Hild (Nicola Griffith)

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Hild (Nicola Griffith)

Postby FranW » 15 Feb 2014, 12:04

Hild: A Novel
Author: Nicola Griffith
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2013)

I'm going to preface this review with a big caveat: I read this book when I was stoned on morphine/tramadol due to severe sciatica, so I may well not have given it a fair read, and I may not be remembering a lot of the details correctly.

This is a hefty historical novel, set around 600-ish AD Britain, and follows Hild, a king's daughter who became a saint (and that's pretty much all that's known about the real Hild). The prose is, as expected, superb; the setting is, as expected, meticulously researched and vividly drawn. But I didn't like this book as much as I expected to. I wanted to love it, and I just didn't.

I found the character a little too perfect -- a five year old Mary Sue who is cunning enough to outsmart a king. I found the scope of the book disappointing -- it covers Hild's life from about age 3 to 15, when for political reasons she converts to the new Christian religion. About five more books would be needed to cover the rest of her life, I reckon, and I don't know if Griffith plans to write any more. I'll read this one again sometime, and see if I still find the MC too precocious to be believed....but I don't think it'll be one of my top faves the way the Aud series is.
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Re: Hild (Nicola Griffith)

Postby ElaineB » 16 Feb 2014, 09:44

I believe there are two more books planned. And I read it stone, cold sober and had much the same reaction. (I'm surprised you could stay awake for it--it often put me to sleep.) Wanted to love it, but just didn't. Maybe it appeals to historical fiction buffs, which I'm not by nature--meaning I don't read a book because it's HF. I will say it stuck with me after I finished, and I enjoyed that. I also liked the look at day-to-day life back then. And yes, the writing is superb and she did leave me wanting more. I was distracted by the pronunciations and ancient words (the glossary didn't offer enough help). And lots of similar names, though she couldn't help that; these are real people for the most part. Once I abandoned worrying about all that, it went better. I was mystified that a key scene, a battle, plays off the page. It kept being referred to so I flipped back, thinking maybe my book was missing pages. But it wasn't there. I thought that was odd. Her mother was a piece of work, though. I liked that. I think it's a book that would benefit from multiple reads, but I'm not inclined to give it that. I thought the Aud books got better, so maybe these will too.
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Re: Hild (Nicola Griffith)

Postby FranW » 16 Feb 2014, 10:44

Hmm. I am most definitely a historical buff -- love Margaret George, frex -- but this one, dunno, while it had a lot good about it, just didn't quite fly. Like you, I struggled with the vocabulary of the period and the similar names, and I found the omniscient narrator took something away from the characterisation.

Mum was most definitely a piece of work, and I adored the basic concept -- Mum prophesied that her kid would be a seer to the king, so the kid has no choice but to become a seer (which means knowing everything while pretending she gets her information magically instead of how everyone else does). It's a terrific plot twist to base a story on. I'll probably read the subsequent books, but I reckon I'll wait till the whole set is out and then read it all at once.

adding: Crap, I checked her blog, and re the next Hild book she says "Not anytime soon". So... I guess I'll put this one on the back burner and revisit it in a couple of years.
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Re: Hild (Nicola Griffith)

Postby wildlx » 18 Feb 2014, 08:43

I bought the book, but I've been postponing reading it. Your reviews don't make me wish to move upwards on my to read pile.
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Re: Hild (Nicola Griffith)

Postby wildlx » 22 Feb 2014, 23:40

It seems the jury from the Tiptree award liked Hild. Hild has been included on the Tiptree Award Honor List (a recommended reading list for the rest of the year).

Nicola Griffith, Hild (Farrar Straus & Giroux 2013) — This stunningly beautiful historical novel describes what life might have been like for a woman whose mother has arranged for her to be “the light of the world”: the real-life St. Hilda of Whitby. In a rollicking good read, the reader is drawn into action and adventure as Hild becomes a king’s seer, a warrior, and a vessel through which the dynamics of power and gender in war-ravaged 7th-century Britain can be explored.

http://tiptree.org/?see=front_page#TiptreeAward
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Re: Hild (Nicola Griffith)

Postby ElaineB » 23 Feb 2014, 00:27

I saw that. I thought Tiptree was for science fiction. No?
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Re: Hild (Nicola Griffith)

Postby FranW » 23 Feb 2014, 07:26

Tiptree has always been SF/F that probes gender issues. How they felt Hild qualified is beyond me.
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Re: Hild (Nicola Griffith)

Postby wildlx » 23 Feb 2014, 08:03

Yup. It is strange.
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Re: Hild (Nicola Griffith)

Postby Baker » 24 Feb 2014, 06:54

Maybe because Griffiths is a lesbian and has won awards for sci-fi/fantasy before? Dunno. Certainly doesn't sound like the book actually challenges any gender stereotypes--nor would you expect a biographical novel about that character to do so.
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities ~ Voltaire
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Re: Hild (Nicola Griffith)

Postby ElaineB » 25 Feb 2014, 10:01

I think it does challenge gender stereotypes, and not just Hild, but also her mother and other women. These are historical people, but so little is known about them, that you can pretty much make it all up. Women wield power in this story, which they are usually not depicted as doing (says the nonreader of historical fiction, so I'm speculating here). Griffith has been pretty vocal in her intention with the story, which is to write a history that certainly could have happened, but is one that has not been written by men.
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