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Old 10-16-2018, 03:18 PM   #16
CRussel
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I'm going to admit to a "pass" this month. A combination of way too much workload at work, and an inability to get into this book at all, leaves me unable to comment. I did try, but just found it uninteresting. If I would have had more available time, I'd have forced myself to read further, but honestly I doubt I'd have enjoyed it even then. I admit to feeling guilty - I was hoping that I'd be able to read all the selected books this year, though my "challenge" only requires 10 of 12 for the year. Clearly, this is one of my two. (And yes, I did vote for The House on the Strand. Just goes to show descriptions don't always tell you what you're going to like. Or not. )
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Old 10-16-2018, 06:43 PM   #17
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Sorry you couldn’t get into it Charlie. A new job does take a lot of time and energy to settle into and I hope it’s going well.
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Old 10-16-2018, 06:48 PM   #18
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Catlady:. The names are no doubt significant. Vita I suppose for life in the present, from which Dick increasingly turns away. Magnus perhaps because Dick has clearly always admired and looked up to him. And Dick ...?
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Old 10-16-2018, 07:33 PM   #19
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I'm going to admit to a "pass" this month. A combination of way too much workload at work, and an inability to get into this book at all, leaves me unable to comment. I did try, but just found it uninteresting. If I would have had more available time, I'd have forced myself to read further, but honestly I doubt I'd have enjoyed it even then. I admit to feeling guilty - I was hoping that I'd be able to read all the selected books this year, though my "challenge" only requires 10 of 12 for the year. Clearly, this is one of my two. (And yes, I did vote for The House on the Strand. Just goes to show descriptions don't always tell you what you're going to like. Or not. )
Don't feel too bad! I am having to sit out this month for the same reasons
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Old 10-16-2018, 09:25 PM   #20
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Why the odd names for the two primary people in Dick's life: Magnus (great) and Vita (life)? Any thoughts?
The edition I read included an introduction by Celia Brayfield (written 2003). It's rather annoying actually, I really wish they'd put stuff like that at the back. Anyway, Celia points out these definitions, and also that "Dick" has a pejorative sense - Celia suggests some specifically American aspect to this that I'm not sure is correct.

Beyond being a convenient way of choosing characters names ("I want something who thinks he is great, let's call him Magnus") it is unclear to me whether the name definitions are otherwise interesting. "Magnus" does seem to invoke a certain sense of grandeur, perhaps, even if it is a self-professed grandeur, but Vita didn't seem any more alive than anyone else - with the possible exception of Dick, but then by the time we meet him he has already taken his first dose of a drug that turns out to be toxic (although that opening scene shows Dick feeling more alive in the past than he felt in the present).

Celia has more to say that I find questionable, like: "To which Magnus replies, ‘How you do know I’ve denied them?’ The implicit suggestion is that Magnus, finding Dick sexually evasive, is trying to possess him more completely through their shared drug experience."

Yes, Magnus rather shamelessly pushes Dick into doing what Magnus wants, but I don't see that as sexual or possessive - merely presumptive; a presumption that stems from years of friendship. Or, if we want the make it about names, this is Magnus the Great expecting everyone to treat him so. To put it another way, Vita may feel jealous of Magnus, but I don't think the reverse applies; I think Magnus is self-possessed and self-confident, with no doubts that Dick will be loyal, as always. It may be a one-sided friendship between Magnus and Dick, but I suspect that has suited them both very well (I get the impression that Dick is of a character that will always find someone to push them around, hence his choice of wife).
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Old 10-17-2018, 12:16 AM   #21
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I did read it but I'm somewhat at a loss of what to say.

Did I enjoy it? I'm of two minds. I very much enjoyed the feel of the book. The narration style and the pace and the writing. I did not enjoy most of the actual content of the book. I enjoyed some of the scenes in the past. Disliked most of the scenes in Dick's present and really disliked the ending in both time frames.

The present day character's all played their roles well. Dick was the disillusioned guy looking for meaning anywhere he could find it. Magnus was a piece of work with his manipulation and control of Dick. Vita was a good contrast to Dick. he boys were just a distraction but needed so that Dick could show he was trying (even if half-heartedly.) The Doctor was my favorite and I really would have liked to have found out about some past connection with either Magnus or Dick. As-is he was just a nice, person who has a remarkable amoutn of tolerance but he could have been so much more if he did have some connection to either of them that they either didn't know about or had forgotten.

I took the drug at face value in that it did let Dick/Magnus see into the past rather than just hallucinate things. It didn't seem like Magnus had directed Dick enough for them both to be seeing the same people and experiences in the past without something else going on. If I recall correctly Magnus intentionally didn't say anything to Dick until after Dick revealed that he was following Roger.

