Rosemary Sutcliff Marcus Crouch - Essay

Marcus Crouch

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Road to Camlann] takes up the story [of King Arthur] with Mordred at Camelot, insidiously undermining the fellowship and the spiritual values on which the Round Table was based. There follows the love of Guenever and Lancelot, the wars and the final battle. The story ends with the death of Lancelot at Glastonbury.

In this, the most familiar of all the Arthurian stories, there is not much room for individual interpretation, and Miss Sutcliff stays close to Malory, even to the use of actual speeches and phrases at climactic moments where modern words, even those as resounding as this writer's, might have struck the wrong note. Miss Sutcliff captures the profound sadness of the story and the hopelessness of its preordained doom. She writes with conscious nobility of style, as befits the material, using the techniques of the chronicler rather than the novelist, although she shows her characteristic understanding in dealing with the motives of Lancelot and Arthur. Here, young readers and their parents may be assured, is the best of a great and lasting story matched with the best of one of this age's great writers. Those who, later in life, move on to Malory will discover that the spirit of the Arthurian legends has been conveyed without falsification, and that the transition to the fifteenth-century original can be made with no effort.

Marcus Crouch, in his review of "The Road to Camlann," in The Junior Bookshelf, Vol. 45, No. 6, December 1981, p. 251.