Norma Lorre Goodrich,
The Holy Grail
(HarperCollins, 1992;
Perennial, 1993)

Surely, after reading this entire book, I deserve some sort of prize as reward for my efforts. Undoubtedly, reading this book requires an uncommon effort on behalf of the reader. Norma Lorre Goodrich employs a writing style even more idiosyncratic and unwieldy than my own. I don't think she is a terrible writer, all the same, and I must praise anyone who is able to get an editor to accept passive sentences. Nonetheless, there are sentences that, no matter how many times I read them, do not seem to be sentences at all, just expressions that often make no sense.

On a broader level, many passages in the book either do not seem to relate to the topic at hand, namely the Holy Grail, or else they only make sense if the reader already knows much of the information that the author assumes her readers know (doubtless, she assumes we have already read her books on Arthur, Merlin, etc.). I never really grasped the relevance of Esclamonde in the story, even though the author devotes a lengthy chapter to her.

There are some sections, I must say, that are interesting and less arcane, particularly the section about the innately interesting Knights Templar. A remarkable sentence in this section leaped out at me (as no other sentence did, I assure you). When alluding to the tortures inflicted on the Knights Templar in France, she writes "No woman, it is certain, can believe that any man alive would torture another man in such ways." Regrettably, to my morbid tastes, she doesn't really detail these horrible acts. What makes this sentence so interesting is the fact that Goodrich's feminism is clearly evident throughout the whole book. In fact, some sections seem to degenerate into a feminist diatribe bearing almost no relation to the Grail quest. I guess the sentence referenced above means that women are less bestial than men; if not, it sounds like a Victorian sentiment about the daintiness of women.

In the end, I can't really recommend this book to the general reader. You just aren't going to find a lot of substantive information about the Holy Grail here, at least not the kind of information I was looking for. Maybe an expert in mediaeval literature would find this book much more stimulating and relevant than I did. If you want to prove to yourself that you are truly an intellectual, though, this may be the best test I can think of for you. Good luck.

by Daniel Jolley
1 October 2005

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