Saturday, March 07, 2009

i, coriander on audio

I grabbed this on CD at the library not having heard anything about it, which is unusual for me. Lidia loved it. I am less enthusiastic.
It led to a wonderful discovery, however: Juliet Stevenson as an audio book narrator. I love her work as an actress, and she is an incredibly gifted reader. Wow! The best I've heard, I believe. I see that she's narrated a lot of Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskill, so I'm definitely picking those up.
The setting for this book is the Puritan Commonwealth, which sparked my interest since I'd just learned a bit about that period of British history. There is a fantasy world too, and fantasy mixed with historical fiction is my favorite combination.
Sally Gardner writes gorgeous sentences. There is an author interview at the end of the CD and the interviewer mentioned that Juliet Stevenson said the sentences rolled right off the tongue and she thought the author must have read her work aloud while writing it. Sally Gardner replied that she did read her work aloud because she wanted the sentences to be smooth and flowing. It also comes out that Gardner had some theater and illustration experience. I can see how both positively influenced this work.
The characterization is very well done. All of the characters came alive to me. Even the less prominent characters were obviously written with great attention to detail. And there is amazing sensory appeal. I could see, smell, and hear 17th century London. It is obvious that the setting was meticulously researched.
There were a couple things, however, that didn't work for me. A major character makes several decisions that I found inconsistent and simply implausible. There was a reason given for these unlikely decisions, but I didn't buy it. There was also something else I found disturbing and uncomfortable, and after I heard the author interview, I said, "Ah-ha!" The religious people in this book are portrayed as very, very evil. Abominably so. And one gets the impression it is because they are religious that they are so wicked. Well, during the author interview Sally Gardner was asked about religion, and she said that she thought it was vital that people realize that organized religion has always been used to suppress and control people. I would like to hear the interview again so I could quote it verbatim, but that was the gist.
Organized religion has been used for terrible reasons. However, for many it has been a wellspring of joy, freedom, knowledge, and imagination. In two of Nancy Farmer's books, The Sea of Trolls and The Land of the Silver Apples, the author presents that fascinating dichotomy. There are characters who believe exclusively in folk magic, and others exclusively in religion. The main character sees good in both. There are both Christians and "pagans" who are good, and others who are evil. In contrast, Sally Gardner presents the much narrower view that organized religion is necessarily constricting and negative.

1 comment:

Ave said...

I see more and more of those anti-God or anti-organized religion messgaes in popular teen novels. It is a bit disturbing. Phillip Pullman had those intentions, but I think in the Dark Materials series it sort of back fired.