What I’m Reading: The Silmarillion

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t daunted by the prospect of reading The Silmarillion.

For years and years it’s been one of those books where the spine seemed to follow me round the room.

Are you ready yet?

The answer was always no. Nope. Absolutely not.

But I finally got tired of feeling like a wimp.

So down it came from the shelf and I tried to look/feel/actually be cool, calm, and collected as I headed off into this new old world.

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It definitely wasn’t an easy read.

I went from understanding what was happening, to not understanding, to being almost sure I was keeping up, to definitely not keeping up, and back again pretty much everytime I picked up the book.

At first I found it frustrating and wished I’d never started it. It’s not great for your reading ego feeling left behind no matter how hard you try to keep track. But it’s just not a normal story. You’re witnessing a whole world and the creatures and people in it being created. Naturally it’s going to get a bit messy. (On that note I can wholeheartedly and unashamedly recommend looking up a few synopses to help make everything clearer. And make good use of the index!)

But as much as there are points where names whirl around in a blur and whole wars are over in half a paragraph, there are moments (and, dare I say, whole chapters) where everything is beautifully clear and all you can do is marvel at how Tolkien created such a complex but completely enchanting world.

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With a cup of tea and a cat – my favourite way to read!

I loved the story of Beren and Luthien. I loved recognising familiar characters and learning more about their origins. I loved the tangle of motives, the triumphs and the downfalls.

And for all the epic scale and formal language there are plenty of quieter moments that pack a heart-warming/terrifying/thought-provoking/disturbing/sombre/lightbulb-moment punch.

I’ll probably have to read it again. And then again. And after all that I’ll more than likely have missed something important. But overall the Silmarillion is definitely worth a read and I did actually enjoy it.

It’s also made me feel braver when looking at other daunting books on the shelf.

Because what’s the harm in trying?

 

What I’m Reading: The Buried Giant

I read The Buried Giant without having read any of Kazuo Ishiguro’s other books, which – from looking through some of the reactions to its release last year – I feel might have been a blessing. I had no particular expectations or ideas as to what I would find.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. Photograph of The Buried Giant book cover. Thoughts, book review, opinion.

I’ve enjoyed it. It’s not my favourite book in the whole wide world, but it is engaging and interesting, and I feel like it might be one of those stories that stays simmering away quietly in the back of my head for a while.

The story follows Axl and Beatrice, an elderly couple who set off to a nearby village in search of their son. Their relationship is intriguing – close, but with a sense of underlying trouble. On their journey, they meet a Saxon warrior, a boy bitten by a dragon, and an elderly Sir Gawain (King Arthur’s nephew).

I was interested that so many complaints I saw for The Buried Giant centred around it being fantasy. It certainly is – you know straight away that you’re in a land of mist, ogres, dragons and pixies – but I found it to be uncomplicated and matter-of-fact. A sort of gentle otherworldliness. There just are ogres and pixies and a strange mist that affects everybody’s memory. But the genre a book belongs to does not determine how good or bad a story is.

My only real complaint would be the dialogue, which I thought was quite dull and strangely formal. There were a few times when it actually became quite irritating. But that could just be me!

I’d be really interested to know what others thought of The Buried Giant. Did anyone else find the dialogue frustrating? Or does having read Ishiguro’s other books make this one harder to like?