Saturday, October 18, 2008

Three Days To Fifty: Two Favourite Books

I'd be interested to know how many people have heard of "Little, Big" by John Crowley.

I describe it as 'a favourite' and I normally re-read my favourites, yet I have only read it the one time, about 20 years ago. (I still have the book, protected in a plastic cover). It's just too dense a book to pick up for a casual re-reading.

It's a fantasy that's hard to accurately describe (especially after two decades!) At it's heart is an American family who live on the edge of magic for several generations. The individual family members more or less know that something magical may be going on but aren't really sure what it is. Sons are unhappy that their fathers don't tell them more. Fathers wish that they could find the right moment to tell their sons the little they know.... All is by described with a writer with a wonderful gift of language. It's a work of beauty, and I was totally gripped by it deep, veiled richness.

I really am going to have to read it again....

A book that I have read and re-read is Lois McMaster Bujold's "A Civil Campaign".

Its science fiction - with more than a hint of Jane Austen about it. Bujold has written about a dozen books featuring a character called Miles Vorkosigan, who is an aristocrat from a conservative, militaristic world named Barrayar. Miles has the advantage of coming from the second most important family of his whole planet, and has tremendous charisma. However he has the disadvantage of having brittle bones and a dwarfish physique - in a society which is repelled by deformity or mutation.

After some years as a mercenary leader operating under a pseudonym, Miles has a respectable role as one of the Emperor's investigators. All he wants to do now is settle down and marry the woman he loves, a widow called Ekaterin. However she has no idea of his feeling towards her - and a previous career as a mercenary leader doesn't exactly give Miles the right training for wooing...

The book is extremely funny in places, and the characters and the dialogue are splendid. Plus there are several serious sub-plots - Barrayaran women have about as many rights as early Victorian women, and Miles has an opportunity to improve things a little...

You can actually read the first half of the book here.
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