Posts Tagged ‘Dorothy Dunnett’


Friday, 15 April 2011

As longer term readers of this blog may know, Dorothy Dunnett has been my favourite author since I was thirteen and first read the Lymond Chronicles during, on the way home from and after a family holiday to Turkey, so when my mother just emailed me the link to the video of an interview with her I had to watch. (Unfortunately embedding is disabled on this video, apparently.)

It being Friday afternoon, this has taken all my blogging time before Shabbat, so I hope some of you at least will enjoy the interview too.

Romance for Men?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

NaBloPoMo Jan2011Apparently, apart from these two books, the vast majority of L’Amour’s novels were set in the American West, and certainly I can see how they relate to classic Westerns. These are decidedly genre fiction, and follow a path laid out more (Last of the Breed) or less (The Walking Drum) explicitly. They seemed like there was going to be a romance as major subplot in each, and while it’s there, in neither does any woman ever REALLY seem to matter to the hero in the long term. To me, anyhow.

In each case the main character has a (geographically) long and dangerous journey to take on his way to a stated goal that even when fulfilled at the end (because this is genre fiction I don’t think it too much of a spoiler to say that they do each succeed) is certainly not presented as the end of the character’s adventures.

First edition cover

Image via Wikipedia

38. The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour

This one is where I decided the women didn’t matter as people in this book, and although in many ways the other is quite different, it ‘proved’ the point. Among his many adventures and accomplishments, Mathurin Kerbouchard falls desperately in love, rescues the maiden (usually), at the risk of his own life at least once, and then circumstances separate them and he heads off to the next place where he he finds another young woman with whom to do it all again.

I suppose I was just very frustrated by this book, because Mathurin goes through all sorts of fantastic adventures, picking up or displaying all sorts of implausible skills along the way specifically with the goal (beyond keeping himself alive) of saving his father, and then when he does, at great risk obviously, and after many years of separation, they basically just say, “Hi there, nice to see you again. We should catch up sometime,” and ride off in separate directions. Nothing ever has any real importance. (And no, barring a complete change in personality I don’t really believe Mathurin has actually fallen in love forever by the end.)

Cover of Last of the Breed

Cover of Last of the Breed

48. Last of the Breed by Louis L’Amour

At least in this one Joe Mack only has one semi-romance, but then he does only meet one young woman on his journey across Siberia. There is in general a greater attempt at plausibility in this volume, but the protagonist is still a mystical superman from an ancient race. (Kerbouchard was the descendent of Celtic druids who had somehow passed down all their knowledge to him despite having been wiped out in Roman times, whereas Major Joseph Makatozi is Sioux, and of course has all the possible skills of the greatest Sioux hunters, trackers and warriors ever, as well as those of a specialist US Air Force experimental pilot.)

I suppose I’m just not a genre fiction reader – too much predictability is annoying, and while some of my favourite books have Renaissance men as heroes (Francis Crawford of Lymond and the later Niccolo in Dorothy Dunnett’s two major series, and Jamie Fraser in Diana Gabaldon‘s), they do have to have real flaws and weaknesses, with the ability to build emotional relationships and go through both the real highs and lows involved, for me to actually care about the characters. They have to be individuals, not automata.

Playing favourites

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

I’m nearly finished reading through a book I’m actually looking forward to telling you about, so I suppose I should try to get a bit further through the rest of the list… (It’s not even a reread, as the vast majority of the rest are.) The next one most definitely is, however. Once again it’s

14. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

Hm, apparently I’ve only previously reread this book once since beginning the blog, and that over two years ago, so I wasn’t pushing my luck this time after all. We still don’t have local copies of volumes 2, 3, or 4 of the Lymond Chronicle, so I might just skip over to 5 and 6 (it’s not like I don’t know the story…) for now. As my mother said when she was here, we appear to have a volume of Dunnett on every bookshelf (we’ve just started trying to organise the shelves after the move…), although it’s not like we have a complete set of Niccolos either. The rest of her books are on my “To buy when we have the disposable income” list, of course, presuming I don’t find them in any of the second-hand bookshops. Dunnett’s good enough that people don’t appear to dispose of her books, however.

Once we do have them all I’m looking forward to my DH reading them, as this is one series I refuse to spoil, and I really want to talk them over with him and get his opinions.

