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Lifelode

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3.86  ·  Rating details ·  268 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
A very unique fantasy novel by Jo Walton — a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the World Fantasy award.
From the introduction by Sharyn November: "Lifelode is what one might call domestic fantasy, set in a quiet farming community—but it's also about politics, God and religion, sexual mores, the make-up of a family, and how people change over time
...more
Hardcover, 271 pages
Published February 13th 2009 by NESFA Press
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Jo Walton NESFA are a small press, and they're not really into anything but selling the book at conventions.

There will be an ebook, honestly. I feel terrible…more
NESFA are a small press, and they're not really into anything but selling the book at conventions.

There will be an ebook, honestly. I feel terrible thinking of you in India wanting it -- I spent so much of my life aching for books that existed but weren't locally available. Email me -- bluejo@gmail.com -- and I'll see what I can do.(less)
Jo Walton There isn't, but there will be eventually from Tor.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Kim
Dec 30, 2012 rated it really liked it

A domestic, pastoral fantasy, this novel is set in the village of Applekirk whose inhabitants live out their lives in accordance with their traditions and with the seasons. However, ordinary lives for these villagers involve such things as nuclear families comprised of four adults and their assorted children, the practice of "yeya" - a form of magic - and a commitment to honouring their "lifelode", that is, their skill, their passion, their role in life.

Into the village come two people, Rankin,
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
3.5 stars

Jo Walton is an author who can be trusted to come up with fresh ideas and stories, a rare bird in the fantasy genre. Here we have “time zones” in which time passes at different rates, gods with hive minds, and, most unusual of all, nontraditional family structures. Lifelode centers on a nuclear family consisting of two husbands, two wives, and five kids with every possible combination of parents, in a world where monogamy is a curiosity. The central plotline--involving a woman fleeing a
...more
Jenne
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
This book has a bunch of made-up words in it, one of which is "raensome"...which describes the feeling you get when you see someone you're fond of, doing something that is very "them". And this book made me feel very raensome about Jo Walton.
Rachel Brown
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you have enjoyed other books by Jo Walton but haven’t heard of this one, it’s probably because it was published by a small press. It’s one of those books which is so odd and quirky that only a relatively small fraction of the total possible readers will like it. But the nice thing about those sorts of books is that the people who like them at all tend to like them a lot.

Lifelode is a quiet, pastoral book, and not much happens in the first half other than people going about their daily lives
...more
Margaret
Applekirk is a small rural community, where time is strange; months may pass elsewhere while years pass in Applekirk. Here, people go about their business, in the farms and in the manor house, leading their lives as they're bid to by each one's own lifelode, that part of their self which tells them what their talent and work should be in life. Taveth is the quiet heart of the manor house, keeping it in order as she keeps its extended family in order, according to her lifelode. She also has a str ...more
Renee
Mar 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Lifelode is a hard book to review. It would also be hard to give a synopsis that is not complete nonsense as well, based on the way it is written. I suppose regaling you with how it is written is the best way to begin, given the fact that this will most likely be a "make it or break it" sort of technique for any given reader. I will use an analogy...bear with me.

Picture a wall of pictures. The pictures tell a complete story, and if they were fashioned in linear order, you would be able to see th
...more
Jen
Aug 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, 2010
Before I comment further, I have to note that I've known Jo for years, and am always delighted when I get to spend time with her. That said, what I love about her work is very much what I love about her: a willingness to go wholeheartedly into exploring a particular facet of story and the world, in a way that provides new understanding and awareness of our own.

_LifeLode_ is a fantasy novel, set in a world where geography has a strong effect not only on time, but on how the world works. As you m
...more
Beth Cato
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, science, fantasy
Having finished this book, it remains a curiosity to me because it contains several elements I normally can't tolerate, and yet the book had me hooked start to finish. First of all, the perspective and tense of the story are unusual. The main character, Taveth, looks upon people and sees shadows of them from the past and future, and the book follows that same flow in time and between character perspectives. It's something that normally would leave me very confused, but Walton made it work.

