Charlie Lovett? I love it! The Lost Book of the Grail has been found, by me anyway! I actually entered a competition at Alma Books to win this novel and then the good people at Nudge sent me a copy to review. Some kind of karma? I don’t know but I was delighted.
This is a book for the bookish. An homage to all things bibliophilic. If anything shines through the entire volume it is the author’s love for books. Physical books, especially antiquarian books. And the enduring e-books/physical books debate continues loosely disguised within the narrative of this endearing story.
If you want a fast paced, swashbuckling mystery then look away, this book is not for you but if you like something thoughtful, populated by ordinary people living ordinary lives, slow paced yet meaningful then this is a novel to explore.
i love Arthur Prescott. He is so alarmingly ordinary as to be disarmingly quirky, possibly somewhere on the spectrum given the nature of some aspects of his behaviour and obsessions. One of those rare beings that has managed to eschew the digital age - even mobile phones! His world is ordered, predictable. The mystery he seeks to solve has been with him most of his life.
A storyline that isn’t entirely unique - slightly older intellectual’s equilibrium is disturbed by younger person who eventually turns out to be a kindred spirit and also acceptably intellectual. But the writer almost uses the novel as a soap box for his thoughts and opinions on religious beliefs, legends, history, the fragile compatibility of old and new technologies and the appreciation of beauty.
The dual chronologies work well and puts the present into context as you read about the past. There is a thread of humour running throughout and for me friendship endures as a constant theme in this book. I found it a feel-good read with the ends pretty much nicely tied up. I guess to a degree it is a little saccharin but it works very well.
I love that Lovett uses an established fictional setting, Trollope’s Barchester and even giving some of his characters similar names. It is a fitting tribute to the Barchester chronicles and allows a poetic licence that might not work within a real or actual cathedral city setting.
If you’re a stickler for realism you may find some anomalies here but if you love to lose yourself in a fictional world where all things are possible this book will allow you to pass several absorbing hours.