I think one can safely say that nothing much ever "happens" in Joanna Trollope's novels about modern-day people. (I haven't read any of her historical...moreI think one can safely say that nothing much ever "happens" in Joanna Trollope's novels about modern-day people. (I haven't read any of her historical novels.) And yet, I absolutely love them, and gobble up a new one enthusiastically whenever I find it.
This book is no different. It deals with the issues around the "empty nest," when a couple's third and last child finally leaves home. There are all sorts of threads dealing with motherhood and fatherhood, and what it means to be an adult, and whether you can ever really "go home again."
Despite the lack of what we'd call "action," there is a lot of action in the minds and hearts of each character. What I love about Trollope's characters is that we actually see them growing and changing significantly by the end of the novel. She has amazing insight into people's psyches, and masterfully portrays the development in those psyches.
So...I highly recommend this book, to anyone who loves novels about interpersonal relationships and the development of character.(less)
Occasionally you do feel a bit sorry for the people Ms. Truss criticizes in this book. But on the other hand, if you're the type of person who wants t...moreOccasionally you do feel a bit sorry for the people Ms. Truss criticizes in this book. But on the other hand, if you're the type of person who wants to go ballistic when you see a grocery sign reading "Fresh Banana's," then this book is for you!
Apart from listing the egregious errors that are most common in grammar these days, the section on commas and other punctuation is wonderful. A person who is unsure of the correct way of using the comma, and some other marks like the apostrophe, could use that section of the book as a reference. Truss makes the proper usage very clear.
This is a retelling of the first book of the Ramayana, the great Indian epic.
I loved it. I read one guy's disappointed comment on Amazon, to the effec...moreThis is a retelling of the first book of the Ramayana, the great Indian epic.
I loved it. I read one guy's disappointed comment on Amazon, to the effect that it was supposed to be something like Lord of the Rings, and he hadn't found it that way at all.
One mistake he made was that this isn't a fantasy like LOTR (though in its themes, it is); and the Indian style of myth is very different from other myth tellings. So one has to switch to "Hindu myth mode" for this story. In such myths, the hero is always perfect, there's always ten thousand of this and a hundred thousand of that, and the good guys are always the "greatest" at this or that. It's so foreign to the Western way of portraying characters more realistically.
One might wonder how a good story can even be told about a hero like Rama, who is perfect in dharma and meditation, who is invincible, with divine weapons that always hit their mark, etc. Especially when he had his fortune told at birth, and pretty much everything was laid out in advance. You'd think there wouldn't be much real conflict, or suspense.
But Rama's story is more about the intricacies of dharma -- the law and duties pertaining to one's social position and one's devotion to the gods. The conflicts are really conflicts of duty, resolving the problem of one type of duty clashing with another equally legitimate type.
Anyway. What I really liked about this book was that the mythical characters get fleshed out as real people, to a great extent, even if they are supposedly perfect. When I read the translations of the epic, at university, you'd never see Rama actually making a joke, for example. But he and other characters get to be pretty real in this story.
Okay, on one level this all sounds terribly formulaic. We have noble young princes who will discharge their honourable duties to protect the realm of their ailing father. We have the return of an ancient evil many now consider mythical. We even have an ancient, near immortal wise man and sorcerer, the Brahmarishi Vishwamitra, who will complete the training of the princes and take them on a perilous quest. Like The Lord of the Rings we have an evil lord returning with an even vaster army than before. This may make the first book of the Ramayana cycle sound terribly unoriginal, and a couple of reviewers have indeed expressed this opinion.
However, I would have to argue they are being terribly unfair and just a little obtuse - this is a fantasy-novel-narrative version of a Sanskrit myth the original is over 3,000 years old. It is the basis of much of Indian mythology, theology, poetry and art. Far from being unoriginal - it is, in fact, one of the original sources of one of the great myths of mankind. I know little of Indian mythology (plenty about the food though) and I found it astonishing how many themes in this ancient mythological cycle were similar to Greek, Roman, Persian, Norse or Celtic mythology. Basically this novel interpretation showed me how damned near universal some of humanity’s dreams and fears are, from differing ages and differing continents, from the dawn-days of civilisation to modern novels.
Really. One might just as well say is a very late version of a Ramayana-type story.
Oh, and another quick note. Sanskrit terms are used all through the book, with no explanation or translation except a glossary in the back. I didn't have much trouble with them, since I'd studied the epic in two different versions at school. Some can be understood fairly quickly by the context. But anyone who reads this -- keep your finger in the glossary, and be prepared to do a lot of flipping.