My oth
...more
Nikki
Dec 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I've loved everything I've read by Jo Walton, but it's so hard to rate them in relation to each other, because they're each so different. I enjoyed Lifelode more than Tooth and Claw, but perhaps less than Farthing -- yet I rated both four stars. I loved Among Others most of all her work so far, and I'm not sure Lifelode matches up... Maybe I should be rating all her work that I've read so far five stars, except Tooth and Claw.

Her range of work is fascinating. Her books are not like each other, a
...more
Sydney
Sep 01, 2010 marked it as to-read
I haven't read this book but I wanted to ask a question about it because I do want to read it but is there a reason the cover is a piece from the cover of Elantris by Brandon Sanderson?
Wealhtheow
The farther you go east, the more magic and freedom you have, until at last you are not even yourself. The farther you go west, the less magic and freedom you have, until you are practically a statue going through motions. Between these extremes lie the Marches, where folk can live much as we do in our world, and within the Marches is Applekirk, a sleepy little town. This is the story of one summer in the lives of the family that lives in Applekirk Manor.

It's a homey story, told mostly through t
...more
Maureen E
Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
If you’re a Twitter friend, you may remember when I started Lifelode, because I got all excited over the fact that it’s basically China Court by Rumer Godden in a magical world. And since China Court is one of my heart books and Jo Walton perfectly caught the weird loveliness of her present tense everything happening at once style, I expected to adore this one.

And I liked it a lot. Like I said, Walton really caught the style perfectly, and the sense of both the home-liness and the turn of wider
...more
Jacqie
Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another strong book by Jo Walton, probably 4 1/2 stars. The book is written entirely in present tense, but is bookended by two scenes of the characters far after the main action of the book, talking about how to write all the happenings down and where to begin. Where to begin is indeed a good question when everything is present tense. One of the main characters has the ability to see other people's "ghosts" at different points in their lives, which gives her an insight into how people are feelin ...more
Sarah
Jun 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sarah by: BunWat
I was a history major in college, and my favorite classes were always those that dealt with social history: how people lived, rather than wars and borders and treaties. This book seems as if it comes directly from those classes. It's a novel that inhabits a place and time fully, taking note of the disruptions that become what we commonly term history.

I loved the author's comprehensive and confident vision of her creation, from the culture to the religion to the food. I loved the domestic quality
...more
Lori
Nov 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
What a lovely book! Don't have time to write a review now, but that's no reflection on how much I enjoyed this, and also thought about the characters while not reading, and what the book had to say. Needless to say, housekeeping is most definitely NOT my lifelode, yet that's what I am. And from witnessing the absolute art form of Taveth's housekeeping, my new, made up recipe last night was a huge success!

But this book is most definitely not about housekeeping, it's finding our life work that is
...more
ambyr
There's something about Walton's books that just doesn't--quite--work for me. Her characters are human, her ideas are interesting, her prose enjoyable . . . and yet. We have a different notion, I think, about what the shape of a satisfying story is, and so at the end I'm always left with an uncomfortable sense that I've been jerked off the trail I'm following into an uncharted bit of wilderness with no clear idea of how I got there.

So: there's a lot to like here, as a quiet pastoral description
...more
Susan
Nov 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: wishlist, 2010
Great book. Most people I know would HATE it because of the non-linear time and such, but it was great.

One of the only times I've noted an author commenting on the great cover art -- though if you look st Stefan Martiniere's full painting, it does not fit AT ALL.

Larry
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing but challenging book. It it told in the first person, and the telling is non-linear. When I began reading it, I felt that it was slow, but I realize that the world of this book is so strange, that Walton needed to give the reader time to become immersed in it. At its core, Lifelode is a very personal story about love and relationships, but big things happen, too. By the time the plot starts moving midway through the book, this reader was hooked.

Read the first chapter carefully
...more
Maree
Apr 18, 2011 rated it liked it
It was interesting, but not really a riveting read for me. For one thing, very little about the world and the way it worked was explained in the beginning, so I was constantly confused by terms and things that these people took for granted as being normal parts of their lives. There's a way to do it well in a book, but I didn't think that this did it. By the end, I did understand what was going on, but I was rather frustrated by the beginning's lack of explanation. I realize it was probably the ...more
Dormouse
Jul 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: sff
It's a medieval fantasy setting, and the story is set in a small and quiet village. Then plot happens, with people arriving from far-away.
The people from far-away are interesting and they give a bigger perspective on the village, and on the world the story happens in.

