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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. 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

Monday, 29 May 2017

"The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula Le Guin

I have been reading a lot of Le Guin recently, including:

Genly Ai is an Envoy from the Hainish federation on the wintry planet Winter whose inhabitants come into heat at certain times of the month at which point they can be either male or female, father or mother. His story is interwoven with legends from the planet and the tales of others to build up a tapestry. In some ways it felt like an anthropological study of the planet and its various nations. I would have preferred a plain old-fashioned tale.

She starts well. On the first page the narrator reflects "I was in peril of my life, and did not know it." (p 1) The alien world is brilliantly imagined and the various societies that live there; the Siberian-style prison camp is brilliant. There is an epic journey across the glaciers of the icecap. I was impressed and amazed by the level of detail and the imagination. But I couldn't warm to the characters.

As always Le Guin gives us some wonderful phrases:

  • "If this is the Royal Music no wonder the kings ... are all mad." (p 2)
  • "not a nation but a family quarrel" (p 5)
  • "A man must cast his own shadow" (p 16)
  • "I came there at noon. That is, I came somewhere at noon, but I wasn't sure where." (p 44)
  • "Legends of prediction are common throughout the whole Household of Man. Gods speak, spirits speak, computers speak. Oracular ambiguity or statistical probability provides loopholes, and discrepancies are expunged by Faith." (p 44)
  • "his intelligence was as hard, clear, and polished as my rubies." (p 50)
    • "What is sure, predictable, inevitable - the one certain thing you know concerning your future and mine?
    • That we shall die.
    • Yes. There's really only one question that can be answered ... and we already know the answer ... The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next." (p 57)
  • "But the Inspectors' cars were forever snooping and spotlighting these dark streets, taking from poor men their one privacy, the night." (p 65)
  • "Compare the torrent and the glacier. Both get where they are going." (p 80)
  • "They were without shame and without desire, like the angels. But it is not human to be without shame and without desire." (p 144)
  • "Light is the left hand of darkness" (p 190)
  • "Some shadows got shorter and some longer." (p 234)

May 2017; 245 pages

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