The Lost Book Of The Grail by Charlie Lovett is a fascinating novel about a modern day hunt for the Holy Grail. Instead of a quest by chivalrous knights, the searchers are a group of introverted bibliophiles from rural England. However, they might just have the exact set of skills to succeed, where thousands of others have failed over the centuries.
The unlikely hero of The Lost Book Of The Grail is Professor Arthur Prescott, a man who would prefer living in an earlier century. Arthur teaches as little as possible, and spends all his free time in Barchester Cathedral’s medieval library, studying the ancient manuscripts. Arthur believes the books hold the secret to the location of the Holy Grail, which Arthur has been fascinated with since he was a little boy.
Arthur is a very likeable fellow, but definitely suffers from OCD. His life is completely structured in a series of routines, which revolve around the library and the cathedral. He attends Evensong at the cathedral each night, walks the grounds of the church with the minister each morning, and once a week meets with a group of fellow book lovers. That is Arthur’s whole life.
Then Arthur’s entire world is changed with the arrival of a beautiful young American woman named Bethany. She is the opposite to Arthur in every way. Bethany is extroverted, well-traveled, computer savvy, and makes friends easily. Arthur is both fascinated by and petrified of Bethany.
You see, Bethany is there to destroy what Arthur loves most. Bethany has come to “digitize” the ancient books in the cathedral’s library. That is, copy them into a computer database. There are also rumors that once that is completed, the library will be selling the original manuscripts for much needed funding.
Arthur comes up with a wild idea of how to save the library and the cathedral. He believes the secret to the location of Holy Grail is hidden in coded messages in the library’s books. If he can find them before Bethany completes her work the Cathedral would become so precious a landmark that nothing would ever have to be sold. As ridiculous as this idea is, we readers desperately want Arthur and his team of bibliophiles to succeed.
There have been many stories of quests for the Holy Grail, from Indiana Jones to Monty Python. However, The Lost Book Of The Grail is one of the best. Charlie Lovett is an excellent writer, and brings to life characters who are flawed yet heroic. Arthur Prescott’s search is not just for the Holy Grail, but also to find out who he really is. Despite his life revolving around a church and a holy object, Arthur is himself an atheist. When Bethany points out this inconsistency, Arthur responds,
“Just because I don’t believe in God, doesn’t mean I don’t want to.And it doesn’t mean I can’t find comfort in routine and in connecting myself through those words and this space to a hundred generations who have come before me here.”
We recommend The Lost Book Of the Grail, and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
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- Read Free Books! our essay about libraries throwing out books.