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Topic: August BOM- Black Ships Discussion: Pages 305- 397

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Subject: August BOM- Black Ships Discussion: Pages 305- 397
Date Posted: 8/1/2008 10:40 AM ET
Member Since: 3/18/2007
Posts: 782
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The fourth and final discussion section. The place to post your thoughts on the final chapters of the book and a general discussion of your feelings of the book overall.

Debbie - ,
Date Posted: 8/6/2008 6:59 AM ET
Member Since: 10/7/2007
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I have finished the book and here are my thoughts.  I did find it dry in places.  My favorite part was when they were in Egypt.  I don't know why but when she described the little boats with the lights in them floating down the river and since I live on the Mississippi, I had a neat picture in my mind of these watching these little lights just bobbing up and down and floating away.  Goofy I know.  I did not however like the end of the book.  It's like someone told her that she had to finish the book in 20 pages or less and she needed some huge event to take place.  It just seems a little far fetched to me that Neoptolemos (I don't have my book anymore so I don't think I spelled that right) "found" them.  I know that when one seeks vengeance it can be a very powerful motivator but it just seemed odd after all those years they appeared.  I also didn't like the fact that Xandros and his son had to die.  That was very sad.  There were very few details about the battle it's like they went off in a cloud of dust and returned in a cloud of dust.  Poof they were victorious.  I just felt she rushed the ending.

I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Date Posted: 8/6/2008 11:20 AM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
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I agree with Debbie about the end of the book.  I looked at what was left and thought  "how is she ever going to wrap all this up?"  It is pretty obvious that this is a first book although I have also read many first works that were much tighter in plot and writing.  There were elements that I really enjoyed like Gull herself and the foray into Egypt, but overall this one was just okay.

Date Posted: 8/6/2008 1:09 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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It's like someone told her that she had to finish the book in 20 pages or less and she needed some huge event to take place.

I don't know. I didn't think it was rushed. Perhaps Graham could have better explained that her story was a spin-off of just the first 6 books of Virgil's poem.

In Lavinia, the shade of Virgil explains his disatisfaction with the ending of the first 6 books. Lavinia gives him hell for ending the poem with a wedding. Le Guin is a more seasoned writer, which perhaps gives her a leg up over Graham in how to handle the Aeneid for a modern audience.

Debbie - ,
Date Posted: 8/6/2008 4:19 PM ET
Member Since: 10/7/2007
Posts: 731
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Genie - How many books are there to the Aeneid?



Last Edited on: 8/6/08 5:24 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/6/2008 7:32 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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According to what I've read about it (because I've never read the Aeneid, which I understand is in Latin), there are 2 parts, consisting of 6 books each.

Date Posted: 8/6/2008 7:34 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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What do you all think about the classification of this book as historical fantasy? To me, fantasy is dragons and imaginary lands or wizards and magic. Black Ships strikes me as more plain old historical fiction.

Debbie - ,
Date Posted: 8/6/2008 8:43 PM ET
Member Since: 10/7/2007
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Thanks Genie.

Date Posted: 8/6/2008 9:37 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
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I'm not really sure that I would have labeled this one as fantasy fiction since the  epics it is based from are really considered classical literature correct?

Date Posted: 8/7/2008 7:46 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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Yes, the Aeneid is classical literature.

Date Posted: 8/8/2008 2:26 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
Posts: 1,356
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I've finished too. I remarked on the pgs 1-103 thread earlier that I was looking for context--well, I found it---at the BACK in the Author's Note. Had that been up front, it would have 'placed the book for me' and I would have been a lot happier as I read it.

Genie, the Aeneid has been translated into English, I understand there are several versions widely regarded as the best---and I can unfortunately confirm this as I read small excerpts from it in high school  (Catholic, Ursuline nuns following a Jesuit curriculum, humongously traditional/classical education, didn't appreciate any of it til I was oh, 35).  I was thinking it felt familiar after they left Egypt, that this was sort of familiar, but I honestly didn't place it until the author's note.

As for calling it historical fantasy vs historical fiction, I agree with you 100%--nothing fantastical or that coudn't have happened in reality based on our era's known l, just a reimagining of what might have happened.  Cheryl, I think of literature as fiction that has for watever reason been eleveated beyond popular or current fiction to become timeless or is otherwise original in some way--sort of fiction plus.  Classic literature is, to me, literature that has been around for a while and is today widely read as such.  Genie's hit the nail on the head--Black Ships is not fantasy, just fiction.

I'm afraid I could not be as generous as Debbie with her rating of 3.5 out of 5--I'd give it a 2, maybe 2.5. I'd encourage friends to read it if they asked me about it specifically, but it would not be one I'd recommend.

Upon reflection, my favorite part of the book was the crossing of the River into the underworld. I loved the idea that each of those who went had to confront what they wanted most and consciously decide whether to stay or not---that lends a 'presentness' to their lives that I love to see in mine, and others, today--as in, one is not a sheep following the herd through the tasks of life, but one is embracing the opportunity that life offers and wringing from it the things that are individually satisfying.  I thought both this idea and her writing of it the best in the book.

The Latinum 'merger' and last battle were just too pat for me, and I do agree with Debbie and Cheryl--she was in a hurry to conclude and just raced through it--we'd been getting daily recounts through Egypt and the last sailing and all of the sudden, nine years, 20 years, is gone.....

