So, September’s up, and I’m here to tell you what I read this month!
I started Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall in August, but finished it in September, so it counts. It tells the story of Thomas Cromwell, who was King Henry VIII’s chief minister between 1532 and 1540. Between these years fall some very interesting instances, for example Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Usually seen as a cold, calculating man, Mantel shows us a more humane Cromwell, who takes good care Cardinal Wolsey and does his best to keep his family safe. This is not a book to read in a hurry (as I did): the style is rather heavy, chapters are long, and you have to be constantly aware of who is who and what is going on. If you stick with it, it gets very interesting, and I even felt it ended too soon. But no fear! There will be a sequel, which, I read, is under work and will be called the Mirror and the Light. It’s on my to-read list, and I will be reading Wolf Hall again before that. With more time.
Published: Picador 2009
Wolf Hall was already slightly school-related (I’m taking a course on the Tudors), and the next book continued on that vein. Homer’s Odyssey is required reading for a course, and since I have a friendship with the classics, it wasn’t too hard to pick it up. For those who are for some reason unaware of what it’s about, I’ll give a brief summary. Odysseus (or Ulysses, if you’d prefer) is returning home to his family after the Trojan War, but the journey is more complicated than you’d think. The war has already lasted ten years, and his way home is just as long. He is out of favour with some gods, who then vex him and his ship, and all kinds of adventures follow. We have Circe, the sirens, the Cyclops, Scylla and Charybdis… everything you’ve heard of but maybe didn’t link with this epic.
The version I read was a Finnish translation – I don’t speak any Greek, unfortunately, old or modern – and, as there were two choices, I chose the more prosaic one instead of the ghastly hexameter. The story itself is amusing, although it suffers some for being so familiar. Odysseus as a character is ridiculously perfect and knows it far too well, which can get rather annoying. Those are the major problems, but they don’t make the reading as much of a pain as one might think. Perhaps I’m blinded by the status Odyssey has as a classic epic, but I find myself fond of it despite its shortcomings. It’s an easy read, too – as long as you go with a prose version.
Published: somewhere between 800-600 BC
Translation: Pentti Saarikoski 1972
After that dose of considered-serious literature I was free to lay my hands on a book I’d been eyeing since I bought it sometime in the end of August. Mark Lawrence’s debut fantasy novel Prince of Thorns, the first book in the Broken Empire series, was a positive surprise. I’d heard good things, and thought the opening lines (“Ravens! Always the ravens. They settled on the gables of the church even before the injured became the dead.”) catchy enough. The blurb didn’t sound too good, but I’ve read bad blurbs before. The story sucked me in by chapter three – which starts from page 11. We meet the main character, Jorg, when he is 13-going-on-14, and we find him with his Brothers on the road. Things happen, and it becomes clear that Jorg is not exactly normal. Soon we see glimpses of his past and can start to understand where he comes from, who he is, and what motivates him. We also get information on his Brothers in small snippets between the short chapters, which I found utterly charming. To those who are wary of the fantasy world: fear not! This is an easy world to slip into. It’s like an alternate version of our own, with familiar history and places.
For a couple of summers now I have found a book that particularly WOW!ed me. I have a feeling this will the WOW of 2011. It has first person point of view, which I’m not a fan of; Lawrence pulls it off. It has a young teen, which only a few authors can write with any credibility. Lawrence pulls that off.
There will be a sequel, too. I’m anxiously waiting for that now!
Published: Harper Voyager 2011
Finally I got George R. R. Martin’s A Fest for Crows! It is the fourth part of A Song of Ice and Fire series (you know, the one they’ve started a TV series on! Game of Thrones is the first book, and the first season). I will not say much about the plot, since many people are starting the series now, but there were a couple of small surprises. Martin never fails to have me gasping and going “What? No! Not possible! I must have misunderstood!”
It took me a long time to read this, and I didn’t think it was as good as the previous parts, but I liked it all the same. I’m on the library waiting list for A Dance with Dragons – I have my fingers crossed that the 45 people before me make quick work of it and that I have it by Christmas.
Published: Harper Voyager 2006
Pages: 854 (not counting the appendixes)
Yesterday, then, I read another course requirement book, a Greek tragedy: Medea by Euripides. Medea was Jason’s wife (the guy who went to get the golden fleece), and in the beginning of the story Jason has a new wife, a king’s daughter, and Medea is distraught. She screams and yells, and finally the king himself exiles her. She begs for a day to figure out what she’ll do, and then proceeds to scheme and plot. Lots of blood and deaths ensue. The Greeks knew how to be dramatic.
What you learn from Medea is definitely how to rage. She’s one angry woman, she is. This is a surprisingly entertaining play, or then it was just the translation I had. It’s always a pleasure to read the Greeks, anyway. I recommend trying; Oedipus Rex by Sophocles is quite wonderful.
Published: 431 BC (first performed)
Translation: Kirsti Simonsuuri 1999(?)
I also bought some books this month, mostly for school. Two for Comparative Literature, one for English (Renaissance Literature and Culture by Lisa Hopkins and Matthew Steggle) and Ellen Datlow’s new urban fantasy anthology Naked City. Right now I’m on my way to the post office, to get Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede.
Currently I’m reading Glen Duncan’s the Last Werewolf, which has been waiting for me since before I got A Feast for Crows. Martin was more urgent, though, so the werewolf had to wait.
I’m thinking of doing some sorts of posts during the upcoming month, provided I find the time. But I will return at the end of October to tell you of the books I’ve read!
Read! It’s good for your brain.