Here Philip Sealey has taken the chivalric romance poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and created a modern prose retelling of sorts. Thus as a boat gets under way on the Thames for a bank’s New Year party in the modern world, so one man will step up after the meal to give the guests a story. This year this seems to be a retelling of the 14th Century poem. Set in the Sixties so we read of a bank where a man enters on a motorbike dressed all in green, and gives those present a challenge, with Gavin, the only person to take this up.
This has the elements of the original poem although it has been cut short with regards to the journey, which those familiar with the poem will know takes us throughout England and then into Wales. Some of the main elements here go back throughout the history of our folklore and there is quite a bit of symbolism here.
What I especially liked though is that due to certain circumstances the narrator does not finish off his tale and so the narrator of this story to us, a senior in the human resources of the bank and who arranges the river cruise and dinner does sort of become the overall narrator. Henley who gives us the story at the dinner is in many ways akin to Conrad’s character Marlow, who appeared in various tales.
This is well written, and you do not have to know the original poem to understand this tale, but it does help, especially as there are some other references that those who are well read will instantly notice. As the author points out in the acknowledgements the original poem is well worth reading, and perhaps this book will encourage and inspire people to read it. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an eARC.
by Martin Dowden
Philip Sealey grew up in London and taught English and philosophy at the European School in Munich. He has written short stories, opera libretti and other pieces set to music. His poetry has been published in many magazines and he won the Ian St James Award for his short fiction, Berlin Story. He has travelled widely in the Middle East and is currently at work on a collection of stories set in oriental locations. He lives in Munich.