Sharon: One other thing I was asking myself about Rognvald--and this might not be a useful question to answer, but I think it’s interesting to ponder--is how much of his rage and frustration is envy (fraternal, political) and how much is jealousy (romantic).
Aarti: Agreed. I wonder how much, too, was in retaliation to the thwarting of both those things when Thorfinn had him publicly flogged.
Sharon: I think this is the part where I have to admit that my positive feelings about this book drive much closer to “appreciation” than “enjoyment.” There’s just SO MUCH that I can’t follow, and it feels like I go for long periods of time reading about instances that are probably meaningful but not to me, or listening to discussions of people and politics that I just don’t get, because I don’t know the names or remember the relationships of the places. I had Duftah and Malduin mixed up for a good chunk of time, which left me pretty lost.
In fact, I’m finding it kind of hard to dive into the third part. As history, it’s thorough and engaging, but as a novel, I feel like it doesn’t use a lot of the tools that literature usually uses to hit me where I live. You know?
Aarti: Oh, gosh, yes! It is hard to read this book and separate Dorothy Dunnett’s writing and research from the characters that are in it for me - which I think is true of all her books. I too was lost for much of the book (just wait till you get closer to the end when ALL OF THESE PEOPLE come out of the woodwork and you are thinking, “Er, I feel like you are important, but I don’t remember why”). I mean, I don’t even remember who Duftah is, to be perfectly honest. And I still made it through the book ok, though I kept wishing that there were Cliff’s Notes. I feel like often Dunnett thought that I could understand all the different levels of intrigue, the subtle hints and the veiled insults and challenges, and I really could not. Did you feel the same? I was always so relieved when Groa or someone would explain to another person (usually referred to as dim-witted or stupid) why the situation was so tense or what was wrong, etc. I would have been that dim-witted person!
Sharon: This is an excellent description of how I feel about the whole book. It reminds me of a mystery where the detective needs a sidekick to ask questions that we, the viewer/reader, would be asking. Except this book provides that only about 10% of the time. This must be getting in the way of my enjoyment more than yours; I’m finding that there are whole chunks of the book that seem to have no meaning to me because of this, and that I often feel like I might as well skip them.
I strongly suspect that if I was better at skimming I could take this book on more directly. The fact is, I’m missing 60% of what’s there, but I’m TERRIBLE at skimming--I forget to do it, I get worried I missed the important stuff, I get confused--so I’m investing just as much of my attention in that 60% as I am in the 40% that’s clean and sharp and reachable to me. It throws off the balance of the book.
Aarti: I can understand why you are struggling to dive into Part 3, though I do think it starts out with lighter humor, though again, I was lost as to WHY Thorfinn was doing what he was doing. It was still entertaining to read, though! Please don’t feel like you have to finish the book because of me, though!
Sharon: I’m going to give it one more big push as soon as I finish my book club selection for the month. I really do want to know what happens; I think this is a book that I might love if I was just able to skim the parts that I can’t follow. I’m glad you’re really enjoying it!
I have promised to try and so I shall. I make no further promises, though!