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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Coeur de Lion
'One afternoon, about six months ago, Emily and I walked down to the Globe theatre.'

Lionheart starts with the narrator Richie Cathar going to see Mark Rylance as Richard III with his girlfriend. 'It felt that day that we were in a city that was right at the epicentre of what mattered, and that there was no-one else on earth I would rather be.' Richie says 'I...
Published 9 months ago by purpleheart

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars his heart wasn't in it
I usually find Justin Cartwright an invigorating read. He has interesting themes, is witty and writes engagingly. But this was very disappointing. To much reasearch badly incorporated in a totally artifically constructed story.
Published 7 months ago by crazysalad


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars his heart wasn't in it, 19 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Lion Heart (Kindle Edition)
I usually find Justin Cartwright an invigorating read. He has interesting themes, is witty and writes engagingly. But this was very disappointing. To much reasearch badly incorporated in a totally artifically constructed story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Richard, then and now, 28 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Lion Heart (Kindle Edition)
This is two books in one. The first is a somewhat unconvincing contemporary tale of love and loss; the other is an account of Richard I. You might find the Richard I story interesting on its own account or you might find it an unwelcome interruption to the contemporary story. It doesn't quite come off though I learnt a lot about Richard I. The hero (it's a first-person story) isn't completely convincing. You have to take his word for it that he's (a) brilliantly clever and (b) devastatingly attractive to beautiful women. Dream on!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Coeur de Lion, 19 Sep 2013
By 
purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lion Heart (Hardcover)
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'One afternoon, about six months ago, Emily and I walked down to the Globe theatre.'

Lionheart starts with the narrator Richie Cathar going to see Mark Rylance as Richard III with his girlfriend. 'It felt that day that we were in a city that was right at the epicentre of what mattered, and that there was no-one else on earth I would rather be.' Richie says 'I now see that I was already beginning to be irritated by Emily, although I didn't acknowledge it.' Soon the relationship is over and Richie ruminates on it with rewarding spite and is a sorry figure as he cooks sausages on a open fire in a back garden that is 'a toxic, dark, cat-fouled, medieval strip of dank dead clay.' As a narrator Richie is clearly observant and a bit snide and has a chip on his shoulder about his father 'There is a small and distinct class of men that I recognise at a distance, and try to avoid. My father was one of them. They have a frayed-at-the-edges charm and a slightly distracted cheerfulness.'

So the set up is clear - our narrator is at a loose end at the end of his relationship, has some unresolved feelings about his father Alaric, and feels a lack of success - like his father he hasn't fulfilled his potential. He is ready to start a quest. He picks up Alaric's research, swings a grant from his old Oxford college and is off to Jerusalem. Whether it's the True Cross of Jesus he seeks or the one that Richard I believed was the true cross it doesn't matter, as it is change and escape he seeks and some sort of resolution with his romantic renaissance-man father.

I was looking forward to Lionheart very much, as I like Justin Cartwright's writing and have read all of his novels. The early chapters were promising but his relationship with Canadian/Palestinian journalist Noor failed to convince and the women in the novel are ciphers, who are all charmed and bedded by Richie. The descriptions of Byzantine Jerusalem and Richard the Lionheart's adventures are diverting and completely engaging but I didn't think the novel's two plotlines worked as a whole and all the material, interesting as it was, didn't cohere for me. Three and a half stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A very unlikely hero, 9 Feb 2014
This review is from: Lion Heart (Hardcover)
I found this a totally implausible book. We are asked to believe that the charmless narrator, Richie has reached the age of 33 without ever having had a proper job, despite having achieved the finest First of his Oxford year. (So how has he survived for the past decade? The same question could be asked of his father, whose livelihood is never explained.) Nevertheless, everything now falls into Richie's lap. All the women who cross his path desire him (he is, after all, devilishly handsome) and every property owner he encounters offers him free accommodation. He gets invitations to luxury homes and London clubs. Travel is easy and money for flights, taxis, and trains is no problem. He is loaned a Porsche and bought an expensive suit by a long suffering friend, research grants come his way just for the asking, an ageing aristocrat gives him a job in the House of Lords, and wonderfully significant documents turn up everywhere he looks. Worse, an awkward, unresolvable relationship issue is settled by a simple plot device (that I won't reveal) that leaves the way clear to a happy ending.

If I had read this in a work by Ian Fleming it would have stretched my credulity. Are we supposed to take it seriously?
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Laborious, trite and emotionally-detached, 27 Aug 2013
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lion Heart (Hardcover)
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There's a nice organising idea here as Cartwright looks at the relations between East and West in the twelfth century and today. The `past' story revolves around Richard I and his crusader quest; the `present' is accessed via a modern Richard who travels to Jerusalem and falls in love with a Canadian-Arab. The stories are held together by Richard I's desire to bring the True Cross back to England, Richard's present-day pursuit of the historical truth of what happened to the cross, and his metaphorical search for meaning and happiness. All good - but gosh, this book makes it feel laborious!

This is an emotionally-detached book - there are some brutal events that take place but no feeling is attached to them, and the whole thing starts to feels like an intellectual exercise rather than an involving novel.

There are some moments of ironic humour, not least when Richard takes himself terribly seriously ("Plays arouse questions in me about the nature of reality"), but I never believed for a moment that three women could fall in love with this hapless man who is 33 and never had a job (oh, and leaves his underpants on the living room floor...)