Really, i would have enjoyed this quite a bit more if it hadn't been for the end. The way that Dick threw everything away for one last chance to see what happened was unsatisfying just as the conclusion of Roger/Isolde's tale was unsatisfying.
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Old 10-17-2018, 05:08 AM   #22
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[...] Really, i would have enjoyed this quite a bit more if it hadn't been for the end. The way that Dick threw everything away for one last chance to see what happened was unsatisfying just as the conclusion of Roger/Isolde's tale was unsatisfying.
I did wonder about the conclusion(s). I mean the author has drawn (or not) the reader along on a story that requires a significant suspension of disbelief, so why - after all that - the realistic ending? (Dick does what an addict will do, and the good old days live up to their reality rather than their reputation.)

I liked both endings, perhaps because they pressed a sense of reality that would otherwise have been easy to dismiss. If we care to consider the addict aspect of this story then the ending in which the addict seems to lose almost everything* is quite apt.


* Dick is actually quite lucky, if we assume he survives and has no way to satisfy his addiction in future.
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Old 10-17-2018, 06:53 AM   #23
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I'm not going to go into a lot of detail. I enjoyed the book for what it was, but will sum up my opinion in a single word. Unremarkable. No great themes or wonderful thought provoking ideas. Just cliches. A love totally beyond reach and a mundane modern life which paled into insignificance beside the vivid past.
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Old 10-17-2018, 08:09 AM   #24
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I agree that the trips are really a nonsense, but I was prepared to suspend disbelief and go along with the story. I don’t demand technical explanations for how something can happen as long as the author makes it work for me.
Generally, I prefer quick and dirty explanations to a long, drawn out one when it's all a nonsense anyway. In other words, I agree.

As an aside, I read (listened to) The Girl with All the Gifts a couple of months ago because of recommendations here and one of my issues was the way it went on and on about the "science" of it. It was all made up anyway and I didn't care, but my eyes glazed over every time (or maybe it was my goggles fogging up at that).

My own assumption was along the lines of worlds existing simultaneously and the drug altering perception (although not the reality). I know that's not what du Maurier said and I know it's got just as many holes, but it worked for me.
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Old 10-17-2018, 08:20 AM   #25
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Which does lead me to my next point - wow, did I hate Vita. She was the sort of grasping, materialistic, alcoholic (though everyone in the book seemed to be to some extent) American in every bad sense of the word. It was very easy to see how Dick could prefer a psychedelic drug to his own wife, though it was hard to imagine why he had married her in the first place.
Vita got a lot of sympathy from me. She's married to a repressed gay man whose most important emotional connection is to his old university friend, their sex life is mostly unsatisfying (unsurprisingly), he's floundering about his future employment, he doesn't especially care for his stepsons. I don't see that she's any more controlling than Magnus, except that she loses to him in the war over Dick.

We also can't ignore the names. I don't disagree that du Maurier was sympathetic especially about Magnus's sexuality, but the names add nuance. Vita is the life-force and Dick is, well, a dick. I don't think we can write off the names, all of which are odd in any context. Magnus isn't a typical Anglo-Saxon name, although it's more popular in Scandinavian countries; Vita is British but unusual in an American, just as Dick would be more usually American.

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Old 10-17-2018, 08:42 AM   #26
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The other general comment I wanted to make now was how vivid I thought all the medieval passages were, and I loved the way the book started by throwing us straight into Dick’s experience without any prior explanation.
I liked that too and that while du Maurier eventually gave the background (but not before I'd looked it up for myself, ah, the internet!), she was willing to trust the reader to hold the thought. However, after a bit I was looking for more structure; it seemed to be to be about 30% into the book before things started moving and that was too long for me.

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pieces here and there reminded me of other works; I kept thinking of Green Darkness (the parallels of past and present), Brigadoon (dissatisfaction with current life vs. a romanticized past), and even The Haunting of Hill House (the obsessed person's pretense of leaving). I know, I'm a bit weird.
I'll be weird with you, then. I especially like the Brigadoon comparison. On one level, I love Brigadoon; certainly my adolescent self did. But my adult self obsesses about things such as inbreeding and the changes wrought by millennia, which will happen very quickly. The "miracle" (and would a Scottish presbyter be likely to use that word which smacks a lot of bells and smells?) seemed very hard on poor Harry Beaton and others of his ilk, trapped forever, and if there was a way in for Tommy, why not a way out for the miserable? Doesn't do to think about it, really, or the show is ruined.
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Old 10-17-2018, 10:10 AM   #27
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Vita got a lot of sympathy from me. She's married to a repressed gay man whose most important emotional connection is to his old university friend, their sex life is mostly unsatisfying (unsurprisingly), he's floundering about his future employment, he doesn't especially care for his stepsons. I don't see that she's any more controlling than Magnus, except that she loses to him in the war over Dick. [...]
So you would have liked Celia Brayfield introduction. I sometimes wonder if I've read the same book.

