What if the Holy Grail ended up in thrift shop in a quiet town in England? What if a little old lady who frequented the shop found it and, liking it, brought it home? What if she liked the way it looked on the mantelpiece beside the photo of her late husband? And what happens when Sir Galahad shows up on his quest for the Holy Grail?
This is the concept behind Chivalry, a short story by Gaiman turned into a luscious graphic novel by Colleen Doran. The illustrations and the medieval-style illuminations and lettering add so much to this simple story. I picked it up on a whim while perusing the New Arrivals shelf at my local library and read it in one sitting on a bench in the sunshine before heading to work.
The story and the pictures are wonderfully married for this funny and poignant story. Mrs. Whitaker is a widow living alone. Like many, she sticks to her routine, which includes her visits to the thrift shop. She brings home the Holy Grail where she happily displays it on her mantel. When Galaad comes to the door, questing for the grail, Mrs. Whitaker makes him tea (after demanding identification) but turns down his request for the grail. It isn’t long before he returns though, hoping to offer Mrs. Whitaker something in exchange. But what will she be willing to take in return for the nice cup that she thinks looks so well beside her figuring of a basset hound?
The humour largely exists in the juxtaposition of this larger-than-life, mythical figure of Galaad showing up on his white steed in the midst of a very ordinary English neighbourhood. There is a lot of meaning too though that comes across on the page without anything being said. We see the routines that Mrs. Whitaker has in her daily life and how she feels her days. We begin to understand how she misses her husband and how, perhaps, her life is not quite what she thought it would be. And we catch a glimpse of another woman who is perhaps making a choice to grasp life to its fullest.
A fun and quick read with some thoughtfullness behind the page.
4 thoughts on “Book Review: Chivalry by Neil Gaiman & Colleen Doran”
This looks like a lovely little read, and a unique storyline too. Nice illustrations as well!
The illustrations really make it, I think. I’ve always enjoyed the stories of King Arthur’s knights so this was a great little book to read.
I will never be able to divorce the Holy Grail and the knight that guards it fro the version we see in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, lol. I always remember that knight trying to pick up his sword to strike Indy down, but it’s so heavy to him that he falls over.
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