I’m sorry; this has to be about the most useless book post I’ve done yet (and that’s saying something). Dunnett’s erudition has evidently not rubbed off on me…

Images of Ireland and fictions of Africa

Monday, 25 August 2008

The weather was finally good enough to go for an outing yesterday, and Luna came along. On the way, she helped me work out my filet pattern.
Luna bear with crochet pattern
Luna on tree branch
From the car park of Malahide Castle we walked across the park, and Luna took the opportunity to get a good view from a handy tree.
Malahide Castle
It’s a pretty and interesting place, but pictures aren’t allowed inside.
Malahide Castle
We were though.
Wooden door at Malahide Castle

238. The Return Of Tarzan By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Otherwise, well, I continue to have qualms about it, but I’ve just read the second Tarzan novel, this time direct on Project Gutenberg, as the Librivox version isn’t finished and doesn’t look to be any time soon. It’s just as silly and implausible, with just as many horrendous stereotypes and negative generalisations about (often imaginary) groups racial, national, or whatever (it often is imaginary whatevers, with Burroughs) of their time, as the first in the series, and as the rest of them probably do. The groups aren’t always African, either, but that is where most of the action takes place.

These are light melodramatic little stories, which to the modern ear are generally cringeworthy, and yet the hero continues as a part of the common culture.

239. Last Orders at Harrods: An African Tale by Michael Holman

I happened to finish this book today as well, and a very different take on Africa it is. Kuwisha is a made up country in modern Africa, where President Nduka mesmerises the overseas journalists, politicians, aid workers, etc who try to make him give more than lip service to a completely free democracy, end corruption and end human rights violations, while everyone else tries to get on with their lives, and a few try (more or less officially) to improve the lot of those around them. The doers are the ones who succeed in the task here, rather than the talkers, or those who try too hard to bring everyone else their way.

Here everyone is part of the international community, affected publicly and privately by lawyers, editors, activists, bankers and politicians from all over. This is a funny and provacative book, which has left me thinking about the state(s) of modern Africa, and whose role it is to affect change there.

Hm, can we find an African connection for Niccolo Rising chapter 13? Well, the time is going to come when Loppe will say what he thinks of the various bits of Europe he’s been dragged to (and which part of Africa he was dragged from), but Milan isn’t it.

Questions of judgement

Thursday, 21 August 2008

So, having coming up with lots of interesting phrases and comments to work into my tablecloth, how come I started this massive – and thus boring to do – picture that’s taking up a very large portion of it? I haven’t made any appreciable progress on it today at all. I suppose I should go back to the motifs, which are small and interesting.

236. Mother by Kathlen Norris

Today’s new offering from Librivox is their first by Kathleen Norris, a short (seven chapters) well-read fable. According to Wikipedia it’s the first of her many very popular sentimental/romantic novels, and this certainly fulfils the description. The issues here, of the values and aspirations of middle and upper (in American terms) class women, and how many or any children fit into these, are still recognisable today, although the past 95 years have certainly made a difference!

Although the inspirational, eponymous Mother of the main protagonist, Margaret Paget, has quite specifically withdrawn herself from all close relationships beyond her husband and seven children, this is not the only lauded womanly role; Margaret’s slightly older friend and colleague, the widowed Emily Porter, is presented from the first as having fought for her teaching post, both for the enjoyment and for the financial security it brings herself and her two children. Margaret (Mark to her family, Peggy to her New York friends and acquaintances) is given the opportunity to compare and contrast their examples of giving, fecund maternity to the life of leisure and suavity she has always wanted and takes full advantage.

Niccolo Rising chapter 12. Claes’ unexpected skills come through.

Unexpected speakers

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Sorry for the delay in this post (and for the shadow on the image — this was the most legible picture), but I wanted to finish the first filet piece of the tablecloth to show you. Appropriate, no? I’m still working on the flower motifs, but those are small and easily transportable, whereas I think I’ll do the flat filet work all in one piece, so I’ll do it at home. That’s what will gain me the size, as well.

I think I’ll do a picture next, as I’d like to separate the different text phrases from each other.

I’m enjoying being away on holiday, even though I’m back in the house I grew up in! My mother and I went to a ‘Day Spa’, on Friday, with a package including massage, manicure, pedicure and facial – the first time I’d done any of those. It was a really fun day (but very expensive) and I shall now have to try finding the time and money to repeat at least part of the experience.

