MISTS OF AVALON Group Read discussion Thread
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The Mists of Avalon is actually a series of 7(?) books related to the Arthurian tales-the Mistress of Magic being the first in the series.
The Avalon series retells the Matter of Britain from the point of view of the women behind the throne. Through a set of stories that spans several centuries, it tells of how the mystic isle of Avalon was created, its history, life in Britain under Roman authority, and how Avalon and its ancient traditions faded from the world because of a new religion, Christianity. All stories are told by women who were powerful during their lifetime, such as Eilan, High Priestess of the Forest House, Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, and Morgaine, High Priestess of Avalon (later remembered as the sorceress Morgan le Fay).
The series explores the King Arthur story and related legends through a feminist lens, as well as incorporating historical figures and events, elements of Celtic paganism, and contemporary neo-pagan traditions. The ideological conflict of the pagan and Christian characters, as well as the belief that there is wisdom to be found in both traditions, are frequent themes of the series.
The novels are connected via Avalon itself and the implication (strongly hinted at, though rarely outright stated) that several characters throughout the series are the same souls reincarnated.
I've had this book on my shelves for a while and was so happy when others said that they were interested in a group read. When I started it I was unaware that it was a series of books (what's another series more or less) so I picture myself trying to read at least 2 next year if I like this one. Then when I was looking for a picture for the OP I found out it was a movie. Getting better and better.
I'm trying to find out in what order the books would be chronologically but I'm still a bit confused from what I've found.
While the chronological order ends with Mists, it was the first one published, so there is no problem starting with it. Quite the contrary. It's been a while since I last read them, but I suspect the others are easier to get into if you know how MZB's take on the Arthurian legend runs. It's also one of the highest rated of MZB's books.
Also, with all respect for Dianna L. Paxson, and grateful as I am that she is carrying on some of MZB's legacy, she isn't MZB.
>>3 MarthaJeanne: thanks for that info. I've only just started it, but I'm enjoying it so far. I have it on audio, narrated by Davina Porter and she's great. I've been listening while I do physical therapy.
Hi all--I'm going to lurk on the sidelines for the discussion. I read this years ago in an Arthurian lit. class, and I'm almost afraid to admit (here) that it was, by far, my least favorite of the reads, and still gets a pretty negative gut reaction from me. I'm hoping the discussion here will open my mind a bit toward it, now that I am theoretically older and wiser. I've certainly got a lot of friends who hold it among their favorite works!
I'm almost halfway through, and the story has captivated me. Igraine and Uther - I can't wait to see how the story progresses.
>5 whitewavedarling: The problem with comparing works of Arthurian literature is that you actually have to enter different worlds for each author. Mists has a very different take on many aspects, and it's looong. That's not bad, but could be a problem if you have several books to read for a course.
>7 MarthaJeanne: It was was actually a quick read compared to a lot of the other books in that course--we started with the earliest legends and Le Morte de Arthur, which aren't easy reading! The huge writing in our copy of Mists was a welcome for my eyes, too! The big problem that got me early on was that we'd been reading about men non-stop, with women relegated to the background, or else superficial/negative roles. We thought Mists would be the first one to balance it out, but it seemed like it reversed the problem, with women being the positive rounded characters, and men being superficial/negative or only in the background. I'd so hoped for a balance of men and women being positive, or at least in depth personas, as had some of my classmates, that we reacted against it pretty strongly.
I'm curious to hear the discussion, though, and maybe get pushed to revisit it. Sorry for my mini-rant!
We must have finished within minutes of each other, I'm finished too!
Whose still reading?
It must have been just the two of us reading. I hope you enjoyed it.
I did enjoy it. I particular liked that the feminine value was stressed. I'm not sure that I'll get anymore of the series, if they pop up, maybe I will. How about you?
I have them. I read the most recent one in the series earlier this year for the first time.
I don't seem to have cared enough to review or comment on it. The rest of the series, it's been a while, but there are other things I want to reread more.
As folks who've read it more recently, I'd be really curious to hear how you guys felt about the male characters in the book. I've thought about re-reading it, but haven't been able to pull myself in to attempt it yet.
I thought that it was extremely interesting the way that Morgaine was portrayed as a woman with the sight but that she had to be educated to use it so that she could in the future protect her heritage. It also portrayed women as strong and decisive even though they were forced into weaker roles as the chatelaines and mothers.
It isn't really about the male characters. They are more the 'objects' the women have to work with if they are to achieve their goals.
>17 MarthaJeanne:, I know it's not about the men...my original problem with the book, though, was that it relegated male characters to stereotypes and object-like-characters, which is what so much earlier arthurian lit. did with female characters. I'm wondering if my reaction was so strong because I was expecting a much more balanced view, or if I'd get just as frustrated were I to go back to it... I have no problem with lit. that's focused on female characters, of course--I just don't want the male characters around them to be not much more than jokes, or I have a hard time escaping into the world the book offers because of the one-sidedness.
The only male character that stands out to me is Kevin, the bard and Merlin. But I think that of all the men, he is the only one that one of the women really cares about.
The book is told from the viewpoints of the women, and none of them is particularly interested in the men as people. MZB is capable of depicting men, but in general her women are stronger and more rounded than most of the men. This doesn't really bother me, because I find it easier to identify with women, and I read enough male authors that it evens out.
I don't think the men are jokes, or even really 'objects' as I wrote above, but simply that their culture split the world into male and female parts, and this time it is the female part that is being depicted. At that, the men are depicted with more sympathy than the women in a lot of books about the male side of life.
In the end, the men have gone out and 'done', the women have stayed home and 'been', but both find that their lives have been mostly futile.
I have read The Mists of Avalon & have also seen the movie (several times) & like both a lot. I have most of the rest of books in the series but have not gotten around to reading them however ! I have read several different versions of the King Arthur stories including Le Morte d'Arthur & the Mary Stewart series, I also read a coup;e volumes of the Jack Whyte which I found too'macho' for my taste . Ultimately I when on to other things like Medieval Mysteries which I still read & for 3-4 years now have read a lot of & about Sherlock Holmes. At present I am reading my 8th volume in Laurie R . King series featuring Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes. I am enjoying this series greatly & recommend it highly!
I completely agree with your assessment. I find it difficult to find a book with a good balance, where both men and women are rounded, breathing, living people. Too frequently writers seem timid, or afraid of tackling the perspective of the opposite sex, or where, to the audience, the writer's perspective is obviously biased. At least in Mists the female characters have a chance to be more than wives, mothers, temptresses, or airheads.
I read this book years ago, and am genuinely enjoying the reread! Every time I open a book, I hope for a little more equality among how the sexes are portrayed. Most frequently, however, I find that, as in Mists, writers seem to favor one sex or the other, to the detriment of the story.
!I am still reading tn Laurie King books-but having more trouble getting hands on them as I get further into the series!
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