Ancient & Medieval Historical Fiction discussion

Stonehenge
This topic is about Stonehenge
158 views
Monthly Group Reads > DECEMBER 2013 (Group Read 1) Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell

Comments Showing 1-50 of 151 (151 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1 3 4

message 1: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments This is the December Discussion thread for the group read of Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell.

Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell

Four thousand years ago, a stranger's death at the Old Temple of Ratharryn-and his ominous "gift" of gold-precipitates the building of what for centuries to come will be known as one of mankind's most singular and remarkable achievements. Bernard Cornwell's epic novel Stonehenge catapults us into a powerful and vibrant world of ritual and sacrifice at once timeless and wholly original-a tale of patricide, betrayal, and murder; of bloody brotherly rivalry: and of the never-ending quest for power, wealth, and spiritual fulfillment.


Three brothers-deadly rivals-are uneasily united in their quest to create a temple to their gods. There is Lengar, the eldest, a ruthless warrior intent on replacing his father as chief of the tribe of Ratharryn; Camaban, his bastard brother, a sorcerer whose religious fervor inspires the plan for Stonehenge; and Saban, the youngest, through whose expertise the temple will finally be completed. Divided by blood but united-precariously-by a shared vision, the brothers begin erecting their mighty ring of granite, aligning towering stones to the movement of the heavenly bodies, and raising arches to appease and unite their gods. Caught between the zealousness of his ambitious brothers, Saban becomes the true leader of his people, a peacemaker who will live to see the temple built in the name of salvation and regeneration.


Bernard Cornwell, long admired for his rousing narrative and meticulous historical imaginings, has here delivered his masterpiece, the most compelling and powerful human drama of its kind since Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and Edward Rutherford's Sarum. His re-creation of civilization as it might have been in 2000 B.C. at once amplifies the mystery of his subject and makes the world of Stonehenge come alive as never before.



message 2: by Kris43 (new) - added it

Kris43 | 17 comments He he. Really wanted this to win:)


Daniel (dward526) | 290 comments really enjoying this story (I had to listen to it before I have to return it to the library...on Nov 29...). I am surprised there is not more love for this story.


Anne (spartandax) | 797 comments I read "Stonehenge" a while back. I thought it might be boring, but it definitely was not. I gave it 4 ****


message 5: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments I gave it 5 a few years back and will be joining in the discussion and watching the feedback with interest.


message 6: by Bruce (new)

Bruce Holsinger (bruceholsinger) So excited to have a chance/excuse to read this. Kindling as we speak...


message 7: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments This was my review. No spoilers in it.
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Nobody should assume they will feel the same way about the book as I did. I thought it was great and it appealed to my personality. Like with all books, our personalities are all different so your experience will be different to mine.


message 8: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments Bruce wrote: "So excited to have a chance/excuse to read this. Kindling as we speak..."

It sure is one of those that people have on their to read list, but can't find any incentive to read. Until now. ;)


message 9: by Bruce (new)

Bruce Holsinger (bruceholsinger) Terri wrote: "Bruce wrote: "So excited to have a chance/excuse to read this. Kindling as we speak..."

It sure is one of those that people have on their to read list, but can't find any incentive to read. Until ..."


It's all about incentive--and great review btw. I like the idea of the entire world and everything in it being deeply symbolic...


message 10: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (last edited Nov 18, 2013 04:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments Thanks.
So did I (re: like the idea). I felt moved by the way BC expressed these peoples connection to the earth and the elements.
i had never thought of them living like that before, but of course they must have as so many cultures of history saw/see omens and messages in everything that happens.


message 11: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (last edited Nov 30, 2013 07:44PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments Anybody starting the month off with this read?
I will be reading the other group read (when it comes into the library) Lionheart, but I will be joining in on the conversation here as well since I have read and enjoyed Stonehenge.


message 12: by Michal (new) - added it

Michal (mixal) | 154 comments I will definitely be starting with this one as I've already read Lionheart and I am certainly not reading it ever again :).


message 13: by Portia (new) - added it

Portia I'd like to join in. December is my first full month with the group, so I'd like to participate.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm in. Got my copy ready to go.


message 15: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments Portia wrote: "I'd like to join in. December is my first full month with the group, so I'd like to participate."

