Sunday, December 11, 2005

So Semicolon wants to know more about my list of novels that don't make you want to kill yourself. Always happy to oblige! Of the five she mentioned, I've previously reviewed Bread Alone, The Deed of Paksenarrion, and Tam Lin. The review of Bread Alone includes a decent synopsis, but the other two are not so clear. Both are fantasy novels, I'll say right off, since I know there are those who don't enjoy the genre. The Deed of Paksenarrion, by Elizabeth Moon, is a "sword and sorcery" fantasy, about a young girl who runs away from her father's sheep farm to join the army. Paks is one of my favorite characters ever, because she is really and truly good without thinking about it; she knows what is right and she follows it unerringly. After such a description one would expect her to be boring, but in fact she is one of the most interesting and multidimensional characters in the fantasy genre, and her story unusual and thrilling. This book also deals with religion better than any other fantasy book I've read; it is an integral part of the world, and, despite being polytheistic, is realistic and believable. I should mention that it's quite long, being actually a trilogy (Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance, and Oath of Gold), and has two companion novels (Surrender None and Liar's Oath); this is not a problem for me, being a speed-reader, but be forewarned that these are the sort of books that keep you glued to the page.

Tam Lin has a similar quality, though it also benefits from careful perusal and multiple readings. Pamela Dean's writing is deceptively clear and simple, yet numerous tricks and treasures lie below the surface, as well as more quotes than anyone could possibly identify (even the author, though the attempt has been made). I'm not sure why I chose this one for the list rather than her most recent, Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary; perhaps because Tam Lin is slightly more accessible for those new to Pamela Dean. It falls into the category of contemporary or urban fantasy, also known as mythic fiction, set in the modern world yet always on the edge of Faerie. When Janet Carter matriculates at Blackstock College, the world of Faerie is far from her mind; and indeed throughout most of the book there is little to cause her (or the reader) to suspect how close to it she is. The group of odd young men with whom she and her roommates become friends (and further) are only a little odder than any students at a liberal arts school, although the head of the Classics department is decidedly out of the ordinary. Still, it is only small things (the ghost of a female suicide, strange Halloween parties and costumes, the young men's names) that are clearly not part of a normal college experience, until the spectacular denouement in which the ballad of Tam Lin becomes a reality.

I suppose Possession could be called a fantasy, since (to my mother's and my great annoyance) the Victorian poets whose lives it follows are NOT REAL. This is to keep you from searching everywhere for their works. Ahem. Anyway, other than that it's straight literature, even with A.S. Byatt's particular style and lyrical prose. I will warn you that this is a long book as well, only because it's easy to get bogged down among the Victorian poetry and minutiae of the story; once you get to the end, however, you will understand why I've included it in my list. It has indeed been made into a movie, with only moderate success--there's simply too much to be translated to the screen. An unlikely pair of scholars, one interested in the fairly popular poet William Ash, the other in the barely known Christabel LaMotte, find their research paths crossing as they read letters, journals, and stories of the two Victorians, until more than one surprising secret comes to light.

I'm not quite sure how to approach a description of In Pursuit of Love. Putting it on a list of novels may be somewhat misleading, since it is the highly autobiographical account of the Mitford family, a crazy group of utterly dissimilar characters. The book is quite amusing to read, but living in the family sounds like hell, with the inept parents (the shouting father who hunted his children when foxes were scarce and the loving but inattentive mother) and seven wild children, who all grew up so different as to make one question their relation to each other. It's generally to be found in one volume with its sequel, Love in a Cold Climate.

Bread Alone I've already summarized pretty well, in the link above, so I'll just add here that I recently reread it and can hardly think of anything better to recommend for a light entertaining read. The descriptions of the bakery are particularly delightful to me, but the whole story is sweet and enjoyable and certainly does not make you want to kill yourself.

5 comments:

Sherry said...

Thank you very much.

Larissa said...

I LOVED both Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love. Abroad is a sewer!

black mold test kit said...

Warning...Warning.. Safety Tip of the WEEK...If you are having problems with colds and sickness in your home and you live in a moist wet ares of the country. Then you might want a black mold test kit .. If you see black dust looking stuff on your walls or around your bathtub,shower or sink then you probaly have a mold problem and need to get a black mold test kit . Dont panic and think you need to get a black mold test kit right away. You can use bleach to clean it up with some paper tools and then dispose of the towels a trash bag. If you need some more info visit http://moldinfo4u.com .. I hope you have a safe and sickness free home...

Anonymous said...

Well done!
[url=http://wwnikmhw.com/wpvk/aetd.html]My homepage[/url] | [url=http://wicenyfr.com/uzbc/svhc.html]Cool site[/url]

Anonymous said...

Well done!
My homepage | Please visit