So I’m reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Mists of Avalon” and I was struck by something very early on in this book. It doesn’t suck. (Editor’s note: I’m now 40% in and it’s still doing alright). The story is yet another telling of the King Arthur Legend, because there totally aren’t enough of those. The differentiating feature of this one is that it’s told through the eyes of the female characters in the legend. I don’t think I’ve ever read a version that did this so I was interested. The thing I didn’t know is if Marion Zimmer Bradley would be any better at dealing with historical sexism in her fictional book than anyone else did. You would think that someone focusing on having female leads would be better, but anyone who reads a lot of books absolutely knows that books with female leads can be just as sexist themselves.
Turns out, this book is pretty good. It firmly establishes itself in British History, and manages to show that , yes, this society was fucked up. Not good at all. What this doesn’t do is indulge in that stupidity. It’s not perfect (it has awesome cliches being held by characters like having a “monthly curse.”), but it’s better. So much better than some other books I’ve been reading lately. I really enjoy it. Basically what it does is look at the society of the time and works within it to tell the story without bowing down completely to it. Characters rebuke a lot of the sexist notions during their inner monologues. When some characters speak in private they openly mock societal positions for women. Some characters openly rebel against societal constraints against them. Some characters go along with it and defend the patriarchy (just as a lot of people defend it now) and some people move along and just don’t question how things are. It works for me. It’s just not terrible. It’s amazing how much easier sections of this book are to read than other books set in similar time frames, and mostly all just because I’m not pissed off at lazy writing.
Like I said, I’m just a quarter of the way though, but it’s just enjoyable to read a book without having to read hundreds of pages of “well, you know how women are. They just can’t help themselves but to be womens. lawl”