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Dorothy Dunnett

SGM
Compulsive Reader

Postby SGM » Sun August 29th, 2010, 8:46 pm

Ha -- I lied, I have two more older versions and here they are.

For some reason I have not read these before but I acquired the whole Lymond series a few months ago and am now getting caught up in it -- I really wish I had read them before. For me reading fiction is all about plot otherwise I feel I am better off reading non-fiction but the Lymond Chronicles really fit the bill and are the type of historical fiction I have been looking for for a long time

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Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Sun August 29th, 2010, 10:00 pm

I love them! Although they really don't fit the books well, but when has that ever stopped a publisher. I had put off reading these for the longest time as I knew they'd be thinkers. I finally dived in and I think the similarity in style and pacing to Dumas (who I've read a lot of) was what made it easier for me.
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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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) » Sun August 29th, 2010, 11:08 pm

"EC2" wrote:The only one of the Lymonds I didn't like was Pawn in Frankincense because I felt it crossed the line and went over the top. I know many readers cite it as a masterpiece, but it's just too much for me.


I can think of several points in that one which might have been your issue, EC, but I'm not sure which one it was. Enlighten me?

SGM
Compulsive Reader

Postby SGM » Mon August 30th, 2010, 9:09 am

"Misfit" wrote: I finally dived in and I think the similarity in style and pacing to Dumas (who I've read a lot of) was what made it easier for me.


I read Dumas so long ago -- thanks largely to the fact that when I was a kid, the BBC did a "children's classic" production every Sunday afternoon at 5pm (apparently they can't afford to do them that way anymore). They encouraged me to read many of the classics at an age when I was still reading Lorna Hill and the Chalet School books, ie P&P, the Man in the Iron Mask etc. I have read The Three Musketeers, the Man in the Iron Mask and Count of Monte Christo but have not got round to reading the ones in-between yet but did see them on TV. I will get round to them at some stage but after such a long gap, I am probably best to re-read Museketeers again first after I have finished DD.

They also did a lot of Walter Scott's novels which make really really good TV but unfortunately I didn't get into reading those until I had to read Heart of Midlohian for A level which then, as ever with books you have studied, put me off. However, in defence of studying literature at school, I would never had read Paradise Lost if it wasn't on the exam course -- and I loved it. That's probably why I enjoyed Pullman's triology so much.
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
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Postby EC2 » Mon August 30th, 2010, 9:42 am

"MLE" wrote:I can think of several points in that one which might have been your issue, EC, but I'm not sure which one it was. Enlighten me?


It's ages since I've read it now so I couldn't cite you specifics apart from that chess game which was the most extreme moment and where I felt that although the writing was very powerful, I wasn't believing the scenario. It was like a vivid nightmare or an atmospheric play in a dark theatre. You are there, you are caught up in all the horrible drama, but at the same time you know it's not real. Artificial even. Mostly with Dunnett I am in there with the characters, living and breathing with them, but this time I couldn't do it. Dunnett takes the reader to extremes and you're always on the edge of that line with her set pieces, but IMO in PIF, she crossed that line. My favourite novel in the Lymond Series is the second one, Queen's Play, and the scene that remains with me from that one, is the chase across the snow-topped roofs. It's magical.
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

M.M. Bennetts

Postby M.M. Bennetts » Mon August 30th, 2010, 11:30 am

I might have felt the same about Pawn in Frankincense had I not just been studying about the Siege of Cyprus, and been reading the first hand accounts of the sadistic cruelty which was the norm in the Ottoman Empire at that time.

(I'm not suggesting that the Christians were much better--just less skilled at exquisite long-term pain...)

If anything, Dunnett went easy on the modern reader. Though at the time, I recall being absolutely gutted and stunned. Because it's always one thing to read about a thing generically and historically; it's quite another for an author to manage to make the whole thing very personal, very intimate, so that it's not some fellow 400 years ago, but a close friend to whom these things happen.

And that, of course, is Dunnett's great strength. Her characters become such close friends that history becomes a personal experience without the cushioning benefit of centuries' distance.

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EC2
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Location: Nottingham UK
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Postby EC2 » Mon August 30th, 2010, 11:49 am

I was au fait with the history, but I still felt she went OTT and I actually felt more detached rather than up close personal and gutted when I read PIF. It was as if I could see the cogs workings behind the prose rather than being involved in it. As I say, it's my foible, and everyone else seems to find that novel particularly intense in the series, but if I had to miss one out (not that you could because it all inter-connects), then PIF would be the one.
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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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Mon August 30th, 2010, 1:20 pm

My favourite novel in the Lymond Series is the second one, Queen's Play, and the scene that remains with me from that one, is the chase across the snow-topped roofs. It's magical.


That was a wow scene. There's another *chase* in either book five or six very much on par with this one.
At home with a good book and the cat...

...is the only place I want to be

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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) » Mon August 30th, 2010, 2:15 pm

My biggest problem with Pawn was the initial premise: that Lymond would go chasing all over the middle east to find one illegitimate child of his. He apparently was quite active sexually, so if he was reasonably fertile he must have left a string of bastards in his wake. So why did this one become so all-important suddenly?

And the second half of that premise, that the bad guy would be able, from a distance, to manipulate all that trouble for Lymond. If he just wanted the guy's head, slow or fast, there were much more certain ways to get it.

I always have a problem with DD's characters and their inconsistent motives, sometimes doing an about-face for no good reason except the needs of the plot. She's a good enough writer that she has me with her in the moment, but afterwards I look back at the pieces and am irritated that she so completely hooked me with something so patently wrong.

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Diiarts
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Postby Diiarts » Mon August 30th, 2010, 7:34 pm

"MLE" wrote:My biggest problem with Pawn was the initial premise: that Lymond would go chasing all over the middle east to find one illegitimate child of his. He apparently was quite active sexually, so if he was reasonably fertile he must have left a string of bastards in his wake. So why did this one become so all-important suddenly?

And the second half of that premise, that the bad guy would be able, from a distance, to manipulate all that trouble for Lymond. If he just wanted the guy's head, slow or fast, there were much more certain ways to get it.

I always have a problem with DD's characters and their inconsistent motives, sometimes doing an about-face for no good reason except the needs of the plot. She's a good enough writer that she has me with her in the moment, but afterwards I look back at the pieces and am irritated that she so completely hooked me with something so patently wrong.


Sorry, MLE, I can't let that one pass without saying something... specifically, that I disagree with just about everything you've said here! DD's characters are only implausible and inconsistent if one looks at them through a C20th lens. For me at least, one of her great achievements is to show the political and global repercussions of individual actions. Gabriel didn't want Lymond's head on a plate - he wanted to destroy the credibility of the King of France's Envoy to the court of Suleiman the Magnificent, and by so doing, bring down an alliance or even an empire. It is her understanding of these complexities, coupled with the sheer brilliance of her writing, that makes her a truly great writer.

I shall, if you wish, rant briefly about the significance of Kuzum and Khaireddin, and Lymond's search for them, but that will have to be on another occasion.

If she pushes the boundaries of our comfort zone - and, EC2 and others, I completely understand your discomfort with the chess game - so be it. I find her characters and their motivation far more plausible than anything in, say, Philippa Gregory (about whom I know you also have reservations, MLE); and as a stylist, well, there's simply no comparison.
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