Rating – 2 stars
Date Finished – June 21, 2017
54/120 in 2017
I picked this up because it seemed like a fun bookish mystery that would be a quick summer read with some substance. I kept reading that it was the perfect “book lover’s book,” which I couldn’t resist. I will say, off the bat, that I did enjoy the setting – a small English town with an old cathedral with a dusty library filled with old volumes. Sadly, that was the only thing I did enjoy.
At first, I also didn’t mind the protagonist – Arthur Prescott – who prefers the wooden shelves and manuscripts in the cathedral library to the shiny chrome world of the internet. He’s a curmudgeon, but a lovable one, for about 30 pages.
With the introduction of Bethany Davis, an American student 15 years Arthur’s junior, Arthur seems to dig in his heels and become a cartoon of an English professor in a tweed jacket with elbow patches. Bethany is in town to digitize Arthur’s beloved manuscript collection, and they quickly become bickering partners. My biggest qualm with the book is Bethany – she’s a classic manic pixie dream girl with no real substance who exists only to be the opposite of Arthur.
The quest storyline in the novel begins with the search for a lost manuscript about (fictional) Saint Ewolda, and ends in a quest for the only thing worth questing for – the Holy Grail. Both Arthur and Bethany are long-time Grail seekers, and they (obviously) fall in love while searching and eventually finding the Holy Grail right under their noses. That part of the novel wasn’t the worst – I was interested in the little breadcrumbs laid down in flashbacks, and it kept my interest to a satisfying end.
Overall, this novel was sunk by a weak love story that I just didn’t buy. It did offer some warm fuzzy book loving moments and a fun (if predictable) adventure, so if you can ignore the obnoxious technology vs. real books angle, it could still be fun to read.
Some infuriating moments with our friend Arthur:
-In one scene, a student has to explain to him what Twitter is and is then a total jerk to said student who wants to invent a fake twitter account for Jane Eyre (I WOULD READ THAT!)
-Arthur, a 40 year old man who works in academia, has to ask for help to send an email with an attachment
-Arthur and two other windbags get together once a week to drink wine and talk about high literature while also engaging in some casual sexism