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Dorothy Dunnett

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Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Dorothy Dunnett

Postby Margaret » Mon August 25th, 2008, 7:43 pm

It seems people either love Dorothy Dunnett's novels or can't get through them. I read King Hereafter, her novel about Macbeth, some years ago and found parts of it stupendously good (every scene in which Macbeth's wife Gruach appears - not sure I'm spelling that the same way Dunnett did), and other parts too complex to follow. This complexity seems to be a hallmark of Dunnett's style.

I just finished reading Niccolo Rising, the first in Dunnett's House of Niccolo series, and now I understand both why her fans are so hooked on her series novels, and why some people just can't get into her books. The characters were bafflingly numerous, the plot incredibly complex, and Dunnett makes little or no attempt to simplify the history of the period by omitting references to events elsewhere that have a bearing, however small, on her setting, the fifteenth century cloth manufacturing town of Bruges in Flanders. Everything just gets woven into the many-stranded plot. For the first half of the novel, I struggled. If I hadn't been planning to review it, I might not have persisted. Then, around chapter 19 or 20, I got hooked. From there out, I missed sleep because I had such a hard time putting the book down. I've posted a review at http://www.HistoricalNovels.info/Niccolo-Rising.html. I will be reading the rest of this series.

Has anyone read both the House of Niccolo series and her other series, The Lymond Chronicles? Which did you like better?
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hanna52
Newbie

Niccolo

Postby hanna52 » Wed August 27th, 2008, 4:24 pm

Oh I am so glad to read your posting. I love the Niccolo books and have read that entire series through at least 3 times. I know many other readers like the Lymond books and character more, but having read Race of Scorpions first, I am hooked on the apprentice! I think I picked up that first book at a clearance bookstore and didn't even realize it was part of series till I had begun to read it and by then it was much too late.

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Wed August 27th, 2008, 4:39 pm

I've read the Lymond Chronicles and just loved them. Dunnett's so similar in style to Dumas (another author I enjoy) that I fell into them without the trouble some have had getting into them. For some reason the Nicollo books aren't catching my interest (at least for now), but I do plan on reading King Hereafter later this year (it's on a preorder with another book that doesn't come out till December).

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

King Hereafter

Postby Margaret » Wed August 27th, 2008, 4:58 pm

I read King Hereafter years ago - it was my introduction to Dorothy Dunnett. There are a lot of scenes I can still recall vividly. Her rather startling premise in this novel is that Macbeth and the Viking leader in the Orkneys, Thorfinn, were one and the same person. I doubt it, but was quite willing to entertain the premise for the novel, especially since Dunnett's knowledge of the time period was so intimate. Unlike Niccolo Rising, both the scenes that excited me and the scenes that I found hard to follow and tedious were scattered throughout the novel, which made it a little easier to keep reading - I always knew there was something good waiting for me around the bend.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings and over 650 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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Julianne Douglas
Avid Reader
Location: Northern California

Postby Julianne Douglas » Wed August 27th, 2008, 5:56 pm

I absolutely adore Dunnett, having read the Niccolo series and been through almost the entire Lymond series twice. I agree on the complexity--there are things I'm sure I missed in Lymond even the second time through, and I know a lot about sixteenth-century history! I wish I had time to reread Niccolo again. I haven't yet read King Hereafter. I'll be looking forward to your reviews.
Julianne Douglas

Writing the Renaissance

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Wed August 27th, 2008, 6:17 pm

It took me 3 attempts to get into Dunnett but on the 3rd one, and in similar wise to Margaret, it was as if a key turned in a lock and suddenly I 'got' it.
And once you get Dunnett, you realise she is in a league of her own.
Having said that, I have still occasionally struggled. I haven't finished Niccolo because I burned out due to reading too many at once (part of a group read) and I fell by the wayside around book 5. I also found the 3rd book in the series (I think it's the third book) a novel where Dunnett got too clever for her own good and I just wound up irritated and bamboozled. However the one after that - Scales of Gold? Set partly in Africa, I thought was back on track.
It still sticks in my mind that one reader complained re Queensplay and the Cheetah hunt in the Lymond books, that she had her cheetah with retracting claws - which cheetah's don't have. The reader said she wouldn't read Dunnett again because she was inaccurate. I was astounded at such a take, but I guess whatever presses your buttons presses your buttons. I also made very sure that when I put a cheetah in one of my novels, it's claws stayed put - LOL! But the cheetah incident must be one of the rarities where DD got caught out...
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Wed August 27th, 2008, 7:17 pm

"EC2" wrote:It still sticks in my mind that one reader complained re Queensplay and the Cheetah hunt in the Lymond books, that she had her cheetah with retracting claws - which cheetah's don't have. The reader said she wouldn't read Dunnett again because she was inaccurate. I was astounded at such a take, but I guess whatever presses your buttons presses your buttons. I also made very sure that when I put a cheetah in one of my novels, it's claws stayed put - LOL! But the cheetah incident must be one of the rarities where DD got caught out...


Are you sure that it was the Lymond books, EC? I was watching for that all the way through the series, and never ran into it. Of course, there are a lot of details in DD, but since I was looking --

Actually, DD had loads of anachronisms if you want to be picky -- I remember Lymond quoting something about 'Krishna and the milkmaids' which might have been a familiar reference in post-imperial Britain but was hardly likely to surface in renaissance times! -- and after reading the Pope's Elephant I can assure you that there was not even one elephant in France's menagerie at the time, let alone four! Still, on average she did animals better than most modern-day writers, who tend to ignore that very large part of the pre-industrial landscape entirely. I think your friend was just annoyed by some plot device and was picking on that one.

