Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Reading

I nearly managed to achieve one of my ambitions and receive no Christmas presents other than books (two pesky DVDs, including the glorious Spartacus) broke the run. Here are the bookshelf-busters Santa delivered:

Sharon Penman When Christ and His Saints Slept and Here Be Dragons
Sebastian Sebag Montefiore Stalin--The Court of the Red Tzar
Dan Simmons Drood
Marc Morris A Great and Terrible King (biography of Edward I)
Ian Mortimer The Greatest Traitor (biography of Roger Mortimer)

So far I've read a couple of hundred pages of When Christ and His Saints Slept, the first of a saga addressing Britain in the 11th century. It's serviceable enough, but not on the same level as The Sunne in Splendour. It also contains the notorious Ranulf I mentioned in this piece last year. I have to admit to finding Ranulf somewhat irritating: not because he is a fictional character thrust into a purportedly historical situation, but because he has no discernible flaws. Perhaps he'll get roughened up as the book progresses, but so far he's managed to switch sides in a civil war and still everyone in both camps loves him. He's handsome, charming, witty, constant in his affections and brave to boot. On that basis I doubt I'd like him in real life so I'm damned if I'm going to like him in fiction either.

I think next we'll move on to Drood; set in the 19th century it's quite contemporary for me. I admire Simmons' imaginative force but his last novel, The Terror, failed to capture the voice of 19th century British English--a sort of literary Dick van Dyke. I'm interested to see if he can pull it off here.
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Frances Garrood said...

Tim - didn't anyone give you socks?

Alis said...

I think you'll find Here be Dragons more to your taste, Tim - easily as good, in my opinion, as the Sunne in Splendour.

Enjoy your reading before work beckons again.

RDJ said...

I loved The Terror, but I'm an American, and didn't recognize the British misses, as those from other parts probably don't recognize how bad Colin Farrel is at American.

C. N. Nevets said...

Utterly off-topic, but I just finished Candlemoth, per your recommendation to check out RJ Ellory, and it was not only an anjoyable read byt was, as you suggested, helpful as a learning experience as well. I'll be getting my hands on more of his stuff. Thanks much for the recommendation!

Tim Stretton said...

Alis - about 700 pages into Christ and His Saints. I can't believe it's the same person who wrote The Sunne in Splendour. I'll finish for completeness, but...

Ryan, for me The Terror had so many bum notes it tainted the whole for me. I wasn't mad keen on the resolution either but I'd have forgiven it that if the voice had been truer. (As an aside, why didn't someone British read it in proof? Most of what jarred could so easily have been fixed).

Nevets, I thought you'd like Ellory (although I've not yet read Candlemoth myself). Glad to put you on to some good stuff!