You are very welcome to participate. :)


happy (happyone) | 2681 comments Terri wrote: "This was my review. No spoilers in it.
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Nobody should assume they will feel the same way about the book as I did. I thought it was great and it appeal..."


That was a good reveiew Terri

FTR I also enjoyed it.


message 17: by Michal (new) - added it

Michal (mixal) | 154 comments I am only in the beginning, but the book is quite weird. It reminds me of the Apocalypto movie, which makes me think that I might not finish the book...


Eileen Iciek | 543 comments I will be reading it, but starting later, after I finish my current book.


message 19: by Michal (new) - added it

Michal (mixal) | 154 comments Couple of pages later, and it is not improving. The story-telling is so unlike other Cornwell's books. There are very few descriptions, it just somehow summarizes what is going on. I have no idea who are the main characters (are there any?) or why do the people in the story act the way they do. Everything seems to be a part of some weird custom. The atmosphere is quite horrible - to me it embodies one of the most decadent times of human cultural history. Pretty much like Apocalypto movie. There is no character that would allow me to digest what is going on in the book, and therefore I do not feel like continuing reading it.


message 20: by Darcy (new)

Darcy (drokka) | 2675 comments Granted I read this nearly 15 years ago, so the memory might be a little dodgy, but if I recall correctly, the first bit of the story is sort of a summary of the area and the history of the people and how they eventually find their places and the second part is the result.

I think it takes about 100-ish? pages to get to some meat as it were. I haven't seen that film you mention, but ritual is normal for most societies, and especially noticeable in historic ones, because it's one of the few things that historians/archaeologists and anthropologists can surmise. The normally daily stuff is less clear and far less supported by artefacts and features.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

How far into it did you get, mixal?


message 22: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments Darcy wrote: "I haven't seen that film you mention, but ritual is normal for most societies, and especially noticeable in historic ones, because it's one of the few things that historians/archaeologists and anthropologists can surmise...."

I have not seen this movie either. I don't watch Mel Gibson movies. lol.

I do understand people not liking the book, Mixal is not the first nor the last who will not like the book and/or not want to read it all.
It will appeal, or not appeal, to people based on many things.

For me, I loved the ritualistic nature of the book. As Darcy mentioned, ritual (such as sacrifice - animal or human, or both) have been a part of all primitive cultures. Are still part of cultures today.
In fact, the slaughterhouse technically sacrifices a Turkey and pig so I can have roast turkey and ham for Christmas. Having both on the table at Christmas is a ritual. Not a Christian one for me, but a ritual all the same. A sacrifice of sorts that is made so we can have a nice time at Christmas. ;D

Anyway, I digress...for me, this book is not about the characters. I didn't even really like any of the characters. What I loved was the cultural experience Cornwell gave me.

Everyone will feel that differently. After all, Mixal, you did not feel there was enough culture represented in Pride of Carthage and I thought it was well represented.
A prime example of how we all read differently.

Don't read a book you are not into Mixal. There are other books out there waiting for you. :)


message 23: by Portia (new) - added it

Portia I hope I am reading the same book as Mixal. I just started Stonehenge this afternoon and am finding that it moves at a nice pace. I wish I could continue with it tonight but other duties call. Tomorrow, then.


message 24: by Michal (new) - added it

Michal (mixal) | 154 comments Good points guys :). Apocalypto is about technically the last days of Mayan civilization, before the arrival of Europeans. There was some bad situation about food supplies and rain as far as I remember, and their solution was to make as many human sacrifices as possible. Yes, the movie is very bad (it was by Gipson after all). I finished it, but I used 2x playback speed :).

I am reading ebook version so exact pages are not telling. But I got to the 1/8 of the book.

I do not have much against rituals per se (or sacrifices - I love it in other Cornwell books). What I don't like is when some religious authority (usually the most useless person in the society) has too much power over the lives and deaths of others. And it doesn't matter whether it's about witch hunts or random human sacrifices. That's what I meant by the "most decadent times". I don't doubt that many people find it interesting. And I myself might find it interesting when I am in a mood for it. I might give it another chance after I see how you guys like it. For now there are a bit too many red flags for me to invest the time.

