Monday, March 5, 2007

Gob-smacked, Monkalicious, and Brightly Woven

Two friends of mine in the same fortnight recommended (unbidden) Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. Not believing in coincidence, I felt it had to be read fortwith! So now I'm reading it. It's quite long and I'm easily distracted, so I found the first hundred or so pages a bit of a slog. It seemed to be an endless description of monks travelling from one monastery to the other, only to be denied a hot dinner and a bubble bath, which I truly longed for, for all of them. So for a few weeks I'd get into bed, get the book out, read about Father so and so and his bowl of gruel and how his sandals chaffed him and I'd be asleep within seconds. But... I hung in there and am so glad I did. The story is set in 14th. c England and quite the sweeping epic. A monk and a mason both have the same dream: to build a great cathedral. It has magnificent heroes (men and women) and some really nasty types and all the characters you can imagine in between. There's tons of violence, a bit of sex, and a lot of detail. Some years ago I visited the Gothic cathedrals of northern France and that really haunts me still: the idea of having a dream and knowing you might not live to see it completed. The engineering and workmanship and craftsmanship that went into these glorious buildings is truly g0b-smacking, so if you have any interest in what might happen around such a construction, then this is your book.

I read Daniel Deronda again this year. What a joy that is. But forget trying to do my own writing when I'm reading George Eliot. I'm more likely to be found in a corner flagellating myself like that naughty albino monk in The Da Vinci Code, screaming "I'm not worthy." George Eliot truly does leave me gob-smacked.

My chief advisor in literary matters of late is Jen, who - a few years ago - introduced me to the joys of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (Jamie Fraser.... rrrrRRRRRrrrr). In fact she moved like a lethal super-missionary through our workplace, strewing copies of Outlander left and right, and converting our heathen souls, turning us to the light of kilted Scotsmen and the exquisite pleasures to be found frolicking with them in the heather. But this year, she lent me her Fionavar trilogy, by Torontian Guy Gavriel Kay, for which I am most grateful. It was the first fantasy work I could get through and more than that, it's really so beautifully written and not what I had expected at all: poetic and powerful. Ooh! There I go with the adjectives. To lighten the mood she then lent me Dead and Unwed and Dead and Unemployed, two chick-lit vampire stories, which were so much fun! So many books... so little time. Sigh.

1 comment:

Jen Star said...

I tried to read Pillars of the Earth, but I couldn't make it past the first 200 pages. You're not the first to recommend the book, but I don't know if I can wade through that many pages of boredom to get to the juicy parts.

Oh, would that I could just start from the middle! How many more books I would have been able to strike from my list! (Possession and The Historian being just two of my most recent put-downs.)