A Song for Arbonne was first published in 1992. Kirkus reviews described it as “One of the most impressive fantasies in a long time…exhilarating, complex and compelling.” In A Song for Arbonne, GGK went further still into the field he has made his own – historical fantasy. Arbonne tells a tale of art, courtly love and religious warfare inspired by medieval France and the Albigensian Crusade. Click here for a brief look at the historical background to the events of Arbonne, or click here for some reviews.
For a brief look at the ‘real’ historical background that inspired the atmosphere and events of the book, click here. We’re doing very well on this site for A Song for Arbonne – our reading passage isn’t in the least bit a ‘spoiler’ so those of you who are curious can read it without worrying that you’ll read some crucial passage which will spoil your enjoyment of the entire book later (I’ll never forget being told that ‘Neil dies’ before I saw Dead Poets Society – a film that became a favourite for years. But I never saw it without preconceptions – which I’ll always regret).
A Song for Arbonne has also inspired Bright Weavings’ resident musician (can one reside on a website?) Martin Springett. Click to the music section to hear his renditions of Bertran’s song for Aelis, and the ‘Song for Arbonne’ itself. And whilst we’re mentioning other forms of art inspired by GGK – let’s not forget the cover art for the books. Check out the various offerings we have on the site – and if you have a cover we don’t, please send it in! I must confess here that the first copy of the UK edition of Arbonne on the cover art page is a scan of my very own copy. Despite seeing many different covers which I like more, in an artistic sense, I can’t help but agree with something Alberto Manguel writes in his wonderful ‘A History of Reading’ – the first copy of a loved book that one buys becomes ‘the’ edition – the merits and demerits of the cover don’t affect me overmuch – the book is a whole: “…one doesn’t simply read Crime and Punishment or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. One reads a certain edition, a specific copy, recognizable by the roughness or smoothness of its paper, by its scent, by a slight tear on page 72 and a coffee ring on the right-hand corner of the back cover.” So the first John Howe UK cover of Arbonne is -the- cover for me – despite the changes GGK had made to it. And to find out what I mean, you’ll just have to click through to the covers section!
Enough of my digression, let’s get back to the matter in hand. If you want to know more about the place and period that was GGK’s muse for Arbonne, read GGK’s concise bibliography of books that will help you research medieval France and Provence yourself. He has said in the bibliography that A Song For Arbonne is, in some ways, a love song to Provence, and for that reason it holds a unique place for him among his work.
Dr. Janeen Webb describes A Song for Arbonne as “a hybrid, a meta-fantasy bred from the root stock of nineteenth century historical romance, and crossed with late twentieth century cynicism about the politics of art, sexuality, and religion.” Read the paper in the scholarship section.
An undergraduate paper by James Allard examines the power of poetry in the world of Arbonne in “The Unacknowledged Legislators of the World”: Songs and Poetry in Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Song for Arbonne.