What is it with the idea that a man having a gay friend must be a repressed gay himself? It's this, if anything, that speaks of some sort of phobia on the part of the author (as opposed to one of her characters) - if we assume this is what she intended the reader to infer when Dick tells us that he and Magnus had been watching a choir-boy. I was inclined to ignore that because Dick's heterosexual preferences seemed otherwise more prevalent through the text.

I had the impression that Dick's relationship with Vita and boys was good prior to the events of this book. There is an implicit trust and comfort among them in the early stages that speaks of better things in earlier times. Yes, I see Dick floundering when we meet him, but while some of that is the pressure of his choices, it remains unclear how much is the influence of the drug - and Magnus, for that matter. It seems apparent to me that Dick, and his relationship to Vita and boys, has already changed under the influence of all this by the time we start the book, and all we get are small glimpses of what it was like before, for the brief periods when Dick is able to put aside his obsessions/addictions.
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Old 10-17-2018, 10:19 AM   #28
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What is it with the idea that a man having a gay friend must be a repressed gay himself? It's this, if anything, that speaks of some sort of phobia on the part of the author (as opposed to one of her characters) - if we assume this is what she intended the reader to infer when Dick tells us that he and Magnus had been watching a choir-boy. I was inclined to ignore that because Dick's heterosexual preferences seemed otherwise more prevalent through the text.
I think you're right at that. Dick's obsession was with Isolda and not with Sir Otto; it was an emotion he shared with Roger.

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I had the impression that Dick's relationship with Vita and boys was good prior to the events of this book. There is an implicit trust and comfort among them in the early stages that speaks of better things in earlier times. Yes, I see Dick floundering when we meet him, but while some of that is the pressure of his choices, it remains unclear how much is the influence of the drug - and Magnus, for that matter. It seems apparent to me that Dick, and his relationship to Vita and boys, has already changed under the influence of all this by the time we start the book, and all we get are small glimpses of what it was like before, for the brief periods when Dick is able to put aside his obsessions/addictions.
One of Dick's comments about the boys, "But I could have done without them," seemed exceptionally cold to me. Especially given their father was dead; it would be more complicated with a living father. The boys' names, too, were significant, both American and infantilizing and even less than human. Impossible to see them with thinking Mickey Mouse and Teddy bear.
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Old 10-17-2018, 10:51 AM   #29
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[...] One of Dick's comments about the boys, "But I could have done without them," seemed exceptionally cold to me. Especially given their father was dead; it would be more complicated with a living father. The boys' names, too, were significant, both American and infantilizing and even less than human. Impossible to see them with thinking Mickey Mouse and Teddy bear.
I had taken "I could have done without them" to mean just then. Vita and the boys had arrived at an awkward time (it was all going to be awkward while he was obsessed/addicted), I imagined he could have done without all of them right then. Maybe it was meant more generally, which would be very cold, but perhaps make some allowance for Dick's mood at the time.

Maybe I have some sort of Americanophobia , but the names didn't strike me as anything other than appropriate for American kids of that era.
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Old 10-17-2018, 06:50 PM   #30
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I'll be weird with you, then. I especially like the Brigadoon comparison. On one level, I love Brigadoon; certainly my adolescent self did. But my adult self obsesses about things such as inbreeding and the changes wrought by millennia, which will happen very quickly. The "miracle" (and would a Scottish presbyter be likely to use that word which smacks a lot of bells and smells?) seemed very hard on poor Harry Beaton and others of his ilk, trapped forever, and if there was a way in for Tommy, why not a way out for the miserable? Doesn't do to think about it, really, or the show is ruined.
When Dick was repulsed by Vita putting on face cream, I immediately thought of Gene Kelly sitting in a Manhattan bar listening to vapid conversation just before he decides to return to Scotland. I don't like the ending, but I do love the music.

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What is it with the idea that a man having a gay friend must be a repressed gay himself? It's this, if anything, that speaks of some sort of phobia on the part of the author (as opposed to one of her characters) - if we assume this is what she intended the reader to infer when Dick tells us that he and Magnus had been watching a choir-boy. I was inclined to ignore that because Dick's heterosexual preferences seemed otherwise more prevalent through the text.
It wasn't the friendship per se that made Dick seem like a closeted gay man; it was the primacy of his relationship with Magnus and the disinterest in his wife. He and Vita are supposed to have been married only three years, and he's fine with a long separation, is mightily annoyed when she returns early, seems to prefer being alone to being with her and being part of a family unit. I forget if his age is given; I'm thinking forty-ish? Which means he married quite late in life, and I don't get that there's any grand passion involved; it seems more like he thought he should marry so as to conform to what society expects.

On the other hand, maybe he's mostly asexual. I think his fascination with Isolda indicates his passivity and his desire to remain uninvolved; he'd rather watch an unattainable, imaginary woman than have a meaningful life (vita!) with a real woman.
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