The Tragedy of Arthur

The Tragedy of Arthur - Arthur Phillips This book is odd. It is set up as a memoir, but it's not. The author takes a fictional account of his family and includes the Arthur legend in it with some Shakespeare thrown in. It shouldn't have worked, but honestly the book as a whole really does work if you read the play first (it's in the back) and work back through the fictional introduction by the author talking about him wanting to show the world about his father. And as we know about the Arthur legend, it is ultimately a tale of fathers and stand in fathers.

Starting with the play, this is written by Shakespeare and looks into Arthur being the son of the King Uter Pendragon and a noblewoman that Uter raped. After Uter's death, Arthur's right to rule is challenged by heir to the crown of Pictland, Mordred. Mordred's father is King Loth who refuses to go to war with Arthur. This play is about how of course these two men to do go to war. And how Arthur is brought low due his love of a woman who caused him to forget that above all else he was king.

I honestly think this book would be cool to borrow just to read the play itself. I do think though that the play does not read like Shakespeare at all to me. Maybe because I recently got done reading 10 of his plays. But, for me, it was very nice mimicry.

Then you go back to the introduction by Phillips who begins to tell the tale of his father who is a forger. Arthur's father is in and out of jail for most of his life and eventually when he is younger, his mother divorces him and marries someone from her hometown. Arthur and his twin sister Dana have a lot of ups and downs through the years. Though twins, they differ on the subject of their father. Dana defends him and Arthur I find saw through his father the most.

Eventually though, the introduction does turn into a mini-walk though Shakespeare here and there. You have some references to A Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelfth Night.

We have the character of Arthur trying to be honest and I thought this faux memoir was very well done. We get to see an imperfect man and husband and father. And yes even son and brother. But I think he also shone a light on an imperfect family that refused to acknowledge the truth about each other.

In the end, a twist worthy of Shakespeare has Arthur out in the cold away from his family. That was the one part that didn't feel real to me. It also didn't make sense his own mother would somehow go along with things. And the character of Petra really didn't evolve more beyond somehow being the perfect woman. I thought she played a lot of games and I didn't much care for her or Dana in the end.