Beginning Again

I’ve just reread the first chapter of Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett, and since most of my ‘reviews’ of books here are my reactions rather than real explanatory reviews, I am wondering about interspersing those with more of a read-along (even if it is on my own) with points worth noting every chapter or so. I would try to avoid the blatant spoilers, but it might be hard sometimes.

Now you’re going to say, what kind of spoilers can there be in a discussion of the very first chapter of a book, series, double-series? Well, it’s more because this is a reread, and Dunnett is an absolute mistress of foreshadowing, unseen hints, and historical reference, and my thoughts tend to go off to points that won’t seem relevant for those who don’t know the books yet. (Which is all my way of saying to go warily if you don’t, and dislike spoilers. There is one of my normal reviews of another book below.) I amn’t convinced I can actually read it slow enough to do this, so you may hear no more until the end of the book, but we shall see.

Anyway, Venice, Cathay, Seville and the Gold Coast of Africa. The series definitely goes to the first and last of those, and although I don’t recall precisely I’m sure gets close to Seville, but I don’t think it goes to Cathay. I do love Dunnett’s opening lines, however, and could probably identify most of them.

We get introduced to Julius, Felix, Claes, Bishop Kennedy, Katelina, a Florentine, Anselm Adorne, and Simon, and to my amusement, amongst all the action, I noticed for the first time that Claes allows/encourages a dog to do its business all over Simon’s crest.

I got to thinking about just how many characters in the Niccolo and Lymond books have questions raised, for readers, themselves, other characters, or a combination, about their parentage. Mothers, fathers and children very often do not all know each other for certain, or acknowledge each other if they do. Siblings too. Off the top of my head the questioned children are/include: Claes, Lymond, Eloise, Marthe, Kuzum, Khareddin, Henry, Jordan, Anna, Bonne, Julius. I haven’t forgotten the one that is brought into question (question then answered, of course) right at the end of Checkmate, but that really might be a spoiler. As soon as it’s relevant we generally learn that there is a question over the others. Have I missed any?

219. The Bamboo Cradle by Avraham Schwartzbaum

A much quicker reread, this, but also worth getting back to, for its interest and inspirational value. Dr Schwartzbaum writes honestly and interestingly, allowing for the changes in his own opinions and beliefs through the course of his family’s story; this is the deservedly one of the classics of modern Jewish biographies.

Simply put, an American academic couple on a visiting placement to universities in Taiwan, find themselves sudden parents to an abandoned baby, and once back in America find their desire to bring her into their own religion of Judaism brings them fully into it themselves.

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