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Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 29 January 2017

"The Tombs of Atuan" by Ursula Le Guin

This children's book strikes a far more sombre note than the book to which it is the sequel, A Wizard of Earthsea. It tells of a young girl who at the age of six is taken from her parents to become the next One Priestess of the Tombs of Atuan (because she was born on the night of the last Priestess's death, rather like the way that the Dalai Lama was chosen) and brought up in aching isolation by those over whom she will come to exercise the power of life or death. The setting is on a bleak hillside and their are dark catacombs and labyrinths. All is gloom.

She is mistress of the darkness in the caverns underneath the hills, the maze of tunnels known as the labyrinth,  where only she is allowed (and, in some bits, other women and her eunuchs), where no light is allowed even for her, and where her dark gods, the Nameless Ones, brood.

Some prisoners are brought to her. It is for her to decide how they die, as a sacrifice. She decrees that they be starved to death.

And then she discovers a thief is in the labyrinth, seeking the treasure that is hidden there. She traps him underground and then she realises that she doesn't want him to die. Then she realises that her second in command, a dark and bitter priestess, is waiting for any excuse to get rid of her.

Spectacularly dark and creepy and beautifully written. Some of my favourite lines include:

  • "wink and glitter beneath the mountains like a speck of mica in a shelf of rock." (p 240)
  • "They stood there full of meaning, and yet there was no saying what they meant." (p 240)
  • "The Earth is beautiful, and bright, and kindly, but that is not all. The Earth is also terrible, and dark, and cruel. The rabbit shrieks dying in the green meadows. The mountains clench their great hands full of hidden fire. There are sharks in the sea, and there is cruelty in men's eyes." (p 347)
  • "One must not submit to them, one must resist, keep one's spirits always strong and certain." (p 355)
  • "Hospitality ... kindness to a stranger, that's a very large thing. Thanks are enough, of course." (p 380)
  • "Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveller may never reach the end of it." (p 388)

January 2017, 275 pages

The saga continues with

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