I now must pick up the remaining six books. (less)
The only possible flaw in this book is not a problem with the book itself, or the writer. The problem is that characters who are perfect are inherentl...moreThe only possible flaw in this book is not a problem with the book itself, or the writer. The problem is that characters who are perfect are inherently boring. (My mind leaps to those movies with Jesus gazing piously into heaven, benevolently healing everyone, gently smoothing away discord among the disciples -- never frowning, never raising his voice, never doing anything INTERESTING, dammit!)
Rama, the hero of this epic, is always pious, always obedient to his guru, and fulfills the dharma of his caste flawlessly and without hesitation, with no thought for self. He doesn't even feel the stirrings of more-than-brotherly feeling toward Sita his bride until AFTER he's won her hand.
But it's not really as bad as it sounds; Banker does a good job creating moments of questioning and decision, where Rama must test himself. Of course, most of those moments are undone when the sage Vishwamitra casually mentions, "Of course, I knew before the test began that the outcome was inevitable." Still, Rama is much more interesting in this book than he was in the first one.
I really liked the first book (Prince of Ayodhya), but enjoyed Siege of Mithila even more. There was a lot of action, and by now we know all the major players so well that we care about them a great deal. Can Third Queen Sumitra possibly get out of her predicament? Is Captain Bejoo making his last stand, riding out against the Asura army before the gates of Mithila? Did Rama, with his final act, truly do the horrible and devastating thing to his own people that it sounds like he did, and how can he possibly justify it??
I am really, really looking forward to getting my hands on Demons of Chitrakut, to find out what happens next!(less)
**spoiler alert** Almost from the beginning of this book, I was thinking, "Now the story is *really* getting good." All the ground was laid and the ma...more**spoiler alert** Almost from the beginning of this book, I was thinking, "Now the story is *really* getting good." All the ground was laid and the many threads created in the first volume, and at last things really began to move in this second book. I had long spells where I really didn't want to put it down, as the story took another twist or a new character came into play, who you'd thought was involved with one group but turned out to be involved with a different one.
To my great delight, we saw a lot more of Tristam's (the main character's) cousin, Jaimy. In fact he and his fiancee, Alissa, were probably the most realistically-portrayed (and interestingly-portrayed) characters in the book. You got inside them, feeling their emotions, living the story with them.
When we did get back to the main character, off on the distant island, there was the same uneasy feeling that although he was supposed to be experiencing huge emotional upheavals himself, we were observing them from outside rather than being inside his head with him. So although I loved the character, and felt quite bad for him at the end, I could never quite escape the feeling that we were reading ABOUT him, while we were living WITH Jaimy and Alissa.
But what actually happened to Tristam, and to the people back home, was intriguing and complicated. Even though I felt that the "bad guys" were shoved aside a bit too easily before the final intriguing, complicated, and magical stuff happened, I still just couldn't lay the book down till it was all over. So after the rather slow, overly-gradual beginning in the first volume, I felt that the second book redeemed the story considerably. (less)
I liked and didn't like this book. Maybe something got lost in translation, but I don't think that's the only reason I found it a bit flat.
I like the...moreI liked and didn't like this book. Maybe something got lost in translation, but I don't think that's the only reason I found it a bit flat.
I like the format: interview all the main players, and some minor ones, who surrounded the "heretic" Pharaoh Akhenaten during his rule and downfall. Each tells the story from his or her viewpoint, and soon the reader realizes that almost every narrator is colouring the story to make him or herself look good. You begin to read subsequent narrations sceptically, and start trying to piece together the "real" story. This is Mahfouz's intention: to let the reader decide whose version is "right."
This "tailoring" of the story is most clear in the stories of the political players -- characters like the High Priest of Amun, or Horemhab, or Ay. If the reader knows that both Ay and Horemhab (or Horemheb) became Pharaohs in their turn after Tutankhamun died, the eyebrows are raised pretty high at these men's protestation of devotion to Akhenaten, and their claims that they only abandoned him to save his life and save the kingdom.
Meanwhile, the ones who don't seem to tailor their story are the fervent believers. Toto, a priest of Amun who infiltrated Akhenaten's court, couldn't care less how he comes across; he's just so sure of his own righteousness that he barrels along, spewing hatred with every breath. Meri-Ra, who had been high priest of Akhenaten's god, still believes in that god. This is potentially dangerous, so one suspects that he, too, is being honest. The reader feels that these two, at least, might give some clue to the "real" story, if only their accounts can be reconciled.