Dunnett has me in awe of her historical accuracy and mastery of words while at the same time making me furious with her inconsistencies in character and their constantly shifting morality. I can take anything, but don't, for heaven's sake, have them waffle back and forth without so much as an explanation!

She also gets way too clever to endure, sometimes stretching believability beyond Shakespeare. The plot-line of Lymond's sister comes to mind. Still, once you get 'into' her books, they are a cracking good read. At least the Lymond ones. Being more sensitized to 'permissive pedophilia' than your average reader, I couldn't get past the second Niccolo novel.

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Wed August 27th, 2008, 7:35 pm

"MLE" wrote:Are you sure that it was the Lymond books, EC? I was watching for that all the way through the series, and never ran into it. Of course, there are a lot of details in DD, but since I was looking --



Actually, DD had loads of anachronisms if you want to be picky -- I remember Lymond quoting something about 'Krishna and the milkmaids' which might have been a familiar reference in post-imperial Britain but was hardly likely to surface in renaissance times! -- and after reading the Pope's Elephant I can assure you that there was not even one elephant in France's menagerie at the time, let alone four! Still, on average she did animals better than most modern-day writers, who tend to ignore that very large part of the pre-industrial landscape entirely. I think your friend was just annoyed by some plot device and was picking on that one.


The person wasn't my friend, just a poster on another e-list with whom I didn't have that much ado, but yes, I'm certain that's what she said and it was about Queensplay. Hmmm..have to get my copy of the novel out and go and look. Perhaps it was in an earlier version, remarked upon and removed?
I suppose where I especially like Dunnett is her use of language. That vivid ability to create paintings in words. All that grace and richness and texture. I am not surprised that she used to paint murals too.
I always skimmed over Lymond's 'cornflower blue' eyes, because unless he was wearing contact lenses, he was a very unique chappy indeed. I look at cornflowers in the garden, then growing wild and think ummmm.....no. :)
Les proz e les vassals

Souvent entre piez de chevals

Kar ja li coard n’I chasront



'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'


Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal



www.elizabethchadwick.com

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donroc
Compulsive Reader
Location: Winter Haven, Florida
Contact:

Dunnett

Postby donroc » Wed August 27th, 2008, 8:04 pm

I have read both series and preferred Niccolo.

I want to add that for those who have difficulty reading her, Elspeth Morrison has written two volumes explaining her characters, locales, and translating what is not in her books.


"Margaret" wrote:It seems people either love Dorothy Dunnett's novels or can't get through them. I read King Hereafter, her novel about Macbeth, some years ago and found parts of it stupendously good (every scene in which Macbeth's wife Gruach appears - not sure I'm spelling that the same way Dunnett did), and other parts too complex to follow. This complexity seems to be a hallmark of Dunnett's style.

I just finished reading Niccolo Rising, the first in Dunnett's House of Niccolo series, and now I understand both why her fans are so hooked on her series novels, and why some people just can't get into her books. The characters were bafflingly numerous, the plot incredibly complex, and Dunnett makes little or no attempt to simplify the history of the period by omitting references to events elsewhere that have a bearing, however small, on her setting, the fifteenth century cloth manufacturing town of Bruges in Flanders. Everything just gets woven into the many-stranded plot. For the first half of the novel, I struggled. If I hadn't been planning to review it, I might not have persisted. Then, around chapter 19 or 20, I got hooked. From there out, I missed sleep because I had such a hard time putting the book down. I've posted a review at http://www.HistoricalNovels.info/Niccolo-Rising.html. I will be reading the rest of this series.

Has anyone read both the House of Niccolo series and her other series, The Lymond Chronicles? Which did you like better?

User avatar
EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Wed August 27th, 2008, 8:06 pm

Been to look in my copy of Queen's Play. It says:
'The soft body fell and its great paws, needle-sharp and fatal sank into the great cords and vessels of Luadhas's neck and spine......after a while the whimpering stopped....and the cheetah withdrew its claws.'
And then later over the page 'saw the sun spark on the claws.'
So it's suggestive rather than blatant, but definitely suggestive to me that DD thought she was dealing with feline retractors.

As far Dunnett's use of language goes, there's an example just as the hunt is setting out: 'Taut, merry, nervous, expertly mounted, exquisitely clothed, haughty in their bright youth, the chevaliers of France poured from the dishevilled clearing. Sunlit all that morning, they spanned the glittering woods: diamond on diamond, grey on grey, riches on riches; bough and limb indistinguishable; skirts and meadows sewn in the same silks; skulls in antique fantasy knotted with rhizome and leafy with fern frond. Webs, manes, beards, spun the same smoke-like filament; rime flashed; jewels sparked, red and fat on rosebush and ring. Earth and animals wore the same livery. Jazerained in its berries, the oak tree matched their pearls, and paired their brilliant-sewn housing with low mosses underfoot, freshets winking half-ice in the pile.' I just love her use of unexpected words and her creative way with non-verbs to turn them into verbs.'Jazerained in its berries.' Fabulous!
Les proz e les vassals

Souvent entre piez de chevals

Kar ja li coard n’I chasront



'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'


Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal



www.elizabethchadwick.com


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