The Tragedy of Arthur: Book summary and reviews of The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips

The Tragedy of Arthur

A Novel

By Arthur Phillips

The Tragedy of Arthur
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2011,
    384 pages.

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Book Summary

The Tragedy of Arthur is an emotional and elaborately constructed tour de force from bestselling and critically acclaimed novelist Arthur Phillips.

Its doomed hero is Arthur Phillips, a young man struggling with a larger-than-life father, a con artist who works wonders of deception but is a most unreliable parent. Arthur is raised in an enchanted world of smoke and mirrors where the only unshifting truth is his father's and his beloved twin sister's deep and abiding love for the works of William Shakespeare - a love so pervasive that Arthur becomes a writer in a misguided bid for their approval and affection.

Years later, Arthur's father, imprisoned for decades and nearing the end of his life, shares with Arthur a treasure he's kept secret for half a century: a previously unknown play by Shakespeare, titled The Tragedy of Arthur. But Arthur and his sister also inherit their father's mission: to see the play published and acknowledged as the Bard's last great gift to humanity....

Unless it's their father's last great con.

By turns hilarious and haunting, this virtuosic novel - which includes Shakespeare's (?) lost King Arthur play in its five-act entirety - captures the very essence of romantic and familial love and betrayal. The Tragedy of Arthur explores the tension between storytelling and truth-telling, the thirst for originality in all our lives, and the act of literary mythmaking, both now and four centuries ago, as the two Arthurs - Arthur the novelist and Arthur the ancient king - play out their individual but strangely intertwined fates.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review and Editor's Pick. Highly recommended for all who enjoy inspired, original, entertaining writing." - Library Journal

"It's a tricky project, funny and brazen, smart and playful." - Publishers Weekly

"The always-original Phillips has outdone himself in this clever literary romp." - Booklist

"The text of Arthur demonstrates that there are few limits to Mr Phillips's imagination." - Robert McCrum, The Guardian (UK)

"A funny, sad, absurd, moving, and very, very smart book. I don't know if it's fiction or non-fiction or both or neither, and ultimately it's irrelevant." - James Frey, national bestselling author of A Million Little Pieces

"A tour de force - clever, rueful, full of insight, and, as always, stuffed with amazing prose. Arthur Phillips can legitimately stake a claim to being one of the best and most daring and original of novelists." - Dan Chaon, national bestselling author of Await Your Reply

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Joyce Franke
Highs and Lows
Recommended: I loved the father figure because I think people like Phillips Sr. are the ones who help us ordinary folks enjoy as much life as we do. These are the people we remember. Although I liked the book, it was a hard read for me. It wasn't the vocabulary that was difficult, or even the references to Shakespeare. It seemed there was so much packed into the sentences the sentences felt bloated, giving the impression Phillips wrote (spoke) rapidly (manic high) at maybe 78rpm. However, I had to read the book slowly--to process the sentences. I enjoyed the manic highs Phillips must have been feeling as he wrote; also felt the lows and the need for medication adjustments. Great black humor. Interesting story to be sure.

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Author Information

Arthur Phillips Author Biography

Arthur Phillips was born in Minneapolis in 1969 and educated at Harvard. He has been a child actor, a jazz musician, a speechwriter, a dismally failed entrepreneur, and a five-time Jeopardy! champion.

His first novel, Prague, a national bestseller, was named a New York Times Notable Book, and received The Los Angeles Times/Art Seidenbaum Award for best first novel. His second novel, The Egyptologist, was a national and international bestseller, and was on more than a dozen “Best of 2004” lists. His other novels include Angelica, The Song Is You, and The Tragedy of Arthur. His work has been translated into over twenty languages.

He lives in New York with his wife and two sons.

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