The blurb on the book claims that "Akhenaten emerges as a charismatic enigma," but in fact it is Nefertiti whose role is most intriguing. Every narrator has an opinion about her, positive or negative, and opinions about her faith or lack of it, her fidelity or lack of it, and so on. Every narrator acknowledges that she was very politically astute, but everything else is left open. More and more, the reader looks forward to the final interview, with Nefertiti herself.
And here's where I had the problem. Meri-Ra, Akhenaten's hight priest, tells the interviewer, "You did not start this journey for no reason." I expected that not only would there be some climax of informtion during the interview with Nefertiti, but that we would learn something pertinent about the interviewer himself. I actually suspected we might find out that he was Moses (even though the timeline would have been somewhat off).
Yet nothing happened. Nefertiti, like all the others, told her story, made herself look good, and didn't resolve anything or bring up any intriguing twist to make the reader rethink anything. So the entire book was narration. stop. narration. stop. narration. stop. final stop. The exercise was interesting, to watch so many people describe the same events so differently. But in the end, it just dropped flat. (less)
This book wasn't deep and meaningful or the Great Canadian/American Novel, but it was a light, enjoyable read.
Start with a witch who leaves the equiva...moreThis book wasn't deep and meaningful or the Great Canadian/American Novel, but it was a light, enjoyable read.
Start with a witch who leaves the equivalent of the faery world's FBI to go out on her own, in partnership with a vampire and a pixy. The FBI-equivalent puts a price on her head, so that pretty much everyone in the faery world (other witches, fairies, vampires, weres, a demon, you name it) are trying to kill her to collect the reward, while the rich criminal she's trying to catch wants to recruit her to work for him. Lots of action and little twists.
And tomatoes are Teh Evol. (But I won't reveal anything more, just, you know, for the suspense and stuff.)
Anyway, an enjoyable read. A nice book for the bus. I'll be checking out the other Kim Harrison books with the same characters.
Night of Light was what I would call a "detailed outline" for a story. I find that's typical of a lot of the earlier science fiction novels, though si...moreNight of Light was what I would call a "detailed outline" for a story. I find that's typical of a lot of the earlier science fiction novels, though since this one was published in 1972, it probably shouldn't fall into that category.
But it did feel, all the way through, that we were really being told the main character's story more as observers, than really getting into his mind and emotions. When his thoughts and emotions were touched on, they were described rather than demonstrated. So it kept feeling, to me, like the description of the plot of a story, rather than the living unfolding of the story.
With all that said, it was still a very good plot outline. The world and the religion Farmer created were fascinating. (That was one reason I was disappointed that we didn't really get deeply into it, but were kept at arms' length.) I was rather disconcerted by the abrupt ending, but after a while I thought, "Oh, I get it." It leaves a very important question wide open, and that's thoroughly appropriate, since it's not a question that can really be answered.
So it's an okay book. I just feel like it could have been better written. Which of course will be blasphemy to Farmer fans! But this book definitely felt typical of a fault I sometimes find in "earlier SF:" that the ideas are so interesting that the actual writing gets a pass, and doesn't have to be that good. (less)
The book was good, but it was very clear that this was just the first half of the very large story, so it was obviously not a story in itself. Russell...moreThe book was good, but it was very clear that this was just the first half of the very large story, so it was obviously not a story in itself. Russell tried very hard to give this book its own rise in action and climax, and once we finally got to it, it was at least intriguing. And it did make me eager to get to the second book right away. There was the feeling of "Now the story is *really* getting interesting."
It wasn't that the story in this volume wasn't interesting -- it just took a long time for everything to develop. But the characters were well drawn, and it wasn't hard to adopt favourites pretty quickly. I loved the main character, Tristam, even while I felt that we were actually too much outside, observing him, rather than being right there in his head with him. I also quite liked his cousin, Jaimas, and wished that we could see more of him, but Tristam was so very much the centre of things that I was sorry we didn't. (I got my wish in the second book, though...)
I was uneasy about Tristam occasionally, though, because so often there seemed to be evidence that certain characters were using him or had ulterior motives -- yet he continued to trust them. There didn't seem to be any rationale for it, and I felt like he wasn't behaving like a real person. So even though I liked him, I wasn't entirely satisfied with how he was portrayed.
The thing that was greatest about the book, to me, was the court intrigue. That was really, REALLY well done, and I frequently laughed in delight, thinking to myself, "I don't know whose side anybody is on!" In fact, I wasn't even sure how many sides there were, in the first place. I thought that was probably very much like a royal court in this sort of society.
I did enjoy the book, but I sometimes wondered, with both this and the next one (which was far more gripping) whether they could have been written with half or 2/3 the length. (less)