Troubador Gavin and Greneknighte

Released: 28/11/2018

ISBN: 9781789015560

eISBN: 9781789012729

Format: Paperback/eBook

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Gavin and Greneknighte


The Arthurian story about Sir Gawain’s quest re-imagined in today’s world. 
An exploration of the forces of nature, paganism, myth and magic. 
Full of Gothic horror, mystery and eroticism, this is a modern reinvention of the famous medieval poem.

On New Year’s Eve, on a steamer steered by a Phoenician Sailor downriver to the Thames Barrier, a party of bankers listen to a story about a motorcyclist dressed in green, a fearful beheading, and a challenge, which only Gavin is brave enough to accept.  

In the story being told, a year passes before Gavin rides his Triumph motorcycle through the wintry wilderness of North Wales in the quest to find a green chapel, where he will meet his adversary and thereby keep his promise. Before he reaches his destination, however, he encounters Lord Bertilak and his beguiling wife. But are the two of them quite who they appear to be? Is the unassuming hero being tested in more ways than he knows? And who is the storyteller, Henley? Why is he telling this particular story? And will he have time to complete it before the journey is over? 
These are the questions that haunt Philip Sealey’s present-day re-imagining of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a medieval poem about the exploits of one of King Arthur’s knights. But as the complacent bankers on their Thames cruise are drawn ever deeper into a tale they are assured is not fiction, as their boat steams downriver through a cityscape thronged with reminders of Eliot’s Waste Land towards the Thames Barrier, they are confronted with a reminder that the river, and nature itself, is as powerful and unpredictable as it ever was. 
This reinvention of a poem about a green knight and a deadly midwinter game, in which the banality of daily life and the supernatural sit side by side at the table, explores the eternal themes of truth to oneself, promise-keeping and our relationship with the natural world – themes as relevant now as they were in medieval times.

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

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.

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