I was surprised to find this book on a reading list for medieval French literature. King Arthur belong to British folklore, no? As I did some digging, I found that the tales from Geoffrey of Monmouth's The History of the Kings of Britain (which incidentally was written in Latin, not English) travelled the channel into French literature, to be taken up by writers such as Chrétien de Troyes. It was at this point that the warrior king reclaiming Britain from the barbarism of the Picts and the Scots succumbed to the pressures of the French courtly love tradition and became the tragic, somewhat weak-willed king of the later tales. It was the French who added characters such as Lancelot and elements such as the quest for the grail.
This particular volume, written anonymously in the 13th century is significant because it is the first prose telling of the Arthurian tales. All previous versions had been in verse. This book covers only the fourth section of the story, beginning after the knights' return from the quest for the grail. It serves as a sequel to other volumes written by Chrétien de Troyes.
The tale itself was familiar to me, but nonetheless enjoyable. Tournaments, secrets, wounded knights, scorned lovers, fire, battles, and tragedy. I've never particularly cared for Lancelot as a character and prefer versions where Arthur is the hero of the story, as opposed to this one where Lancelot takes the pedestal of heroism throughout. Overall I found it to be an engaging read, and particularly enjoyed reading the sections about the Lady of Shalott, the poem by Tennyson being one of my favorites.