231. The Fantastic Flying Journey by Gerald Durrell

I think I might have got this when I was a little older than the intended readership, but I’ve always enjoyed it anyhow. I think Durrell’s autobiographical accounts of his animal expiditions, as well as his family and friends are hilarious, but this isn’t trying to be funny, specifically (although there some very funny parts) but a gentle adventure story for children, where Emma, Ivan & Conrad’s eccentric Great-Uncle Lancelot turns up at their house one day in his balloon to whisk them away on a rescue mission that involves travelling around the world meeting (and talking to) fantastic animals. The book is wonderfully illustrated by Graham Percy, and well worth getting your hands on.

232. Watership Down by Richard Adams

I had remembered that there were ‘spiritual’ elements to this book, but not how much of a rabbit world is created and explained, nor how graphic some of what happens (or is described) is. This is an epic adventure in the classic style.

233. March by Geraldine Brooks

Reading this now made sense, having just recently completed rereading Little Women (with Craftlit). I still amn’t sure how much the LW connection matters to this story; I think it is a plausible account of what could be the background to Alcott’s characters, and yet I amn’t sure it’s the one I will have in the back of my mind for them.

As for the book’s own merits: I think it’s good, and thought-provoking, and satisfying in many ways, although it left me on edge. I think it might not have left me that way had I not been trying to reconcile it to my sense of LW, of course…

Now I’m considering rereading some other books I have about the American Civil War.

Niccolo Rising chapter 10 includes Tobie and Julius discussing Claes, and I still can’t work out (after how many rereads of the whole series?) where they’re both coming from, how honest they’re being, and how much they believe each other.

Making use

Friday, 15 August 2008

No new picture today, I’m afraid, but I have done another motif or two on the tablecloth. I’ve also printed out some filet patterns to play with. In fact they are meant as cross stitch patterns, but will do just as well for filet, as only one colour is needed.

There are several free online generators of text patterns for cross stitch, but I would recommend two in particular. Celtic Cross Stitch allows you to type in a word or phrase (excluding accented letters and punctuation), then gives a Jpeg image which you can save or print directly of that word or phrase in Celtic lettering. Stitchpoint is much more flexible, with four fonts available, as well as accents and punctuation, and the option to build in line breaks, but I could not see how to save the resulting image, only print it directly, and it is rather slower, since the text cannot be typed in by keyboard, but each letter and piece of punctuation has to be clicked on separately.

I’m planning on interspersing my words and phrases (food and guest related) with pretty pictures, for which I’ll use charts meant for filet work, as most of the cross stitch ones I have seen expect a variety of colours to be available. I haven’t really begun looking for those online, although I know there are a lot out there.

I’ve had no excuse for not continuing with Niccolo Rising in the last couple of posts, even through I didn’t bring my copy, since my mother introduced me to the books, and has all of them… So, chapter 9: In which we learn a whole lot more about child-parental relationships.


Friday, 8 August 2008

Still can’t crochet (although I am going through my crochet books to decide what to do with all that orange cotton), and I’m in the middle of a variety of longer books, so none of those are ready for review.

I’m currently listening to Moby Dick, and while the Librivox reader is doing a fantastic job, I end up missing bits of the story, because Melville keeps going off on tangents and I lose where we’re up to. Not that he doesn’t admit this lack of narrative within the text, but I can’t help wishing he’d written two books, one on the art and craft of whaling, whales, and everything to do with them, and one with the story of Captain Ahab and Moby Dick. I suppose Ishmael could come along for the ride too. (I really amn’t that keen on the narrator.)

Or maybe, since it seems to me to be what he really wanted to do, a book on whaling, with the straight story as an appendix, and a good contents page at the beginning, and index at the end, so that when one wants to read a discourse on how well artists of different countries represent whaling, one could go to that, rather than arresting the tale once again.

One of the things that is keeping me interested (far more than the story or the tangents) is trying to work out Ishmael. He keeps sounding like the standard 19th century bigot, and then turning out to be fairly open minded. I don’t particularly like him, but he is interesting, if annoying.

Dorothy Dunnett, unlike Melville, does not give you information that is unnecessary for the story. In fact, a lot of the time a whole lot more would be useful, even than what you end up working out by the end of the book, series, or canon. Which is part of why I’m enjoying this slow reread of Niccolo Rising. Chapter 8 is only the first time we’re going to wonder exactly what Tobie overheard in the sickroom.

And while we’re discussing books I’m part-way through, I really loved Tom’s attempts to row alone in chapter two of Tom Brown at Oxford. I am competent, if completely lacking in style, at sculling alone myself, and could readily imagine his exploits, which had me in fits of laughter.

There are a couple more books in progress, but I think they’ll be fine being discussed in their entirety.

