Review: Looking for the King - An Inklings Novel (05.11.10 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

Most readers of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books end up reading about the man himself. For some, and I am for sure one of them, the author ends up at least as interesting as the books that flowed out of his hands. Once you deepen yourself in the subject sooner or later you end up reading about the Inklings, an informal literary discussion group of which Tolkien was a member. You learn about the other remarkable persons that made part of the group like C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams and Hugo Dyson and cannot but imagine how it must have been to follow their courses, how their meetings at the Bird & Baby must have been and how it would be to actually speak with them.

In the past I used to say that for me it would have been a better idea to make a movie about J.R.R. Tolkien and best to have left his works for people to imagine. Now I have to admit that I was wrong, not about adapting Tolkien’s books to film, but about making a film about J.R.R. Tolkien himself. Probably because next to J.R.R. Tolkien and books about him I nearly do not find the time to read much lately, and most of the time when I do I get deeply disappointed by the books I end up reading. So I had never thought of a book where Tolkien would take part, especially since I believed it would be impossible to recreate the atmosphere of lectures or meetings with any of the Inklings. Of course I have heard of the books by James A. Owen, fantasy novels where Tolkien, Williams and Lewis are protagonists - or so I have understood - but never felt the urge to read them. Then I received a review copy of Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel by David C. Downing and for one or another reason immediately felt invited to work myself through it. Maybe it was the cover image, maybe the subtitle, maybe the blurb, or even a combination of the three but within an hour of receiving the book I started reading.
Review: Looking for the King - An Inklings Novel

What happened next was a big surprise - and this had not happened for a very long time - I was unable to put this book down and had to read until the end (despite of the fact that I should have been sleeping and that I had to work the next day). And now I know… it is not only possible to visit J.R.R. Tolkien, talk to C.S. Lewis and go to an Inklings meeting but you can also smell, feel and taste the atmosphere of Oxford in the 40’s. Now I believe that no movie would have been able to re-create the world I walked into and once again well written words triggered my imagination better then any moving image could. I can only say, thank you David C. Downing…

In Looking for the King we follow the American Tom McCord, a 23-year-old aspiring doctoral candidate, who is doing research on King Arthur and hopes to discover some historical evidence for the legendary king. Right in the beginning of the book he meets a girl called Laura Hartman, a fellow American staying in Oxford, who has been having mysterious dreams and visions that relate to the subject of research of Tom and so he hires her as his assistant. Aided by the Inklings they set out on a treasure hunt and leads in the end to much more then Tom and Laura were initially looking for.

In this amazing novel we follow Tom McCord on a visit to Tolkien’s house, to a course of Charles Williams, to a meeting with the inklings, a walk with C.S Lewis along the Thames (probably one of the most moving scenes in the book), a visit to numerous sites all across England, a treasure hunt for the Spear of Destiny, the search for the sleeping king in Laura’s dreams, the quest for faith and love. All this comes together in a very well written book that must be read by any person who likes J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams or a extremely good book!

To end my review of this book I just want to say that is one of the best books I have read in a very long time and I would give it a 5 star rating on Amazon and no I would advise anyone to read it. Wow... it was a long long time ago that I read a book that was so amazing that I could not put it down and that means something! To write this book the author David C. Downing must have done a lot of research and must be a brilliant academic (all quotes and references are added at the end of the book, which is a very good extra for those who want to learn more about the Inklings); but on the other hand he must have an amazing amount of fantasy and imagination to be able to make all these famous persons like Lewis and Tolkien come to live and see the countryside and buildings as they were 70 years ago; and next to that he is a remarkable writer who is able to describe it all so well: charachters, feelings & emotions and places. It all comes together in this wonderful book. The only sad thing was that the story ended after only 266 pages!

Title: Looking for the King - An Inklings Novel
David C. Downing

Publisher: Ignatius

Publication Date:
October 30, 2010

hardback, 285 pages

ISBN-13: 978-1586175146

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