Monday, June 21, 2010

Also read

I just finished two of the three books I was reading simultaneously.  Neither is going to get a full book report here but I'll share them with you briefly all the same.

For the Sake of Elena - by Elizabeth George.  The fifth book in George's British murder mystery series finds Inspector Lynley and Sergeant Havers taking a field trip to Cambridge, where a deaf student has been brutally murdered.  The university's ivory tower vs. the townies, deaf culture, extramarital affairs and fine art all play a part.  The Scotland Yarders are only slightly distracted from the matter at hand by their own personal lives:  Lynley is still pining away for the fabulous and resolute Lady Helen; and poor Havers's mum is fast sliding into dementia.

The Mabinogion Tetralogy - by Evangeline Walton.  Yeah, I bet you never even heard of this one before.  First published as separate stories, in 1936 and then in the mid-1970s, and finally compiled into one massive volume, The Mabinogion Tetralogy is a retelling of Welsh mythology in novel form a la Tolkien.  Walton takes the old stories and reworks them into four novellas that, impressively, all sync up by the end of the fourth.  The first tells the story of Prince Pwyll who meets Death and does him a favor, killing the one man Death cannot defeat.  The second tale follows the children of Llyr - the siblings and half-siblings and their in-fighting for control of the throne.  The third story continues with the line of Llyr, what few are left to face the changes coming to their island.  And the final book chronicles the struggles between Gwydion, heir to the throne of Gwynedd, and the powerful Lord Pryderi of the line of Llyr.  There is a lot of sex, violence, socio-political upheaval, conflict between the old ways (earth goddesses and lmatrilineage) and the new (early Judeo-Christianity and patriarchy).  Even though the names are difficult to keep track of - and impossible to pronounce - this was not drudgery.  Walton is smart and funny and knows how to tell a good tale.  Plus I adored Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain when I was younger and it was fun to get a better handle on this source material.

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