Had I had the context provided in the Author's Note up front, I think I would have better enjoyed this story, knowing what Graham was trying to do. Not having had it, I found it a simplistic story, mostly travelogue and pretty lightweight on the historical detail piece--almost bedtime story-ish, if that makes sense--a melody, but no subtle chords, crescendoes, etc.  Very little internal reflection, even from Gull--she had the most self aware character, but still wasn't too deep.

 

Date Posted: 8/8/2008 3:44 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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Great analysis, Colleen! I think I might be an easy grader as I gave the book 4 out 5. (My students might disagree!)

Had a chuckle at your Catholic education comment.

Date Posted: 8/9/2008 9:04 AM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
Posts: 1,356
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it gets worse, Genie--followed that w/ a Jesuit university education---but all that combined certainly has stood me well and taught me to think for myself

I reread my comments and truly didn't mean to be so negative--I think Graham began with a fantastic idea, to fill in the human/historical cracks in a piece of classical literature; I just think her editor should have pushed her harder to bring it 'up' a level.  It is still a good first novel effort, and many many writers mature into a style as they continue to write---so I will watch Graham, read her next book, and see how she and her work develops.  And all of this is just my own opinion on what makes a tale satisfying to me.

Date Posted: 8/9/2008 11:15 AM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
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I didn't think you were overly negative, Colleen. You were disappointed, especially in the beginning. Nothing wrong with that.

Besides, if we all agreed, what would we have to discuss. (Just don't get Valli and me started. LOL!)

Date Posted: 8/9/2008 1:18 PM ET
Member Since: 6/1/2007
Posts: 1,891
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Ok, I finished the book also and I totally did not see Xandros dying towards the end.   I thought once he came back from the underworld he was good to go :)  I thought this was an ok read and would give it 3 out of 5.  I liked the characters but I didn't really get engrossed until the end.  Also I made the mistake of reading the little whos who of characters a couple of days ago and saw that Gull and Xandros had sons.  This was about 50 pages before it happened in the book so that was kind of ruined for me too.  I'm glad it didn't go too romance on me.  I think I would have liked it more if I wouldn't have made the mistake of reading the stuff in the back 3/4 of the way through I probably would have liked it more :)



Last Edited on: 8/9/08 1:18 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/13/2008 8:42 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
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I just finished. I'm "eh" the book.  Liked it, but certainly didn't love it, and I too thought the end was rushed.  However if they had 9+ years of  peace, it probably would've made for a boring story.  LOL! 

I asked this in one of the other threads.  I still didn't get the significance of Ashterah to Xandros?  What was up with that?  I mean that's who Xandros sought in the Land of the Dead?  Not his dead wife or his daughters?  I guess I can't quite figure out how Xandros meeting up with Ashterah again helped Xandros - unless it was to alleviate any guilt or responsibility Xandros felt for Ashterah's death. 

Well, I've missed Uhtred!  Off to start Lords of the North! After that it should be about time for the September BOM, which I'll have to get from the library.

 



Last Edited on: 8/13/08 8:45 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/14/2008 7:44 PM ET
Member Since: 7/21/2008
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Genie, I think that was telling with Xandros when he met with Ashterah in the Underworld is that he was given the option to stay with her and he chose to go back to Gull and his child.  He addressed his fears of losing a family he leave again, and chose to take the risk.

I agree that this book took way too long to make me feel engaged in the characters....by the end I did get more involved in them personally, but it took way too long for me to get there.  As Colleen points out, the good thing that Graham did  here was fill in some of the human elements in the historical fiction, I just wish she had done it sooner.  I would give this book a 2.5 out of 5 stars, and with so many books in my TBR pile I doubt I'd rush to read another Graham effort.

Date Posted: 8/14/2008 7:49 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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unless it was to alleviate any guilt or responsibility Xandros felt for Ashterah's death.

You got it!

I think that was telling with Xandros when he met with Ashterah in the Underworld is that he was given the option to stay with her and he chose to go back to Gull and his child.  He addressed his fears of losing a family he leave again, and chose to take the risk.

I agree. It wasn't until after Xandros came out from the Land of the Dead that he was ready to commit to Gull.

OK, now, was I the only one who liked the book?! ;-)

Date Posted: 8/15/2008 4:16 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
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Did anyone else get the feeling Xandros and Gull were almost "settling" for each other? I mean they certainly had deep feelings for each other but it seemed as though they both truly desired Neas, and Xandros also really seemed to desire Ashterah.  Maybe that was because he/she was dead and it was guilt more than love that drove Xandros to the depression he went into after he/she died. I don't know.  I guess it just seemed to me that I needed to be convincd that Xandros and Gull were truly in love in the passionate sense. 

Oh, and what was with their sudden exit when they were by Mt. Vesuvius?  Gull had a feeling and they moved NOW! I was thinking the volcano was about to blow or something.  I mean I could see Gull being told by her Lady to keep moving on so that they would find their eventual destination but for it to come upon her so suddenly as to make the people leave with such haste seemed weird.

Genie - LOL!  I liked the book, I just didn't love it! 

Date Posted: 8/15/2008 7:45 PM ET
Member Since: 12/10/2005
Posts: 2,851
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Shelley, Good! I was beginning to feel like the odd girl out. LOL!

On the Xandros/Gull thing, I think Gull fell for him early on. She actually had a chance with Aeneas and declined. Remember when he kissed her? I think their delay in coming together was because of the guilt Xandros felt over the death of his wife and children.

I vaguely remember the Mt. Vesuvius passage. My impression was that Gull felt a trembling like the beginnings of an eruption. But this is only a vague recollection.