I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
When I heard that this book was drawing comparisons to novels by AS Byatt, I knew I had to read it. When I was younger, I was completely enthralled by the world of King Arthur. I started with Marion Zimmer Bradley's MISTS OF AVALON and moved on from there. In college, I even took a course on Arthurian legends. FINDING CAMLANN follows the attempts of several academics in their quest to track down the historical Arthur. Archaeologist Donald Gladstone is trying to write a book that separates the mythical Arthur from the historical Arthur but struggles because of the lack of physical evidence about the latter. The emergence of a startling archaeological find at Stonehenge along with a long-forgotten poem buried within the Bodleian Library could provide the evidence he has been missing. Julia Llewellyn is a long-lost college acquaintance of Donald's who currently works for the OED as a linguist. Julia's marriage is suffering and she is desperately trying to sort out her feelings about her husband when she unexpectedly bumps into Donald. The two of them become involved in tracking down evidence about the historical Arthur while rekindling long-buried feelings.
This book should have been one of my favorites this year. It has all the elements I love: Arthurian legend, archaeological discoveries, long-buried secrets, and quests that involve protracted searches in archives and libraries. But it fell flat. I can't put my finger on what is wrong with the book. The characters are interesting and I love the setting. I have never had much interest in Wales before but this book really got me interested in that area of Britain. I think it lacks magic. Pidgeon needed to go into greater depths with is characters and their searches. This is one of the things that Byatt does so well. She takes her time with the story and builds it slowly so that readers feel they are truly on a quest with the characters. (such as in POSSESSION which is the most similar to FINDING CAMLANN) Byatt's books feel very academic whereas this book really didn't. Pidgeon's book needed to be longer and with a touch more whimsy. This is ARTHUR we are talking about!!! It felt rushed in the way that Dan Brown novels feel rushed, compromising good writing in the name of a fast-paced story. (although Pidgeon is a much better writer than Brown) This could have been a great book if the author had developed the story and characters a bit more. The ending felt rushed and flat. I was really disappointed.
BOTTOM LINE: Not recommended. Not a terrible book.....just disappointing. With subject matter like this, it should have been a truly fun read. Still, I look forward to seeing Pidgeon's next effort.