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Dorothy Dunnett

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Manda Scott
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Location: Shropshire, UK
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Postby Manda Scott » Thu October 6th, 2011, 1:43 pm

I"m sure you're right about both of them - and certainly Renault, who was in a lifelong relationship with a woman, was oddly and repeatedly disparaging about women both in her books and her interviews...

I think all of us who write have to be a little in love with our characters, the question is how much we can ground them in anything approaching reality.

And - I had almost the same experience as you did with The Fire from Heaven when I recently re-read Rosemary Sutcliff's 'The Eagle of the XIIth' - I adored that as a child. It's pretty safe to say that everything I write today grows either from wanting to touch the places that book touched or (more often) to explore through the gateways she opened, but never went down (what happened in the boys' - and the girls' rites of passage? Who were the followers of the horned god with the new moon horns on their brows?). Re-reading it, I was appalled at the Imperialism and fundamental misogyny throughout. We can make allowances for Sutcliff - she was born i the 20s and this is how her world was. That I didn't notice any of the obvious defects as a child, is what's most disturbing...

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annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Thu October 6th, 2011, 4:54 pm

I think that when we're young our critical faculties are undeveloped, but we are always ready to be enthralled by the glamour of a great story. It's only later that we think, well, yes, that was a great story, but... We can never again experience those wonderful tales in such a state of unthinking, undiscriminating innocence. It's a bit sad, in a way. I've revisited a few favourites from my early teenage years recently and rather wish I'd left them in the warm, fuzzy past.

Rosemary Sutcliff was heavily influenced by Rudyard Kipling, whom I think she saw as her literary mentor, so her sensibility was firmly grounded even further back in the 19th century British Empire. Kipling drew clear parallels between the British Imperial experience and the Roman Empire which RS followed. It's easy to see Lantern Bearers as much as an elegy for the British Emoire as for the end of Roman rule in Britain. But yes, writing styles reflect a lot about the times they were written in, and that is also something we respond to when we re-read a book many years later. Having just read the debate thread below, it's sobering to think that youngsters currently reading novels might revisit them in 30 years time and find today's attitudes and opinions equally distasteful :)
Last edited by annis on Fri October 7th, 2011, 9:02 pm, edited 10 times in total.

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Brenna
Bibliophile
Location: Delaware

Postby Brenna » Tue December 20th, 2011, 10:07 pm

Ok I'm reading the Game of Kings and I'm super confused. I get that we are in Scotland and some of the characters are trying to protect the Scottish Princess Mary and some of the characters seem to be trying to kidnap her and give her to England. Am I on the right track? What is the storyline exactly?
Brenna

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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 December 21st, 2011, 2:42 am

Keep at it, Brenna -- in the beginning of Game of Kings, Dunnett was so busy being clever she clearly didn't feel the need to accommodate her readers. A bad mistake, and one writers today would never get away with.

So just to keep you turning the pages, here is my little run-up of the story's beginning. I hope none of the factoids would be considered spoilers, because all of this comes out in the first part of the book.

Francis Crawford (of Lymond, his portion of the hereditary lands) has returned to Scotland. He is a wanted man, because it is thought he betrayed his country when he was a hostage in England some years back. His goal is to find the man who can prove him innocent. There are three possibilities, and he is going to hunt them down one by one.

But while following his leads, with his band of not-so-merry men, he has to not get caught.

He is a Scottish patriot and makes things very difficult for the English, but the Scots, including his brother Richard, aren't convinced that he isn't a traitor.

Now if Dunnet had let you know this in the first ten pages instead of twiddling around for the first hundred, I for one would have found it easier to get through them. But I finished it on the good recommendation of a friend, and I'm glad I did.
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SGM
Compulsive Reader

Postby SGM » Wed December 21st, 2011, 6:38 pm

"Brenna" wrote:Ok I'm reading the Game of Kings and I'm super confused. I get that we are in Scotland and some of the characters are trying to protect the Scottish Princess Mary and some of the characters seem to be trying to kidnap her and give her to England. Am I on the right track? What is the storyline exactly?


