Thursday, December 11, 2014

Big Fat Book December Update: The Game of Kings


The Big Fat Book Project of reading The Game of Kings, the first book in the Lymond Chronicles, by Dorothy Dunnett is over. I have listened to the audiobook, read the paper copy twice, and read the companion The Ultimate Guide to Dorothy Dunnett's The Game of Kings by Laura Ramsey.

For reference, here are my July, August, September, October, and November updates.

What an experience this has been—exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. For a text of this complexity in characterization, plot, and prose, this type of close reading was the best way to appreciate it. Doing any one thing would've made the experience so much poorer.

I have lived with the story for more than four months now. Scarcely has a day gone by when I have not thought of Lymond and his unceasing activities. I have endlessly debated the intentions behind everything that he does and utters. He is moralistic in his own way and has feelings just like anyone else. Nothing about him is obvious; sometimes, he is obscure even to himself.

I cannot say I like him. However, lack of likeability has not hampered my identifying him as the hero of his tale. Without Lymond, the story dwindles to nothing. He's larger than life and affects everything even when he's off-stage. Every person, every event in the story is a puppet under Lymond's control. His grandiloquence set against his vulnerability and his passion are what save him from being an out and out villain in his own story.

Lymond's, and Dunnett's, astonishing intellectual gifts are far more appreciable with the companion guide. What is also appreciable is the depth of research and historical authenticity Dunnett brings to this tale.

Samuel Gilles's reading added so much depth and texture to the emotional content of the story. He made the characters come alive as individuals, each with their own motivations and hang-ups. His reading was part of what delivered the redemption of Lymond's character to me.

This is historical fiction at its finest. The story is peopled with real historical people interacting with fictional people. At no point does anyone step out of character, time, or place. You could not take any of the characters out, displace them in time and place, and expect the story to remain unchanged. This was key for me. This story, these fictional characters could not have existed in any other time or place.