hospital reads

While stuck under a heating lamp for about two weeks, I read a series of books, for various reasons. Here are a few comments on this haphazard collection.

I bought the Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe in 2001 in Roma and never managed to move into the novel. This time I did finish the book, thanks to those extreme conditions. I remember picking the book for it being a reference in gothic novels (after enjoying much a book like Uncle Silas). However, I find the book caricaturesque to the extreme and without much to commend it, neither for its style nor for its plot. For one thing, it took me quite a while to realise the time of the nnovel was in the 1500’s, so replete is the book with anachronisms. If you excuse me the spoiler, everything supernatural is eventually explained by natural reasons, often ludicrous. Important family connections are omitted till the final pages to allow for suspense to build, rescues of the main heroin come in rather unbelievable circumstances, &tc. This is an interesting entry into the excesses of the genre, nothing more. (The attached cover of my Penguin edition reminds much more of the Marseille calanques than of the scenes depicted by Radcliffe.)

A second book that was brought to me by a friend here is a Lee Child’s novel called Worth dying for, that I read within a few hours. The book is extremely efficient and gripping even though the plot is a bit predictable (with some links to Reamde!), the characters often roughly defined and the overall ethics of cold blooded elimination (versus delivery to justice/police) of all the bad guys difficult to agree with. There are also weaknesses in the plot, e.g. when the superhero lets himself be captured by the dumb college footballers… It made me pass a quick afternoon though, away from my sickbed. I might even read another one in the Jack Reacher series next time I am hospitalised!

Another chance read is Robin Hobb’s Dragon Keeper: a doctor at the hospital noticed I was reading books in English and brought me this one the very next day. Again a book I read within the day. Overall, the book is a sequel to the Liveship Traders trilogy and, as such, it is recycling the same universe, rules and issues. An interesting extension but with clear weaknesses. For one thing, the #2 heroin, Alise, is not very credible in this first volume (and very dumb for missing the homosexual relation between her husband and his secretary). The #1 heroin, Thymara, is not much more complex. Now, I may read both next volumes if the doctor brings them to me before I leave the hospital in a few thousand days (!), but this certainly stands below Hobb’s masterpiece of The Farseer Trilogy.

3 Responses to “hospital reads”

  1. Dan Simpson Says:

    I could live without another secretive, doomed-by-society homosexual relationship subplot (I may have read all the Trudi Canavan books while I was in the states). I mean, I know that fantasy authors milk tired tropes ruthlessly, but it’s a sign that things have gone too far when someone writes an open, mincing, vaguely asexual aesthete (the most hoary of the gay stereotypes) into a fantasy novel and it feels like a breath of fresh air. (Side note: have you read The Magicians and its sequel by Lev Grossman? I enjoyed them a lot.)

    (At least this isn’t Hobb’s only play at a queer character and situation. She did *much* better with the fool in the farseeer books)

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