Winner of the Prix Goncourt des Lyceéns 2002 and the Prix des Libraires 2003
Five words from the blurb: King, old, wedding, conflict, honour
I recently had a wonderful Twitter conversation with @thetoietlis about French fiction. She recommended many books, but Death of an Ancient King caught my eye as she said it was too dark for her. I bought a copy knowing it would also be perfect for Paris in July – a month long celebration of French literature and culture organised by BookBath and Thyme for Tea.
Death of an Ancient King has a fable-like quality and can be seen as warning against the futility of war. It begins with King Tsongor preparing a lavish wedding for his daughter, but on the eve of the big day a former suitor appears, claiming that she is promised to him. The King is unable to resolve the situation and a war breaks out between the two potential husbands.
The entire book was quick and easy to read. It flowed beautifully and gave no indication that it was in translation. Unlike @thetoietlis I didn’t find it too dark. There were descriptions of battle, but the scenes were described in a detached way, so I was never disturbed.
I loved the first 80 pages, but after that scenes of war took over and I became less interested. If these had been reduced by about 75% the book would have had far more impact.
King Tsongor was a fantastic character and I found his story the most interesting. I wish that we’d learnt more about his past and the story surrounding his footman had been given more prominence.
Overall this was a compelling story with a good moral heart, but there was too much fighting for me.
Laurent Gaudé is an interesting author and I’m keen to try more of his novels. Have you read any of them?