Terri: I think you have some very good point there. It is a bit similar to what I meant by "lack of culture" in Pride of Carthage. I prefer character-driven stories. And I also like when I have a rich picture of what is going on (with the understanding provided by the character). I do not enjoy when there are summaries of actions done by people that I do not know what they look like or why they did what they did (is it an expression of a custom or their own individuality?). I think I am not patient enough to wait for the author to do it later on in the book, and I also do not like the tension between my own image of the people/story and the details that are only revealed later on in the story. I am quite a visual person, so I tend to create detailed pictures no matter what I read, but I tend to be apprehensive that the picture is wrong when the author does not provide enough information to base it on.

In any case, perhaps I should stress it more in my comments, but these are all my very subjective perspectives. I am very much interested to hear why others like (or don't like) it. For example, I know that it happened to me couple of times that I didn't like a book because it seemed boring, but once I realized that the book will not be story-driven but rather meditative, I actually had a very good time reading it.


message 25: by Portia (new) - added it

Portia Mixal, you make some very good points. I agree that religious leaders can be are delicate and controversial to write about.

I've only just started this book, so I hope we can discuss it further (with everyone else!) later on in the week/month.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Well said, mixal. I appreciate that input. I completely understand where you're coming from. I'm only one chapter in, but I'm going to miss having you around for this discussion.


message 27: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments Don't worry Portia and Derek. I'll be with you in spirit. I have my book handy so if you bring up pages/chapters (is there chapter numbers in Stonehenge?) I can refer to them to see what you are talking about.

I believe, and Derek may like this element of the book, that Cornwell may have drawn - to a certain extent - from known early cultures like the Native Americans and Native North Americans, especially with their 'medicine man or woman'. The childlike yet violent innocence of the people. The belief that spirits live in the earth, plants sky etc etc.. and that everything is a sign and an omen.
I do not have first hand experience with the Native American culture as you do Derek, but from what I have learned of your indigenous culture through reading and watching tv, there are many similarities between Cornwell's primitive tribes and the tribes of the Americas.


message 28: by Michal (new) - added it

Michal (mixal) | 154 comments Portia & Derek: I am looking forward to seeing what you think. I might submit to peer pressure and finish the book if I see that you guys like it. I can catch up quite fast ;).

Terri: That's quite an interesting thought. Animism seems to be one of the cultural constants.

Derek: This makes me think - could you recommend some good novels with Native American setting? I used to read loads of Karl May novels when I was a kid. I am sure they are extremely inaccurate, so perhaps it is a good time to get a taste of the real deal :). Thanks!


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Terri wrote: "Don't worry Portia and Derek. I'll be with you in spirit. I have my book handy so if you bring up pages/chapters (is there chapter numbers in Stonehenge?) I can refer to them to see what you are ta..."

There are chapter numbers.

I'm not very far into it yet, but I already see the parallels between Cornwell's tribes and early Native American culture. So far, I think that is a very good comparison. And yes, I am liking that element of this book.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

mixal wrote: "Portia & Derek: I am looking forward to seeing what you think. I might submit to peer pressure and finish the book if I see that you guys like it. I can catch up quite fast ;).

Terri: That's quite..."


I'll have to think on that one, mixal. I honestly haven't been able to find many HF novels, with a Native American setting, that I like. That frustrates me. Most Native American literature that I read is non-fiction. I did like Panther in the Sky, but I read that many years ago & might not like it now. You might check out Allan W. Eckert. Gotta get to work!


message 31: by Michal (new) - added it

Michal (mixal) | 154 comments Thanks Derek, I will check it out!


message 32: by Portia (new) - added it

Portia Mixal, you might try Tony Hillerman. He is a Native American writer of murder mysteries.


Daniel (dward526) | 290 comments I enjoyed the representation of the culture in this book. The 'casual brutality' of early civilization. The acceptance of death as an every present companion.


message 34: by Portia (new) - added it

Portia Anyone besides me relate the name Camaban to Calaban? Too obvious?


Daniel (dward526) | 290 comments Portia wrote: "Anyone besides me relate the name Camaban to Calaban? Too obvious?"

yeah, it was a little strongly played


message 36: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments Portia wrote: "Mixal, you might try Tony Hillerman. He is a Native American writer of murder mysteries."

