[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
The Middle Ages used to be a period in which I was very interested--my History "A" Level covered 1066 to Magna Carta, and we also did a special study of King John. Over the years I have somewhat lost touch with the subject, and although I buy books on it occasionally, I'm much more interested n the Romans these days.

My only real connection with Medieval Historical Fiction is my collection of Cadfaels, painstakingly completed through visits to charity shops and secondhand bookshops. I can see it from where I'm typing. So many Cadfaels have I in fact read that they weren't eligible for the challenge. So we went hunting through various online places in order to find something that appealed to, and was available to, us both.

This took some time.

After we'd settled on The Greatest Knight, and both obtained copies, it took time for our reading schedules to align so we could begin reading more-or-less at the same time. [livejournal.com profile] monissaw was reading Lindsay Davis and I was deep into Body of Glass. But finally the moment arrived.

The book opens with a series of dreams that convey backstory. This was not what I considered a hopeful start. Dreams and backstory. All that was missing was a mirror, but, as [livejournal.com profile] monissaw pointed out, full-length mirrors weren't available way back then. Inconsiderate, really.

Sadly, the book never got better. [livejournal.com profile] monissaw has given her own reasons why she didn't find it engaging, but, for me, the problem was the lack of conflict. Obviously with a historical subject you're somewhat constrained by the history, but there isn't any need to write a hagiography unless that's your intention. It felt as if Chadwick's admiration for her subject had overridden the need to write an exciting story.

Protagonist William Marshall is poor and a little concerned that his mentor and fief lord will cast him off as he simply has too many knights hanging off his sleeves. Nor can anything be expected from William's family. So, what does he do? Distinguishes himself in battle, of course. But oops! he's forgotten to take prisoners for ransom. Well, no matter, he can ride off and make himself a fortune in tournaments instead.

He's left with a dodgy horse but no matter! he can fix the horse's problem instantly.

There's no immediacy of threat in any of this, and no obstacle, apparently, that William can't bound over with feet to spare. So there's nothing in it for this reader. I want to see a character driven up a tree and then watch rocks being thrown at them. Provided I care about the character, of course.

The setting is fine, although sometimes period-accurate words like "destrier" seem uncomfortable on the page. There's just nothing driving the story, and so no reason for the reading to continue.

I got partway into chapter four before [livejournal.com profile] monissaw and I agreed we could stop.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
I think I'm going to stop reading the Besant book, All Sorts and Conditions of Men. I've given it a fair try: 170 pages. But it's not all that well written and the plot is transparent and somewhat patronising, if not to the reader then to the people on the receiving end of Miss Messenger's Great Experiment to improve their lives by making them discontented. She knows best; they are merely to receive her bounty.

And nobody knows who she is!

Eh.

So it goes into the croc box and will eventually find its way to the Mind shop.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Gah, I could not get along with the Antarctica book. That'll teach me to buy a book merely because it has 'Antarctica' in the title. Despite the lavish praise on the back cover, I found the book boring. And dull. And boring. Part of the problem I think was the author's tendency to 'tell' rather than 'show', a narrative style I've never favoured. And part of it was that the narrative voice was SO. EFFING. DULL.

It's in the croc box where we put rejected books. Sooner or later they find their way to the bookshop or charity shop depending on their salability quotient.

Joining it may be the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, depending on whether anyone else picks it up and deems it readable. I just couldn't get on with it. Maybe my brain didn't think the effort of keeping track of who was writing a letter to whom was worth the candle.

It's either me or the books. Eh.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
It's no good. I can't persist with Gone Girl. Nick's bits are all right but Amy's girly nonsense makes me put the book down every time. So soon Gone Girl will be a Gone Book.

Le sigh.

It's not that I expect every book I pick up to be wonderful, but it would be nice if they were at least readable.

In other news, Dad has been reading Blackmoor and finding with it many of the same faults I found. He suggests the author is consciously imitating D.H. Lawrence. Hmm, maybe. At this stage it's 'don't know; don't care' for me.

In other other news, Something Wicked This Way Comes has not come to light. I've reached the point where I'm thinking maybe I imagined the book entirely, or left it in the taxi, even though I have memories of bringing it into the house. Who knows?

Le double sigh.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
I settled on the Blackmoor book as a nice gentle paperback to read in bed but I can't persist with it. There's two main reasons for this.

Firstly, the author's annoying habit of using a word that's almost, but not quite, the right word. It's not a case of malapropism; I'm not sure WHAT it is. Thesaurus abuse, maybe.

For example:

"In his teens, George was drawn to the scarcity of Beth Fisher, whose distinctions had made a recluse of her."

Leaving aside the regrettable fact that that is one clunky sentence, let's examine the use of 'scarcity'. Is he drawn to the fact that she's scarce--ie he hardly ever sees her? No, he sees her a lot because he follows her around. He's drawn, presumably, to the fact that she--well, I was going to say is an albino, but that makes her sound like a horse in a Flicka book, so let's say--has albinism. She has scarce, I think the author really means, rare, traits, eg white hair.

I hesitated over that sentence a while, then was brought to a screeching halt by this one:

"Seeing him like that, finally away from his mother, George was struck by the invincible tethers lashing him to the boy."

Invincible? It is and isn't the right word. No, tell a lie, it isn't the right word at all. The author's either trying to be clever or they haven't a clue. You pays your money and you takes your choice...or you take the book back whence it came. That's more likely.

The second fault is more grievous. Here we have a family living in a house with a lawn that's so hot water turns to steam on contact. Yet the lawn is green and requires cutting. That's pretty tough grass, isn't it? I'd have thought it would be baked brown. But if that weren't bad enough, the householders don't seem particularly curious about their steaming lawn. And to crown it all, the former coal-miner cutting the grass can't put two and two together and make four. You'd think a miner, of all people, would think, bloody hell, there's an underground fire here, something'd better be done. But no, he doesn't think anything of the sort. Nor does he seem to think it necessary that anybody be consulted about this weird lawn. Hence presumably the stage is set for the underground fire to keep burning merrily away until the house falls into it.

Come on. There's willing suspension of disbelief and then there's the downright fucking unbelievable.

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