Things that happen in a small village still matter: people are born and they grow up and fall in love, have children, celebrate holidays, have sex, teach and learn, grow food, travel and return.

I liked the quiet domesticity in the
...more
Kyle Muntz
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant. I can only call it "domestic fantasy", but really there aren't many parallels for what Walton does in this book. Probably the closest is John Crowley's "Little, Big" or Marquez' "100 Years of Solitude" except focused on a single generation of a family and suffused with the pastoral, plus shades of Le Guin's late Earthsea novels, but I prefer this to either (it's much more condensed and also, for me, had more going on emotionally). Anyway, Walton combines a fantastic cast, s ...more
Juliana
Sep 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: feminist, fantasy, queer, sff
This was an enjoyable read. While I'd have liked to know more about the unusual world of the novel, it certainly works as is. Walton does some really interesting things with time and tense to reflect the strange world the characters inhabit. The theology's also quite interesting, particularly since the characters know that their gods are real and live in the East and can and do act directly in peoples' lives.

I'm also a sucker for the descriptions of everyday life in Applekirk-- there's just som
...more
Debbie
Apr 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Jo Walton is a genius. She manages to make time fluid and have characters that can see past, present, and future through other characters. It was a bit daunting in the beginning, because there are so many characters. Right from the start I took notes to keep track and I was really glad I did. Part of the story is a beautiful and quirky family who live day to day on a manor farm called AppleKirk. The other part is a political/religious power struggle between the Gods living in the East and the pe ...more
Julia
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's like Jo Walton set out saying, What's supposed to be the boringest thing one could write about? I'm going to make that interesting! And she succeeds, right down to the taking another handful of soap and rubbing it on the dirty smock and... which is perfectly entertaining. One complaint: Towards the end, the time mushiness that is part of the conceit can't keep going so mushily, so she replaces it with perspective mushiness instead, and I do find all that head-hopping a bit annoying even whe ...more
Marissa
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I really wavered between 3 and 4 stars for this one. It's either a very low 4 or a highish 3.

I just don't know about this book. Parts of it are really intriguing, such as the east/west spectrum of magic and time. Parts of it are a little tedious, such as (what felt to me like) the polyamory advocacy (don't @ me, kids). And parts of it feel very true to what a pre-industrialized society would have to be like (e.g. how a marauder is bargained with rather than defeated).

It suffers greatly from xkcd
...more
Broodingferret
Jan 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This book was one of a small stack that a friend passed on to me for Christmas, and I'm glad he included it because it's not the kind of book I'd typically buy. A quote on the dust cover describes it as "domestic fantasy", which catches the mood of the story well, reading as it does like a bucolic fable more than a novel. The writing is more whimsical than I typically like, but the characters are well-constructed and fleshed enough to tie down my attention, and this is definitely a character-dri ...more
Kris Sellgren
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jo Walton has a genius for taking the everyday and connecting it to the fate of the world. She did this brilliantly in her science fiction novel “My Real Children,” where the happier the heroine was in her personal life, the closer the world came to the brink of nuclear war. World peace was only possible if the heroine was miserable. In her fantasy novel “Lifelode,” the inverse is true: the more that domestic tranquillity unravels in the manor where heroine Taneth is housekeeper, the more the ou ...more
Leah Nugent
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Lifelode is a quiet little story that excels in its descriptions of mundane daily life. It weaves in an interesting magic system and has an intriguing world where time moves at different paces depending on location. The book doesn't have the most gripping plot or realistic characters. That being said, it was entertaining, and it was nice to see a story with healthy LGBTQ+ relationships.
Cora
Aug 15, 2017 rated it liked it
A cute idea, but not my favorite of Jo Walton's books. It is not a plot-oriented book, which is fine, but as a plot-oriented person I found it not for me. The non-linear storytelling style was interesting, and the worldbuilding was very cool.
Sarah
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes everything happens at once, even in a place where not much happens.
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Jo Walton writes science fiction and fantasy novels and reads a lot and eats great food. It worries her slightly that this is so exactly what she always wanted to do when she grew up. She comes from Wales, but lives in Montreal.
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