Book 217: Le Morte D’Arthur, Volume II by Sir Thomas Malory

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Le Morte D’Arthur, Volume II by Sir Thomas Malory

Finished reading on June 17th, 2016

Rating: 8/10

It took me almost exactly two months to finish reading the second volume after finishing first one. I didn’t start reading it right after, and had time to finish six other books in-between.

So I’m almost certain that anyone who’d read this review would already know quite a bit about Malory’s “Le Morte D’Arthur”, so I wouldn’t really need to write what it is about.

Still – it’s about King Arthur and his “Knights of the Table Round” – of Sir Launcelot and Sir Gawain and others, their jousts and quarrels and saving damosels in distress, their search for the Holy Grail and other adventures perilous. (You’ll end up using strange words by the end of it.)

I found that in this volume the most interesting part was the one about the Holy Grail – it felt like the pace of it was a lot faster than in other parts. Also it was quite eyeopening, as I didn’t know much of Sangrail and of it’s details, so that was fun – how and when and to whom it would appear etc.

So what actually happens?

First off there are some characters with quite difficult family relations – Sir Mordred for example – King Arthur is his father and his uncle, and their relationship is not passing good at all. And then there’s Galahad and Sir Launcelot, the latter names Galahad a knight, whilst neither yet knows that Galahad is Launcelot’s son.

Then we have the women – not many in all of it, but they’re not really sensible people at all (although maybe a knight in shining armor riding on a white horse is simply irresistible?) and always end up in some kind of trouble – take for example Queen Guenever who hosts a dinner for 24 knights after she’s told Sir Launcelot to leave Camelot. A knight is poisoned and although her reason for holding the dinner was to show that she’s just as friendly with other knights, it backfires, no-one likes her and Sir Launcelot has to rush in to save her (or otherwise King Arthur had asked Sir Bors to fight for her honor, so that might have worked too).

The things I found surprising – how much religion, fainting and weeping is in Le Morte D’Arthur. Also that you can find a hermit pretty much wherever you go…

I like the idea of the Arthurian Legends, but the characters all have some kind of mortal flaw.

My favorite quote comes from King Arthur:

“Wit you well my heart was never so heavy as it is now, and much more I am sorrier for my good knights’ loss than for the loss of my fair queen; for queens I might have enow, but such a fellowship of good knights shall never be together in no company.

… because he just likes to hang out and watch sports with his buddies…

I am slightly worried that having read this and not having had enough of chivalry and knights I might get too much into medieval literature and Arthurian legends… I did enjoy reading it although the characters lacked something.

Whilst reading the second volume of Malory’s book I found myself thinking back on the time when I was learning about medieval literature at school (was it 8th and 10th grade maybe?) and I remember thinking that that time period in literature was the most boring of all – I just liked literature from the beginning of 19th century up to 20th century and stopping just before the Second World War – later and earlier writing was not to my taste.

I think maybe even when I did read some excerpts from some medieval literature in class, maybe I just couldn’t have appreciated it anyway? Or maybe had I had enough motivation I would have found it fascinating as I do now?

I’m starting to see all literature as something that I want to get better acquainted with and not just stick to my comfort zone.

Another thing I realized while reading this, second volume (hadn’t thought of it while reading first volume at all), was that I want to find out more about the history and any other related literature (which I certainly will do at some point), that’s quite different from having watched BBC’s Merlin on Netflix and thinking “oh it would be cool to read something that the characters are based on or inspired from”.

I would recommend reading all of it, if you feel like it would be something interesting for you, otherwise some chapters would be sufficient.

Not much of a review, but I’m just glad I wasn’t forced to read it, I can see how that would have made reading it awful.

Book 216: Vulcan’s Fury by Alwyn Scarth

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Vulcan’s Fury: Man Against The Volcano by Alwyn Scarth

Finished reading on June 15th, 2016

Rating: 10/10

Volcano eruptions to someone who lives quite far away from any active (or non-active for that matter), seem like a distant and not too great of a threat – you might hear of them in the news or hear them mentioned in some context, but I guess they’re really relevant when you live right next to one.

I’ve never had to really think of the dangers of volcano eruptions and the hundreds of ways that a “fire mountain” can kill someone, but this book brought some of the deadliest eruptions right to me in very vivid graphic descriptions that also included ones from eyewitnesses.

Scarth doesn’t go into great depths about volcanoes in general, but gives the basics and then dives into some of the most famous (and some that seemed quite obscure) eruptions, what the people living in and near the danger-zone saw and felt and how it disturbed life elsewhere.

As you get to the eruption events you also get more specific information about the volcano at hand – Vesuvius, Stromboli, Laki, Pinatubo etc, to name just a few. The events are at a chronological order, so you can also feel how times change and living conditions change, and how that influences how people act etc.

The descriptions were very interesting, but what was most fascinating to me was how many times darkness was mentioned – that’s a detail that I wouldn’t have thought of; and also psychology – why would people who know of something is going to happen soon, wouldn’t leave their homes.

Great book, well illustrated, not technical at all.

I read this book for work purposes, but I imagine it would be fascinating for any intelligent person 🙂

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The closest I’ve been to volcanoes has been on my trips to Italy and to Iceland. In case of Italy I didn’t actually see any, but that’s still closer than normally, when they’re about 1500 km away. In case of Iceland I could see several in the distance on a Golden Circle tour and also when flying over Iceland.

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Hekla in the distance, one of many Icelandic volcanoes not in the book, but you can’t have them all, right? Photo from my 2015 trip.