June 27th, 2010

earthsea

June Books 17) Lud-In-The-Mist, by Hope Mirrlees

I was inspired to buy this by Farah Mendlesohn's Rhetorics of Fantasy, which ranks it as a key exemplar of one of the four modes of fantasy story-telling, the 'liminal' in which the boundary with the fantastic is hazy and uncertain; other examples being Little, Big (which I bounced off) and the first two Gormenghast books (which I remember loving as a teenager). I think it also fits a lot of Neil Gaiman's work.

I am firmly on the side of the fans of Lud-In-The-Mist. It is a superb tale of the inhabitants of the eponymous town, trying to sort out their relationship with neighbouring Fairyland, which is in large part a relationship of denial and corruption. It feels amazingly modern for a book written in 1926, a time period that I would otherwise associate with Lord Dunsany and H.P. Lovecraft, whose works are classics of their kind but somewhat dated; no such apology is needed for Lud-In-The-Mist (though I suppose one could read a commentary on Prohibition into some of the incidents involving trafficking in forbidden fruit). It is a story of hidden messages from the past, disruption to the social order, uppity women (to a certain extent) and the dangers of questioning what appeared certain. I look forward now to reading Michael Swanwick's biography of the author.
earthsea

June Books 18) Twilight Whispers, by Barbara Delinsky

This is a throbbing sensual romance about the serving girl who falls in love with the prince, set among America's East Coast aristocracy, involving also a murder mystery which is resolved by a caring and sensitive police detective who violates all credible investigative routine to do so. There is much flashbacking to the mid-20th century (the book was written and set in 1988). I got hold of it for the totally spurious reason that one of the characters, described as "somber yet dashing", rejoices in the name of Nicholas Whyte, but he turns out to have little to do with the plot. Will appeal to steamy romance readers but doesn't really pull off the police procedural leg of the plot.