Reviewed by David Maclaine
The Golden Fleece is another fruit of Robert Graves' efforts as revisionist historian and folklorist which culminated in his nonfiction work The White Goddess. The novel is written as though by a classical-age scholar who still had access to the original details of Jason's quest for the Fleece. After an amusing first chapter, the story bogs down for a while, because Graves is so thorough in providing background. His syntax is ornate and old-fashioned, giving the flavor of the old Greek style, and a far cry from the lean descriptive technique of most contemporary novels. Still, readers with an interest in Greek mythology and the ancient worship rituals described in Fraser’s The Golden Bough will find enough to hold their interest until the story begins in earnest.
Once the Argo is ready to set sail on its famous quest, The Golden Fleece offers pleasures much like those found in such eighteenth century novelists as Smollett and Fielding. Here too a stately, long-sentenced style, apparently somber and sincere, is used to tell a story full of sly humor and bawdy detail, in this case with a bit more casual slaughter and mass copulation. The chapters including the Argonauts’ sometime companion Hercules are pure slapstick, but the comedy continues even after that blustering hero with his penchant for incidental homicide has been left behind. Another recurrent comic figure is the fanatical beekeeper Butes, who critically appraises the honey they taste at every stop and becomes the accidental cause of tragedy. The Golden Fleece is perhaps as much a specialized taste as one of the rarer honey blends Butes admires, but it’s hard to imagine any other writer serving up such rich blend of avid scholarship and an engaging comic voice. (1945, most editions 400-465 page)More about The Golden Fleece at Amazon.com or The Book Depository