While we are on this Arthurian legend kick, I figured I would keep my other Morgan le Fay/Morgana/Morgaine book post within the same week as my previous entry: I Am Morgan le Fay.
The Mists of Avalon is another book that I have had on my to-read list. It has been there since I discovered it was a book after watching the mini series. Again, my love for the character (she goes by Morgaine in this book) is evident so bear with me.
While this book mainly focuses on Morgaine, it also does this wonderful feature of all the important ladies tied to the Arthurian legend. The Avalon family, aunts, cousins, sisters and even Gwenhyfar. It's filled with these powerful, and maybe not so powerful, female characters and displays effortlessly how involved in the legend these women were.
But, above all (and I feel this is worth mentioning) this is a book argumentative about religion. At least, that's how I see it. I try to stay away from two topics in public; one being politics and the other being religion. People get very uppity and offend quickly if you do not agree with their point of view and that remains true within this tale. Marion Zimmer Bradley places the pagan beliefs on a pedestal and at times, I feel, attacks Christian beliefs but, at other's, I feel she displays a gentle example of all religions being quite similar and sharing much of the same beliefs.
I appreciated that MZB didn't hold back in making all of her characters both lovable and hated. Every single character I disliked at one point, some more than others, but they all had at least one redeeming quality. King Arthur seems to be the most pitiful of characters and the most good hearted. He seemed almost simple, or maybe he is too loving, because those around him seem to be in more control of what is going on than he himself. It's the decisions of other women, mainly, that drive him to make the choices he makes. His relationship with his half-sister Morgaine is something that is "filled with sin" but there is also a quality to the relationship that even when they are aged calls forth the bond of older sister and younger brother. I feel that their relationship is one of the most heartbreaking ones in the book.
The land of Avalon sounds like a fairy heaven and it struck me as such when I was a little kid watching the mini series. I wanted to be a maiden of Avalon! I wanted to have magic and see with the Sight! Reading the book as an adult...I'd still rather be a maid of Avalon than a woman at court; although now I don't find either lifestyle to sound very enjoyable.
The book is nearly 900 pages long and a lot of the points made (religious, mainly) are repeated over and over. That was my biggest qualm with the book. Yes, I know your idea of those pagan ways, I know your beliefs of God, but it doesn't need to be repeated every three pages! I remember your qualms, I promise! The repetitive complaints about religion was what slowed up the book during different parts but otherwise I found myself reading it quickly. You're never with a female character for too long before you're given another female character to read about. It's easy to follow and keeps everything moving along with ease.
There are two points that I feel were made with the book that I believe can be followed today: one being that meddling in affairs of other's typically is not a good idea and is wanton for retaliation. Another idea being that although some religions are no longer practiced, that beliefs may no longer be held, they may slip "into the mists" so to speak but they are still there. They're a part of history and therefore still living in some way.
This book only made me love Morgaine all the more. She reaches out to the reader in a way that the other female characters do not. She is well intentioned, but things often go astray or she is is wronged by someone she cares for. She's a character that is wronged in many ways and not given the credit or attention she deserves by those around her.
I'm glad that I didn't read the book as a teenager because I feel much of it would have been lost by me. As an adult, I feel that I grasped the plots more and was able to understand the religious conviction and subtle details. I don't know if I'll ever read it again (it really was a large book) but maybe once I become a parent, if I ever have the time, I'll give it a try. I feel that I would be able to potentially see it from a new light (there is a lot of detail of motherhood within the book) but for now, I'm happy with what the book has left me with, the magic and mystery of that time period and the desire to learn more of the Arthurian legend.