Reading Lymond en-mass
For anyone who doesn’t keep up to date with the various discussion groups but might like to follow along with a Lymond Chronicles group read, one has just started on the Game of Kings Yahoo group list. From what’s already been posted it looks like it’s going to be interesting!
I’ve made a couple of posts myself although I’ve been working 12 hours and more a day for the last 10 days and have only managed the posts when sleep was beyond my over-tired brain. I’m trying to recapture the feelings I had on that very first read, how unexpectedly but completely at home I felt as I was plunged headlong into DunnettWorld, and how I was soon being beguiled by the wordsmith’s sorcery.
I’ll quote a section of one of my posts because I feel the descriptions mentioned are worthy of wider viewing, since it’s all too easy to rush through the first few pages in our haste to get into the meat of the story. These refer to material early on page 2 (and page 1 was only half a page!) where Lymond is about to enter the water of the Nor’ Loch.
“Across four hundred feet of black lake, friezelike on their ridge, towered the houses of Edinburgh”.
“Friezelike”; what an evocative description. Anyone who has looked up at the high tenements of the Old Town from Princes St on a dark night will recognise this at once – the way the buildings seem 2-dimensional against the sky compared to the emphatically 3-dimensional bulk of the castle.
And the next sentence – “Tonight the Castle on its pinnacle was fully lit, laying constellations on the water;”
Note firstly the capitalisation of Castle; subtly giving it a greater sense of size and power (if you’ve seen it you’ll know that’s exactly what it has). But then that fabulous description – not the easy descriptive “reflecting on the water”, not even something flowery like “myriad scintillations”.
“Laying constellations” gives us in two words a complete picture of the scene in front of us. It is an early suggestion of the sort of wizardry that she will conjure up as the books progress. We are _in_ the scene in the most complete way and yet we are only a quarter of the way down page 2. We sometimes think of GK as a little over-decorated, yet here is the most elegant economy of words.
And remember this was the first book of a new author; still finding her literary feet. You can almost feel the assurance growing as you penetrate further into the story – in fact in the next paragraph she throws in “oriflamme” and you know for certain that you’re not in the company of any ordinary writer!
Then you start wishing you had a large dictionary to hand, and a French one, and maybe a Latin one….
Authors who read and admire Dunnett
When I wrote the last newsletter/first blog I stopped at the end of 2005. It was around that time that I’d been contacted by a fairly new author who wondered if I could build her a website. This was Linda Gillard, previously an actress, journalist and teacher, who now lives on the lovely Isle of Skye. She knew of me through the Dunnett website as she was a long-time reader and admirer of Dorothy. With a bit of a false start caused by flu and bronchitis on my part we soon forged an excellent rapport and the result was www.lindagillard.co.uk which was one of the most enjoyable and satisfying design jobs I’ve done.
Unlike Dorothy, Linda writes about modern times, but is already an accomplished author who isn’t afraid to tackle difficult and controversial themes. She sent me her first novel – Emotional Geology – prior to starting the site design and I read it in one go pausing only to eat. Based on South Uist in the Hebrides, it’s a complex story of a woman recovering from manic depression and concentrating on her work as a textile artist to blot out the unhappy end of a love affair. I highly recommend it, particularly for its sympathetic depiction of the male characters and the insight into the psychology of the female ones.
Her second novel – A Lifetime Burning – treads such difficult emotional territory that it is almost impossible to describe, set in the very different world of English village life, the local manse, and musical virtuosity, with a number of doomed relationships central to the story. It’s the sort of challenging read that Dunnett readers are likely to enjoy.
Linda’s website was completed without us having met, and we only got that opportunity during the Edinburgh Festival a couple of months ago. We spent a most enjoyable evening in a New Town hostelry talking at great length like old friends… about Dunnett!
Linda was recently asked by Norm Geras to write a piece about her favourite books for his blog, so naturally she chose Lymond. You can read a copy of her piece on her site at
www.lindagillard.co.uk/further-reading.php – an eloquent and heart-felt description which with any luck will bring Dorothy to the attention of some potential new readers when it appears on Norm’s pages.
I should also mention another author, Carla Nayland, whose blog http://carlanayland.blogspot.com/ is well worth a visit. I came across it while looking for Dunnett mentions due to her succinct but complimentary review of King Hereafter. Welcome Carla, and thanks for the comment on the previous blog entry.