So far, this book makes me very uncomfortable. I think it's supposed to, but I would never be able to listen to an audiobook version of this with anyoSo far, this book makes me very uncomfortable. I think it's supposed to, but I would never be able to listen to an audiobook version of this with anyone else, not even myself. i can't use that word....more
Loved this. I tend to like back stories and retellings of legends anyway, so this was double good. Telling The Iliad from the POV of Patroclus was anLoved this. I tend to like back stories and retellings of legends anyway, so this was double good. Telling The Iliad from the POV of Patroclus was an interesting twist....more
I really loved this book. It is set during the time of The Odyssey but is told from Odysseus' daughter's perspective. I liked The Odyssey, of course,I really loved this book. It is set during the time of The Odyssey but is told from Odysseus' daughter's perspective. I liked The Odyssey, of course, but I had some issues with the lack of female characters of strength in it. I know that was just the way it was back in the day, so it's not really a complaint. But I am a sucker for classics retold through the eyes of women.
All three main women - Penelope, Helen and of course Xanthe - are strong, flawed and believable. I especially found Helen intriguing. After Troy, she just came home with Menelaus and went on with her life. What else was there for her to do? She did it, and did it elegantly.
I really enjoyed, too, Xanthe's story, and seeing her grow to womanhood. I don't know much about weaving, but I liked the way she told her story by weaving it. Maybe that was the only way it would really have worked, since I don't think she was supposed to be literate. Using such a feminine skill to tell her story, a skill that was a vital element of her life used to create functionality as well as a way to create beauty, fit in perfectly with the story, IMHO.
I definitely recommend this book to lovers of classical epics, of tales retold, and of strong women....more
I don't know how I made it this far without reading Dracula! I thought I should remedy that, so I did. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. I likeI don't know how I made it this far without reading Dracula! I thought I should remedy that, so I did. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. I liked the way the whole story was told through letters and journals. It did make me wonder what Dracula's journal would have said, how it would have differed from the others'. Definitely recommended for all vampire lovers....more
**spoiler alert** Best book I've read in a long time!
I have many different styles of reading, if that makes sense. Sometimes I read a book fast becaus**spoiler alert** Best book I've read in a long time!
I have many different styles of reading, if that makes sense. Sometimes I read a book fast because it is interesting and I get sucked in. Sometimes fast because it's easy and requires no effort. Sometimes fast because I hate it and want it to be over. Others, though, I read slowly because I love the book and want to absorb it as thoroughly as I can, so I slow down and take the time to really pay attention. That was how it happened with this book.
Penman's research is impeccable. She has about as much historical accuracy as any fiction author I've encountered. She also has a lovely writing style that holds your interest without copping out to modern ideals or misconceptions. She is able to bring medieval society and politics to life with great detail, without being boring as hell the way some historical authors are.
I really enjoyed seeing how complex the people were. I liked Penman's interpretation of them, and of historical events that may only be documented in dry accounts without any human elements.
Llewelyn was interesting from the get-go, maybe because it is so different to think of a 14 year old child overthrowing a ruler and taking over. I thought he was a very realistic character--he was layered, sometimes charming, sensitive, other times hard and brutal. I couldn't really identify with him, but that was no fault of Penman's. He just had a personality that I didn't understand as well as some others. I *liked* him immensely, though.
Joanna I found to be a really sympathetic character. I felt so bad for the little girl she was, abused and then abandoned. It was no wonder she adored her father John so much when he got her. It was the first time she'd ever truly been cared for. I think that is a perfectly understandable reason for her later conflict of emotions regarding him. I really enjoyed Joanna and, if I could meet her in person, I think we could be friends.
That said, I was absolutely LIVID at her affair with Will de Braouse. I understand the reasons as Penman explained them. They honestly made sense to me given her rather tortured history with the de Braouse family. Still, it was a horrid thing to do. Sure, Llewelyn was being a dick. He's a man, it's natural. That's no reason to go off and shag some other dude and jeopardize 24 years of a very loving marriage. I was actually very relieved that Llewelyn took her back. Given the society, he should have kicked her ass into a nunnery, and she was really lucky he loved her enough to forgive her, since it was considered a horrible sin back in the day.
John was another interesting figure. Penman did a fabulous job with his development. We could see his kind side, the man who honestly adored his daughter, and his sons to a lesser extent. He was a good father in many, many ways. He truly only wanted Joanna to be happy. But we could also see his evil side, the one that murdered children, had innocent hostages hanged after he'd promised to keep them safe, had a woman and her son thrown into a dungeon and left to starve. It is no wonder Joanna was so terribly torn when she learned the truth about John's dark side. He was so good to her that her inability to accept his evil deeds is entirely understandable.
There are so many other things I could talk about with this book. The Welsh society, their conflict with the Normans, the international politics, the complexities of marriage strategies, and on and on. It was fascinating. I would *highly* recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the Middle Ages, the Plantagenets, or just incredibly well written historical fiction of any era. ...more
**spoiler alert** The third and final book in the Holme trilogy was somewhat less annoying than the second. Over the three books, we could see Holme's**spoiler alert** The third and final book in the Holme trilogy was somewhat less annoying than the second. Over the three books, we could see Holme's evolution. In the first book, he was a thrall whose main concern was the safety and freedom of his own family. If others were helped in the process, good, but it wasn't his main focus.