This might contain spoilers

Dunnett likes to raise issues or questions that do not get answered, possibly, until a few novels later but if you keep your wits about you, the answer usually turns up. But I found it was the puzzles that kept me reading.

For example, as Francis and Richard’s relationship begins to develop (I will not give away the circumstances of this), they discuss Will Scott and Richard asks Francis “Does he know how old you are?” This puzzled me for quite some time.

In Caprice and Rondo Acciajuoli says to Nicholas:

“You are concerned for the next generation. But all six children have been born who are to take care of your line in the future”. (Caprice and Rondo p 451 – at least in my copy).

I am still not sure that I have worked out all of these.

Are there any ideas out there?
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

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Brenna
Bibliophile
Location: Delaware

Postby Brenna » Thu December 22nd, 2011, 3:07 pm

MLE-that was helpful.

SGM-I'm not that far along yet. I'm only 250 pages in and it's getting a little easier to read. I at least have figured out who is who and who they represent.
Brenna

SGM
Compulsive Reader

Postby SGM » Thu December 22nd, 2011, 7:06 pm

"Brenna" wrote:MLE-that was helpful.

SGM-I'm not that far along yet. I'm only 250 pages in and it's getting a little easier to read. I at least have figured out who is who and who they represent.


Stick with it, it really is worth it. But the plot is complex (I sort of compare it to the plot of Tinker Tailor) and don't worry if at some points you have absolutely no idea where it is going, it will become clearer.

There is a cast of thousands with is quite difficult to keep track of but only a few are absolutely essential and I am sure you have got those.

Dunnett didn't set out to write a book that was easy to read and I, for one, am glad because I was getting desparate to read a novel with a decent plot. I confess to being an inveterate reader of the last page long before I get to it and in this case it did me absolutely no good which serves me right.

Some periods of Scottish history can be very confusing, particularly the ones where everyone appears to be called Stewart.
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

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Brenna
Bibliophile
Location: Delaware

Postby Brenna » Wed December 28th, 2011, 2:24 pm

Ok so I am about 20 pages from the end and I think I've figured out most things. Now though, I want to go back and reread the book to see if I can figure out the "mysteries" Lymond explains during his trial. And I was really disappointed by the death of a very sweet character. Oh well..
Brenna

SGM
Compulsive Reader

Postby SGM » Wed December 28th, 2011, 8:36 pm

"Brenna" wrote:Ok so I am about 20 pages from the end and I think I've figured out most things. Now though, I want to go back and reread the book to see if I can figure out the "mysteries" Lymond explains during his trial. And I was really disappointed by the death of a very sweet character. Oh well..




Are you up for the next five in the series. They are well worth it.

Yes, they do need a second reading -- or, at least I needed a second chance. However, in this instance I discovered that one of my libraries had these as downloadable e-audiobooks and because I was not very good with audiobooks I decided to try something I had already read and these were perfect to as a trial. I am now absolutely hooked. The Lymond Chronicles work wonderfully well. The only problem was that the library had made a mistake and they were not licensed for these Dunnett books and they disappeared before I got through them all (most of them are about 30 hours of listening). So I then had to search all sorts of libraries to get them in CD or even cassette so that I could listen to them all.

They are delightful.

Unfortunately, I did the same thing with the Niccolo books after I had finished reading them and didn't find that they worked quite as well, or not all of them -- some did, some didn't. They were also a lot harder to find.
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

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TiciaRoma
Reader
Location: Alexandria, VA

Postby TiciaRoma » Thu December 29th, 2011, 5:24 am

"Brenna" wrote:Ok so I am about 20 pages from the end and I think I've figured out most things. Now though, I want to go back and reread the book to see if I can figure out the "mysteries" Lymond explains during his trial. And I was really disappointed by the death of a very sweet character. Oh well..


I just finished it tonight. I think you're right and that a re-read may help clear things up. I do know I'm not ready to plunge ahead qith the next 5 books. I need a breather.


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