As for the cotton, I’m considering making a tablecloth out of a whole variety of motifs, pieced together. I’m sure I’d get bored doing enough of the same ones for a whole cloth, but a variety could work.

More boys’ adventures

Monday, 4 August 2008

227. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Newly orphaned David Balfour leaves his quiet Lowland village in Scotland to seek his uncle and his fortune, and discovers that honour, politics and family ties don’t always mean what he thought they would. I rather wish I’d done what Stevenson recommends early in the tale, and had a decent map of Scotland beside me, to trace David and Alan’s travels, but I didn’t, and wasn’t reading a text that might have had one in its endpapers.

Instead, I listened to another newly catalogued Librivox edition, read by one person, who does very well at distinguishing the voices, and gives a pretty disclaimer at the very beginning as to being American and thus not having perfection in his various Scots accents.

In any case, I was greatly intrigued by the descriptions of the Highlanders still hiding leaders, arms and papers after the ’45, and the exposure of a Whiggish Lowland boy thrown upon them after being betrayed further South.

I especially like how real David is. He gets exhausted, and snappish, and ungrateful, as well as being able to push himself further than he thought he could. He gets ill from hardship and speaks his mind even when he knows it’s ridiculous to do so, and that he could obtain the same result at less cost by keeping quiet. He can compromise, and allow time to run its course. Alan is a rather larger than life character, but he has his faults and his justifications just the same. I was a little surprised at just where the tale ended, but if abrupt it was clear, so that isn’t a major complaint.

And, of course, in the back of my mind I was thinking of the overlapping time and place with some of the Gabaldon books, as well as histories of the period I have read and am reading.

228. The Swoop! by P. G. Wodehouse

Again a new Librivox tale, and a Wodehouse story I didn’t know about. It made me smirk and giggle a good few times, if not quite guffaw, but that might be to do with the fact that it’s decidedly unPC and generally of its time (1909), rather than for all time. Apparently invasion stories decrying the vulnerability of Britain (here England) and the unreadiness of her armed forces for war were all the rage, and Wodehouse seems to enjoy his satire by giving the Boy Scouts as the last useful defence force. (Although the general indifference and desire to keep normal life going of the great British public has its share in sending the multiple invaders running for home.)

Niccolo Rising chapter 7: do I have to do more to show you why I love Dunnett’s voice and characters than to quote the beginning of the chapter?

Marian de Charetty … placed [Claes] under house arrest, and did the same for her breezy son Felix. She did not think, unfortunately, of restraining her mercenary captain Astorre, whom she considered an adult.

Family Values

Sunday, 3 August 2008

No crocheting this week, as it’s the Nine Days, so the books have it, I’m afraid! As I suspected, all I now want to do is crochet, but I can’t, so there it is.

224. Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai

There are two quite distinct stories here, but they do tie together. The first part shifts around in time, gradually charting the unchanging life of Uma and her parents in their small town in India, with its few highs and lows, while the second (shorter) part tells of one specific summer in the life of Arun, her younger brother, as he stays with an American family between his first and second years at university.

Every time it has seemed Uma might get away, live her own life, whether as wife, worker, or anything else, she ends up being brought home, to the pleasure of no-one, and is now stuck looking after her parents for the coming decades. Arun is expected to have that life, but just wants to get away from everyone. Even though his father, like his host, is horrified at his vegetarianism, his own family does not have the disfunctional relationship with food (and each other) that they do, but even though he has a real experience with the Pattons, while Uma drifts through another summer of frustration and disappointment, I amn’t convinced either sibling is all that changed.

225. Planting & Building: Raising a Jewish Child by Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe

So, no, I don’t have children, and I don’t have any reason to expect them soon (ie a spouse), and this isn’t even the first time I’ve read this book. The fact is, my Rabbi told me to read it (and reread it), as a framework for planning how I want to bring up my children one day, as it’s an important factor in choosing a husband. I think he’s right. Rabbi Keleman has translated the book beautifully clearly, as one would expect.

226. Coming Home: 20 Glimpses from the Road of Return in Modern America compiled by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz

The Bostoner Rebbe has been supporting students at the universities in Boston for decades, as well as people of all ages who have come his way, and here he has compiled the stories of twenty of them who became Orthodox Jews. I enjoyed reading these thoughtful appraisals and retellings of the varied journeys of some very interesting people.

Niccolo Rising chapter 6 shows us the Charetty family reunion, as the Widow returns, sweeping her daughters Tilde and Catherine along with her, and her unruly males back to work.