In the second book, his focus shifts a bit to the general plight of other thralls. He is concerned about their safety and freedom now, but it has the feel of an afterthought, more like, "oh, these people helped me, so I suppose I should help them now, too." His sense of purpose wasn't fully established yet, although he seemed to have a vague idea that freedom for all thralls was a good idea, even though he didn't have a definitive approach to getting that freedom.
In this third book, he went completely freaking Braveheart on everyone (FREEEEDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!) and it got old. The plot was interrupted by it, really, because one topic would be under discussion and then some random thought about freedom would be interjected in the middle of it. It was appropriate for the overall tone of the trilogy, but was frequently a non sequiter for any specific part of the book.
The way the Christians were portrayed was amusing. From a pagan thrall's perspective, it isn't surprising that they were frequently viewed as horrible, for indeed they did do some horrible things to get people to convert back in the day. I was also curious about the blatant hypocrisy of the Christians in these texts. Holme was the very sort of man they should have wanted to convert. He was a man of the people, he fought for the common man, he was gentle by nature and only fought when he was attacked. Aside from fighting, he really did become a sort of Christ figure. And the priests were completely threatened by him and saw him as their worst enemy. If they'd haad a brain in their heads, they would have seen that trying to force him to believe their ways was exactly the wrong way to get him on their side, which is something they should have done as soon as they saw his influence over the other thralls. But no, they wanted to force their ways on him and when it didn't work, thought that killing him through attack or through deception was a grand idea.
However, while the Christians were depicted as generally evil, uptight and devious, the followers of the Norse gods were depicted as drunken, rutting savages. I know nothing of Fridegard's personal religious faith, but I have to wonder if he's a devout atheist or suffered some sort of trauma at the hands of religion, since he seems angry at religions and lends little credence to either of the major religions that were front and center in his books. His central character was essentially atheist throughout most of it.
I understand that Fridegard was primarily focused on the rise of the proletariat and his struggle for independence, but there were many, many places where the hammer of obvious was used just one too many times. I think the overall message of the trilogy would have been more powerful if it had been a bit more subtle. As it was, there were a few places where eye-rolling was the standard reaction because it was just a bit too over the top.
Another thing that perplexed me was the role of Svein. I guess "perplex" isn't the word to use. I understand that he's supposed to represent the next generation of Vikings, those who have seen free thralls and aren't threatened by them, and see the value of free and happy societies. I'm just not sure why it was necessary to take him in some of the directions he was. His personal growth over the 3 books was astounding, and part of my eye-rolling, but still nice to see. He went from a pain in the ass, spoiled child, to a sullen and bitter mama's boy, to an honest, open gentle man. That was a nice transformation, if a bit hard to believe, given his early conditioning and life experiences.
Ausi was still pretty co-dependent in this book, but she was in a smaller, less irritating role here. Their daughter Tora grew up to be a strong woman, so it took some of the sting out of seeing such a stupid and helpless woman in Ausi. And she did think only of Holme and Tora's souls throughout. She converted to Christianity early in the first book, but her Jesus was a gentle and loving man, and she was the sort of Christian all Christians should strive to be. She worried mostly for Holme and Tora's souls and when she died, she went with the belief that she could talk Jesus into forgiving Holme and Tora for being heathens so they could all be together in heaven. I found her sacrifice at the end, though, to be simultaneously selfless and selfish. I am not entirely sure what I think of that yet.
I don't know Swedish, but I'm sure this trilogy is an excellent and faithful translation from the original into English. Bob Bjork is a top notch scholar and I trust his scholarship implicitly. His footnotes and afterword are interesting and enlightening.
Overall, I'd give the whole trilogy maybe 3.5-4 stars. I am inclined to rate it higher because of Bob's role in translating. The story itself, while I understand is a Swedish national literary gem, was a little too over the top for my tastes, a little too simplistic and naive. Still, I found it a very worthwhile read and I'm glad I took the time to read it....more
I am losing patience with these. In the first book, I didn't like Ausi much. In this installation, it's evol**spoiler alert** Blew through this book.
I am losing patience with these. In the first book, I didn't like Ausi much. In this installation, it's evolved into full blown dislike and contempt. If everyone in Sweden was as stupid and helpless as she is made out to be, it's a wonder the Viking/thrall society didn't last longer than it did. Also, her religious zeal isn't winning her any friends. Do something for yourself, woman, instead of being helpless and dependent, since freedom is sort of the theme of the book. Live up to it! Maybe Fridegard thought only men are intelligent enough to get freedom by themselves.
Oh wait. I was wrong. The male thralls are similarly stupid and helpless. They are, on occasion, shown to have enough initiative to do the tasks necessary for daily survival. But not without a fair amount of teeth-gnashing and what-will-we-do-without-Holme-ing first.
I know Holme is supposed to be a Christ figure. But enough already. We get it. I do find it ironic and amusing that he's being set up as a Christ figure when he himself wants nothing at all to do with Christianity OR the Norse gods. Atheism gets shit done.
Essentially, the plot goes: freedom, thralldom, escape. Freedom, thralldom, escape but with added danger. No doubt Holme will, in the end, free everyone but die a cruel death, in keeping with his Christ-persona. Let's see in the third book, shall we? ...more