July 19, 2002
LOSING NELSON by Barry Unsworth (available from Penguin in the UK) is a study in obsession which manages to be thoroughly engrossing despite the fact that the lead character spends most of time writing a book and hardly leaves his house until the final chapters. In many ways Unsworth’s novel reminded me of Robert Coover’s classic THE UNIVERSAL BASEBALL ASSOCIATION, INC., J. HENRY WAUGH, PROP. — with Horatio Nelson taking the place of baseball. There’s a lot here about Nelson and his times as well, and some very vivid writing which suggests that Unsworth could have written a hell of a Salty Sea Novel if he’d cared to.
THE SONG OF TROY by Colleen McCullough. McCullough’s “First Man in Rome” series of historicals have long been a guilty pleasure of mine. The books are sometimes strangely structured, and the writing seldom more workmanlike… but they are so well researched, and bring late Republican Rome to life so vividly, that I find myself gulping them down despite their flaws. Here McCullough gives us a retelling of the Trojan War and the events of THE ILIAD, reworking mythology into history… and very successfully, I think. She also cuts back and forth deftly between a large cast of varied viewpoint characters, each with his or her own perspectives on the goings-on. Fantasy fans should enjoy this one, I’d think.
FOOL’S ERRAND by Robin Hobb. I am a big fan of Robin Hobb. Her Farseer trilogy was wonderful, and the Liveship series that followed was even better. In her new book Hobb returns to the Six Duchies and Fitz, the bastard Farseer who was the hero of her first series. The novel takes awhile to get going, it must be admitted; for the first hundred and fifty pages, Fitz just sits around his cottage drinking tea and turning away various visitors and old friends, all intent on embroiling him in the world again. Once he finally, reluctantly, saddles his horse to return to Buckkeep, however, the action picks up rapidly. By the time I reached the last page I was ready for the next one. More, please. Soon, please.