But why does it have to be a secret?” said Arthur.
“Do you trust me?” said his grandfather.
“Yes,” said the boy.
“Then you must believe. Someday you will understand. You will understand what the Grail is and where it is and why it must be kept a secret, but for now all you have to do is believe in it. Do you, Arthur? Do you believe in the Grail?”
And Arthur’s response had been absolutely instinctual. Staring into the deep blue of his grandfather’s eyes he had spoken without the slightest shadow of doubt.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Although fictional, this is an excellent journey through the early churches in England. It brought back many fond memories of my early years in the Episcopal church and its awe-inspiring music.
“The gifts of God are rarely what we expect” The Lost Book of the Grail is the fifth novel by American teacher, playwright and author, Charlie Lovett. Arthur Prescott often thinks he was born in the wrong century. The forty-year-old university lecturer barely tolerates students and their modern take on classics; he hates the endless meetings and committees, and would much rather spend his time in the Barchester Cathedral Library handling ancient manuscripts written on vellum. His real passion, fostered by his grandfather from age nine, is all things pertaining to the Holy Grail. His extensive collection of books on the subject is not something he shares, even with his fellow bibliophiles and closest friends, Oscar and David. Arthur’s not exactly a luddite but he can’t conceive of a library whose main focus is not real, printed-on-paper books, like the 1634 William Stansby edition of Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, or better still, hand-written manuscripts like the Barchester Breviary. Understandably, when young (and attractive) Bethany Davis turns up from America to digitize the manuscripts in his beloved library, he’s not impressed. But her enthusiasm for the Grail gives him pause, and her astute observations soon have them joining forces to track down a missing book, a book that may well help them to locate the Grail (which they both firmly believe does exist). Before long, and against his better judgement (he had solemnly promised his grandfather he would keep the secret), he has enlisted the help of Oscar and David. They make some startling discoveries and, just when he thinks the manuscripts, through his little team’s clever detective work, have given up all their secrets, he uncovers another, perhaps the most important of all – and is faced with a monumental choice. Lovett tells two tales in tandem: the modern-day tracking down of the Book of Ewolda by Arthur, Bethany and their friends; and the fascinating series of events, starting in 560 AD, that results in that document’s current form and location. As well as giving the reader an intriguing tale that features ancient manuscripts, secret codes, a sacred spring, a treasure hidden in plain sight and a martyred saint, Lovett considers topics both contemporary and timeless: the relevance and future of physical libraries; the advantages and drawbacks of electronic documents; love, devotion and friendship; recollection and truth; setting priorities for life; and faith and belief. Although this is a work of fiction, there’s plenty of fact included, and Lovett’s expertise in, respect for and love of old books is apparent on every page. The plot is easily believable, with twists and turns and unexpected revelations. Lovett’s characters are appealing, their dialogue witty and sharp. Each chapter is prefaced with an entry from Arthur’s Visitor’s Guide to Barchester Cathedral, and each present-day date is also described with its liturgical feast day. Not only bibliophiles will be charmed by this thoroughly enjoyable tale.
The Lost Book of The Grail by Charlie Lovett Ewolda, daughter of King Aewald of Barsyt and his Queen, Ceolwen lived in the mid-sixth century AD. When she was 16, she was promised in marriage to Prince Hungstan of the Kingdom of Waldburgh. She's supposed to be claimed in a year. But, shortly after her engagement, a stranger comes and tells her about a new religion. Ewolda is baptized and she promises herself to Christ. When Hungstan returns and demands she fulfill her marriage vows, she refuses and is beheaded by the angry husband. At the sight, a spring starts to flow and it has miraculous properties. Her brother, Wigbert, who tried in vain to save her, establishes a monastery at the sight and is charged with protecting a secret. A Guardian is named who through the ages is charged with protecting the secret and recruiting the next guardian who must protect the endangered vital manuscripts from the original sixth-century church -- who deal with the church's lost saint and the existence of the holy grail itself -- from Viking threats, civil wars, and Catholic vs Protestant turmoils. Fast forward to the present, April 2016 and we meet Arthur Prescott, a 40 y/o loner, a bibliophile, who loves living in the past. Arthur is happiest when surrounded by the ancient books and manuscripts of the Barchester Cathedral library. Increasingly, he feels like a fish out of water among the concrete buildings of the University of Barchester, where he works as an English professor. Charged with writing the guidebook the old Barchester Cathedral, he spends most of his time in the library, alternating with the quiet services of the Cathedral -- although he doesn't believe in God. Arthur has been nurturing his secret obsession with the Holy Grail, a passion engraved by his grandfather, Charles Edward Harding. Alongside with the other two confirmed bachelors in town -- Oscar Drisdale and David Denning -- they are the three members of the Barchester Bibliophiles (BB) Club. Arthur's life is upended when Bethany Davis, a 26 y/o beautiful American researcher comes to Barchester to digitize the Barchester Library books and manuscripts. Appalled by the threat modern technology poses to the library he loves, he sets out to thwart Bethany, only to find in her a kindred spirit with a similar love for knowledge and books and a fellow Grail fanatic. Bethany soon joins Arthur in a quest to find the lost Book of Ewolda, the ancient manuscript telling the story of the cathedral's founder. And when the future of the cathedral itself is threatened, Arthur and Bethany's search takes on grave importance, leading the pair to discover secrets about the cathedral, about the Grail, and about themselves. The book is narrated from the third person point of view. The past and the present are presented simultaneously -- each chapter begins with what is essentially a short story that follows a particular item through the course of history, from A.D. 560 to 1941. I know some people have complained that these little chapters slow the plot, but I beg to differ. I would have loved to have them expanded and developed. I suppose I'm a sucker for history. Apparently, as the trauma of English history occurs, the "guardian" of St. Ewolda's secrets are in peril and each guardian has to protect the treasure and chose a new guardian. The book deals a lot with the relationship between Arthur and Bethany, how they fall in love, and how they share their faith. "...believing means not having any
Arthur Prescott is happiest when surrounded by the ancient books within the library at the Barchester Cathedral. Having to teach at the university is just a necessity of life and he gladly escapes to the library every free moment he has. He isn’t happy one bit when his sanctuary is invaded by a loud, talkative, woman (an American no less), bearing electronic equipment, she informs him, will make his beloved books available to anyone online via the internet. Arthur is a mild luddite and abhors this turn of events. However, as work progresses, Ms. Bethany Davis comes across a startling find that will entice Arthur to join her in the perusal of these books and will lead them and their friends on an adventure that will push their boundaries and open a whole new world for Arthur. I love books that take you in search of lost treasure but not all adventures need to happen in exotic locations with blood flowing and bullets flying. This book reminded me a bit of the movie Ball of Fire which stars Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck or A Song is Born with Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo which is a later remake of Ball of Fire. You insert a modern, young, beautiful woman into the lives of men who live together and devote their lives to certain research with little regard to what is going on beyond their world. Lost Book of the Grail is similar to these movies as the lovely young lady comes in and stirs things up and challenges the staid gentlemen. There are some chuckles, not belly laughs, and exciting discoveries. The writing is steady and you get a good feel of each character. It’s not a fast-paced story by any means but well worth the slow stroll through the pages.
I, like Arthur Prescott, delight in Arthurian legend, and lived in reading about Arthur and his adventures. But, this book drags along with pedantic prose. I stopped many times and went to another book, but would return to attempt to find some motivation to continue reading. I did enjoy the chapters devoted to the medieval monastery. I finished reading the book, after many agonizing stops and starts, but Thomas Malory's writing brings greater enjoyment.