After over 700 pages, I have reluctantly put down The Mists of Avalon for probably the last time. I’m sorry to have to quit a book before it’s ended, but I have had enough. More than enough. I’ve heard that Bradley’s is a “feminist” interpretation of the Arthurian legends. I can’t imagine how this is possible, since the female characters in this book fall into two categories:
1. Blank, brainless wisps who are forever bewailing their fates and being manipulated.
2. Nasty, vengeful harridans who are doing said manipulating.
Morgaine, the erstwhile “heroine”, is such a draggy sad-sack I wanted to throw things at her. Presumably Bradley, in writing Mists from the female perspective, was trying to resurrect the reputation of Morgan leFay, Arthur’s half-sister who bears his son. Traditionally she has been portrayed in literature as a category 2 witch. As portrayed by Bradley, she veers wildly between 1 and 2. I want to sympathize with her, but when she keeps making decisions, as a woman and as a human, that go against common sense, I just wish that I could grab her and yell (a la Cher in Moonstruck), “Snap out of it!”
The character of Gwynhywfar (that’s Guinivere to the uninitiated) is far worse She is an emphatic number 1, and what’s more she is a whiny, pious Christian. Christians in this book are all wretched, evil, stupid, dogmatic, intolerant, violent, unimaginative liars who can’t think for themselves and are constantly at war with their true inner natures. Conversely, all pagans are noble, even-tempered and wise. Now, I have not been shy about smacking down organized religion, including Christianity, when I have felt it necessary. But Bradley goes beyond stacking the deck. It would have saved the book’s credibility if she had made one fully likeable character who was Christian.
I’d discuss the male characters in the book, if there were any worth describing. King Arthur, one of the most storied characters in English literature, is a total cipher.
Bradley’s writing style is tectonically slow. There is no reason for this book to last more than a thousand pages. If you want Arthurian legends, stick to Malory, Tennyson or White. Heck, if you want a good laugh go read Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court. Just stay away from this bloated, soggy book.