So this sadly manages to rapidly become yawn-inducing, uninteresting and extremely trite (`to be a good father and... to live by writing. Both are forms of immortality. Perhaps the only two that are available'). The material and concept could have been so good - but the treatment is laboured and banal.
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2.0 out of 5 stars And it only gets two stars because he can write!, 5 April 2014
This review is from: Lion Heart (Hardcover)
Well, I enjoyed a previous novel by Mr Cartwright and this one was about the bloke me dad named me after. Not because he expected me to be brave, run around the countryside trashing castles (acting like England Away) but because he had just read a book about the first King Dick and little Belgo Geordie popped into the world. Yeah, grateful he wasn't reading Churchill or Thackeray (the Makepeace part). Anyhow what is it with me and reading post modernist novels. I know I cannot abide them but I keep on reading them in the hope, in the hope...well that they make me sigh with pleasure as the last word falls of the last page. Instead I experience teeth grinding and the burning desire to piss long and mightily against the nearest concrete wall, summat I have not done for a long, long time...but desire is an interesting country. Sorry, this book, well it was the same. It was annoying, stupid story lines, idiot protagonists and by the end, nothing much learned. And Lionheart...who cares, just more royalty with identity and entitlement disorder. Oh, by the way, changed me first name from Lionheart to Belgo...at least I only have to compete with a cafe serving moules and frites. Oh dear, whoops...is that a crossbow bolt I see stickin' out me jerkin...where's me nag! A cafe for a nag!
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2.0 out of 5 stars a confusing book, 7 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Lion Heart (Kindle Edition)
A strange tangle of a book, which is ultimately unsatisfying. It is written in the first person and has a mixture of modern spy story and Dan Brown-esque medieval mysticism, neither of which is developed enough to feel complete. The central figure, Richie, is searching for the remnant of the true cross that he believes Richard the Lionheart had conveyed from the third crusade, having asked for it from Saladin. The transcripts from original documents are fascinating and there is a sense that there is some real historical research here that could have been interesting if he had concentrated on this rather than mixing it up with an unconvincing sub plot.
There are some elegantly stylish passages, particularly the descriptions of life in London, but this didn't rescue the book for me.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "What family doesn't have its problems?", 3 Feb 2014
By 
Blue in Washington "Barry Ballow" (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lion Heart (Hardcover)
British writer Justin Cartwright has fashioned a beautiful novel in "Lion Heart" that combines an intriguing moment in medieval history with the contemporary striving of a 30-something scholar attempting to reconcile his ambivalent feelings about an estranged father as he tries to deal with an ultra-complicated love affair. An unwieldy structure on the face of it, but one that is carried off nicely by the author.

The protagonist of "Lion Heart" is Richard Cathar, a kind of academic drifter, who commits to a research project that interested his dead father involving the time spent by King Richard I of England in ancient Palestine on a crusade to liberate Jerusalem from Muslims led by Sultan Saladin. While Richard I never succeeded in the task of freeing the Holy Land and all the locations sacred to Christians, the story goes that he did manage to obtain the "'The True Cross" on which Christ was crucified and have it brought back to Western Europe, where it was then lost to history. Richard Cathar's goal is to find out what happened to the sacred relic.

While researching the matter in modern Israel, Cathar meets and falls in love with a Palestinian/Canadian journalist who is soon kidnapped by a dissident group in Cairo and badly mistreated. Her future will tie closely and profoundly to Cathar's own as the story goes on.

There is some intriguing history in this book as well as a nicely drawn love story and continuously interesting interactions between the principal and secondary characters that populate the novel. Author Cartwright has a nice way with dialogue and also spins some very entertaining and plausible historic fiction. The book's conclusion came too quickly for this reader, but was credible and intelligent. A very nice read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lion Heart, 3 Oct 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lion Heart (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Richie Cathar is in his early thirties but has never had a 'proper' job. Named after his hippy father's hero, Richard I of England, the Lionheart, he muses often on the former monarch that almost everyone he meets sums up with the words, "wasn't he gay?" or something to that effect. Dissatisfied with his relationship, he is nevertheless disgruntled when the earnest Emily leaves him for another man and less than gentlemanly when she tries to return. In many ways, I feel that this is one of the things people do not like about the book, because Richie is not the most likeable of narrators. However, there is nothing which says the heroes of novels must be heroic (or even likeable). Richie manages to gain a research grant and uses his father's old notes to suggest he is looking at the art of the Kingdom of Jerusalem as his topic. In Jerusalem, he meets an attractive Canadian Palestinian journalist, named Noor, and the two fall in love. She has to leave for Cairo and he has a feeling of unease as she drives away. Returning to England, he has not heard from her and her enigmatic aunt is evasive. Before long, he hears she has been kidnapped - and asks how well he really knows her.

This novel shifts between the perspective of Richard I as he searches for the True Cross, Richie's quest to try to discover the True Cross for himself and, along the way, understand his father, his relationship with Noor and other women in his life. I have read most of Justin Cartwright's novels - some have been brilliant, others less so. I feel this is slightly bogged down by a myriad of storylines - spying, politics, romance and historical fiction are all touched upon. However, it is an enjoyable read and Cartwright's novels are always well written.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Imperfect, 2 Nov 2013
By 
D. P. Mankin (Ceredigion, Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lion Heart (Hardcover)
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I've previously read two of Justin Cartwright's novels and really loved one but gave up on the other. So I wasn't sure what to expect from this latest. I have to be honest and say that I wasn't convinced by several elements. First the plot was unconvincing - so to enjoy the novel you'll have to suspend a big helping of disbelief. Second it was the number of plot and narrative strands. There are too many and, for me, this undermined the potential of the novel. Sometimes less is more. In many respects it felt as if I was reading a draft of a novel that hadn't yet been finalised. I have made this point in other reviews and I have also seen professional reviewers make it as well: stronger editing (i.e. stronger editors) is needed.
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Lion Heart
Lion Heart by Justin Cartwright (Hardcover - 12 Sep 2013)
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