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bookish posts reading notes reviews

Bujold Week: Cordelia’s Honor reading notes, part1

shards of honorI’m bringing back an old feature I did a few times–reading notes! I tend to use these when I’m re-reading a book and having Thoughts that aren’t quite a review. In this case, I’m taking a look at the first two books in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, handily collected into an omnibus and titled Cordelia’s Honor. Spoilers for the first two books should be expected.

Today: Shards of Honor

It is quite strange to re-read these earliest of books; the Barrayar that is shown in the beginning of Shards of Honor is so manifestly not the Barrayar that we see later on. Of course, we are very much in Cordelia’s point-of-view, and yet there are also things like the Ministry of Political Education which I don’t remember seeing in any other book. On the other hand, there are tantalizing glimpses of things like the importance of spoken oaths in Barrayaran culture (which later translates into Miles’ authority as the Imperial Auditor).

I think what I continue to admire and value in both Aral and Cordelia (and their subsequent offspring) is the sense of duty and trying one’s best. It’s not as simple as patriotism, and especially not the unthinking and uncritical variety. But it’s the duty of care to those around the characters which drives them forward, and which is often rewarded.

Ugh, Vorrutyer is so awful. How is By related to him? (By is awful in his own way, but it is decidedly NOT this Vorrutyer’s.)

I think partly, dovetailing off of this and also Prince Serg, I’m so used to the fearsome and sometimes questionable but also sympathetic grouping of The Gregor, Miles, Aral, and Simon that I forget what a dark period Barrayar had just passed through. Serg and Vorrutyer are the last hurrah of the old bad times, in a way.

ILLYAN!! It’s so fun meeting the people who become important later on, this time knowing who they are, or rather who they will be. Also, Simon with a bland puppy face is almost unimaginable. But for that matter, Simon spying on, instead of for, Aral is almost unimaginable.

Part of what’s interesting to me is Cordelia’s journey from seeing Barrayar as completely evil, to understanding it a bit better, to going home and seeing the flaws in her own society. Although she’s quite a bit older than a teen, it has a kind of YA coming-of-age feel to it.

“We’re going to have a family. I’ll not risk them in those gladiator politics.” Oh, ow.

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bookish posts reading notes

I Capture the Castle: reading notes*

by Dodie Smith

I watched the movie for the first time with my roommate in the last few weeks of school. I enjoyed it more than I expected to (which is to say, it’s quite good) but I did miss all the little funny lines which they couldn’t put in without it being constant narration. Naturally, when I got home I found my copy of the book and started it. It’s just as lovely and tantalizing and downright frustrating as ever. I completely understand the literary value of the ending, but I suppose I like my old-fashioned desire for a satisfying resolution.

It strikes me once again how central London is to the English consciousness (major generalization alert). In Austen it’s simply called “town” and while here it’s called London, it does seem to have that same sense of a center which bounds the whole country. That sounds very literary theory. Derrida maybe? I don’t know–I’m forgetting it all after two years.

The depth of allusion is astonishing! Just look at the names. Cassandra, of course, but also Cassandra Austen. Héloïse and Abelard, who I only properly appreciated after my Medieval Intellectual History course this semester. Rose has that connotation of being very bound up with love–the symbol of love and also the object which is desired and won. Leda’s name is particularly interesting given that in the book she seems to be cast more in the role of the swan than of the ravished maiden. And of course there are all of the conversations about books–Rose and Cassandra arguing about Austen and Bronte, for instance.

I own the St. Martin’s Press version, which has some rather silly questions in the back. “What is the meaning of the book’s title?” for instance. I’m fairly sure that it’s supposed to be one of those things which you just understand, like Cassandra’s image of Midsummer’s Eve as a cathedral-like avenue. Ah well.

I love the little sketches at the beginning of each section. They’re so lovely and capture the surroundings without being overly specific.

* Reading notes? A possible new feature I’m trying. Less formal than an actual review and more specific. We’ll see if it lasts. Since it’s more me blathering on than anything else, don’t necessarily expect anything sensible.