The author Portia means.
Tony Hillerman


message 37: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments Daniel wrote: "I enjoyed the representation of the culture in this book. The 'casual brutality' of early civilization. The acceptance of death as an every present companion."

RE: Acceptance of death
I was only watching a documentary last night that spoke of this. They were mostly speaking about it in the context of the middle ages, but it works for prehistory too.

They were saying that because life expectancy in the middle ages was only 30 to 40 years, that death was broadly accepted. And that because spirituality was so strong in all cultures up until the modern era, people would not have feared death that much. They believed in an afterlife. It wasn't until modern history that people started to fear death. Because we live longer and many don't believe in an afterlife anymore.


message 38: by Portia (new) - added it

Portia Terri wrote: "Portia wrote: "Mixal, you might try Tony Hillerman. He is a Native American writer of murder mysteries."

The author Portia means.
Tony Hillerman"


Terri, my smart phone is going to get dependent on you ;)


message 39: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments haha. Hopefully GR will work on their app one day so app users can use the add book/author feature too. :)


message 40: by Dawn (new)

Dawn (caveatlector) | 5208 comments I'd like an offline way to look at my book list too while we are at it!


message 41: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments Geez. Reaching for the stars. ;)


message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

Portia wrote: "Anyone besides me relate the name Camaban to Calaban? Too obvious?"

Who is Calaban? Hope that isn't a dumb question, but that name doesn't ring a bell for me.


message 43: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments I have no idea. Other than Shakespeare??


message 44: by Portia (new) - added it

Portia That's who I'm thinking of. Calaban, the character from The Tempest, the half-human half-whatever who is one of Prospero's magical prisoners. The dark side of Ariel, I'd say.

Back me up here, Daniel !!!!


message 45: by Portia (new) - added it

Portia Calaban is a deformed male creature whose mother is a dead witch and who is rejected by Propero, the magician who rules the island and who is probably Calaban's father. I haven't read far enough into Stonehenge to know if the analogy continues. The names are so similar and Camaban has a club foot and is rejected by his father, so there went my thinking.


message 46: by Portia (new) - added it

Portia Here we go. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caliban. I spelled it incorrectly.


message 47: by Terri, Wyrd bið ful aræd (new) - rated it 5 stars

Terri | 19503 comments Ah. Then I was right. I wasn't sure. Caliban from The Tempest was the only one I could think of.


message 48: by Michal (new) - added it

Michal (mixal) | 154 comments Thanks Terri & Portia! Going to look it up.

Terri: It is a possibility that people didn't fear death at that time. However, I would argue a bit against the strong "spirituality". It is quite clear that the privileged and educated classes did fear death and that spirituality was a way to deal with it. It is also true that the initial Celtic Christianization of Britain happened in language that was intelligible to the locals. However, after this initial efforts, everything was in Latin, and research indicates that common people did not have much understanding of Christianity. The situation was much worse in the mainland Europe, where it is likely that Christianity was just a set of rules that everyone had to follow, but there was quite little understanding. This probably led to some merges with the original pagan religions. How devoted were people to that is hard to say. I myself think that people were too busy to worry about these things, and when they were not busy with work, they would engage in some different activity (story telling, celebrations etc.). Religion would be more something that creates the rules (I am going to get to trouble if I do not follow this and that rule), or it would be instrumental when something is wrong, the same way as we go to see doctors (my child is sick so I am going to see local religious leaders for help). Christianity couldn't provide much comfort to common people, at least not before reformation. In addition, it seems that what is comforting is not really the content of the religion, but rather the feeling of community and social support. And the way the society was structured back then, spirituality was not necessary for that...


message 49: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm liking Stonehenge so far, but by the time I'm finished, I'll probably be grabbing my groin every time something seems slightly amiss.


Daniel (dward526) | 290 comments Portia wrote: "That's who I'm thinking of. Calaban, the character from The Tempest, the half-human half-whatever who is one of Prospero's magical prisoners. The dark side of Ariel, I'd say.

Back m..."


yup, that's what I was thinking of.


« previous 1 3 4
back to top