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November 11, 2013

Even though I said I haven’t been reading as much Young Adult fiction lately, I have been wanting to get to the third in Kristin Cashore’s series that began with Graceling and continued in Fire. The third one, which pulls together a few threads from the previous two, is entitled Bitterblue. Eleanor and Memory read it ages ago and recommended it to me, but I had forgotten about it until recently, when I picked it up in Eleanor’s room while watering the plants she’s left here while she’s cavorting around London meeting David Tennant and seeing the Thor 2 stars at their Leicester Square premiere and going to plays with Rupert Grint, Ben Whishaw and Colin Morgan in them.

I devoured the book mostly uncritically, without marking places to comment, so let me explain. “No, there is too much; let me sum up.”  Bitterblue is a young queen whose parents are dead; her mother died protecting her from her father, who could control peoples’ minds and make them do what he willed, even making them forget afterwards. Now Bitterblue’s entire country is in shock; no one can quite remember what they’ve done or forgive themselves for what they did or were unable to do. She begins the story by sneaking out of her castle to listen to her people tell each other stories, meets a printer, finds out that many people in the kingdom can’t read, and begins organizing the work of sorting out different versions of the truth.

There’s ciphering, and sword-fighting and hiding, and there are good dreams. In the end, Bitterblue sees that some of the man-made things in her kingdom “have little reason to exist, except as a monument to the truth of all that’s happened, and because they’re beautiful.” It’s an appealing idea, that even a ruler who forces others to evil can order works of art to be made that are so beautiful that they should be preserved beyond his lifetime. Beauty is truth, truth beauty.  When Bitterblue says she wants “to have the heart and mind of a queen….But I’m only pretending. I can’t find the feeling of it inside me” you know that method acting works, and that the story she has been telling herself will come true.

Sometimes it seems to me that the fictions I immerse myself in are more real than the rest of my life, especially since Ron and I have been driving around listening to an audiobook of Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer. Have you ever felt that way–like seeing the street you’re driving down mentioned in a book or pictured in a movie makes the experience seem more real? Like reading about a familiar emotion can make you, like the hero of The Moviegoer, feel less “sunk in the everydayness of his own life”?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 11, 2013 1:20 pm

    I first learned of this series at random when someone left a copy on their chair but have yet to get to it. (It was a book shop’s cafe so nothing exciting like book crossing.) Glad to hear it’s good. When I’ve read about the place I’m in it does feel different, you see it with a new pair of eyes if you’d seen it before, and perhaps rose-tinted glasses if you hadn’t (or maybe dark glasses if portrayed badly?) If that’s Eleanor’s trip she must be having an incredible time!

    • November 12, 2013 8:15 am

      The comic version of this, of course, is in the Steve Martin movie The Jerk, when the phone book comes and he’s very excited to find his name in it.

  2. November 11, 2013 10:16 pm

    Lucky lucky Eleanor! Is that a real description of her trip? It sounds brilliant.

    • November 12, 2013 8:15 am

      That is a real description. I couldn’t even make this stuff up.

  3. November 12, 2013 1:05 pm

    Cavorting around London meeting David Tennant? Oh Doctor! The book/series sounds pretty interesting. I do sometimes feel like if where I live or a place I am familiar with is mentioned in a book or movie that it does somehow make it more real, like it exists outside my head I wasn’t just making it up.

    • November 13, 2013 7:40 am

      Yes, if you can show a place to other people, you feel like they see that bit of the world as you do. There’s a section of 2-lane highway I drive to get to work at Kenyon, and it’s featured in the movie Liberal Arts, which is what I think of when I drive down it in June (when the movie was filmed).

  4. November 27, 2013 8:49 pm

    I hope her next book doesn’t take quite as long as her third book…

    • November 29, 2013 9:01 am

      This one wrapped up her look at this world in a pretty satisfying way, I thought. Maybe she’ll try something new in her next book.

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