The Song of Giraldus
This novel presents the recollections of medieval historian and chronicler Giraldus Cambrensis. Giraldus, who narrates in a rather lofty tone, tells of his youth as a chronicler at the court of Henry II. Through his eyes and those of his friends and servants, we also witness the lives of King Richard and King John and the path of the Fourth Crusade. Giraldus’ unsuccessful struggles with the church and his family, many of which could perhaps be blamed on an overlarge ego, turn him into an angry, bitter man — though not one without intelligence and wit.
Loomis, a scholar and translator of medieval Welsh literature, has provided us with a competent illustration of this historical figure. However, the historical details tend to overwhelm the story, and there’s little dramatic tension. At times the novel reads like a medieval chronicle itself; perhaps this was intentional, but it makes for dry reading in places. Still, as a self-portrait of a historian of noble birth, self-important attitude, and great intellect, perhaps this novel is an accurate representation.