The Fourth Gwenevere

Written by John James
Review by Julia Stoneham

The circumstances of the production of this novel are extraordinary. The fact that the author’s life ended before his work on it was completed could have spelled disaster. Happily for all of us, two Arthurian scholars, John and Caitlin Matthews, took on the project of the completion of the then-unfinished manuscript. From the first lines on page one, the prose flows easily, unpretentiously and poetically. It has delicacy, yet it becomes hard and uncompromising where it needs to. One feels at ease, too, with the use of convincing research, which never becomes obtrusive or heavy-handed. The complexity of the plot and the intricacies of the central storylines are properly developed, and the temptation to resolve things too comfortably is cleverly resisted.

In my view, this book will take a well-deserved place on the shelves of readers who are not only familiar with the subject matter, but of those who will become intrigued by this able and impressive telling of the stories. On a more subjective level, my own response to The Fourth Gwenevere was slightly diminished by the amount of concentration I needed in order to establish and retain a necessary knowledge of who is who, where is where and when is when. So many unfamiliar names, places and relationships among the familiar ones.