cahn: (Default)
...why yes, I'm still working on posting stuff I started back in August. So. The rest of the Tillerman Cycle (I'm not reading Homecoming), and these form a set for vaguely-spoilery reasons (see Seventeen Against the Dealer).

The Runner (4/5): The book about the "older generation" (mostly the Tillermans' dead uncle, Bullet, as a high school kid). Here we actually get to meet Francis/Frankie Verricker, the Tillermans' father, who's pretty much absent in the rest of the cycle. In terms of the overarching family theme of the cycle, this is the book where we see a family that fails (but because Voigt is so good at drawing characters and families as realistically complicated, this family also succeeds in some small and surprising ways), as opposed to all the other books, where we see families that are struggling to make things work in different kinds of ways, and by-and-large succeeding. It's also clearly the big setup for Come a Stranger, and the big emotional payoff of that one.

Sons From Afar (4/5): I really like this one. James and Sammy decide they need to find out about their dad. And they find — and I love this — that there are no easy answers and no good answers, in the end, there's just you and the people you love and what you choose to make of that. I think I like it because I like James, a lot; I love how he's smart and conflicted and tries to fit in and sacrifices his integrity for that and then finds that there's an integrity of the mind that he can't sacrifice. I love how he's cowardly and courageous at the same time. I'd love to find out what happened to him as a grownup.

I like the idea of Sammy and James both as different sides of Grandfather Tillerman — that between them they have all the sides that caused him to fail, and to fail his family, and to be unhappy, but because their family works, those same traits help them instead of hurting them.

Seventeen Against the Dealer (3+/5): Ummmmm. Yeah. It's a depressing book (though ultimately uplifting) and the one where Dicey loses her way before finding it again. The interesting thing about this one is Cisco Kidd.

I'm afraid I'm a very unironic reader of books that I love (though hand me some obnoxious YA dystopia, and we'll talk), and Cut. )
cahn: (Default)
These, with Come a Stranger, make up my favorite Tillerman books:

Dicey's Song (4/5): A young person of my acquaintance pointed out to me a while back that if something won the Newberry medal, it was likely because something horribly tragic happened near the end. So, y'know. This one won the Newberry.

I wasn't expecting to like this one on reread as much as I did, or be as emotionally engaged, but the end breaks me down every time. It isn't the main tragedy (or at least not just that): it's the part where Dicey and Gram go into the wood store afterwards. Because — and I'm quite fortunate, I know, to have only the most shallow of understandings of this -- sometimes it's not the thing that happens that breaks you, it's when someone gives you kindness you weren't expecting, or an acquaintance or stranger you wouldn't give two thoughts to otherwise, or vice versa, gives you a deep understanding you hadn't thought anyone could.

It's about reaching out, and letting go.

(Also, wow, after reading Come a Stranger, yeah, Dicey's interactions with Mina, like the bit where Dicey totally shuts Mina down when she wants to visit, totally could be interpreted by an observer as extremely racist if you weren't privy to Dicey's internal monologue or didn't know about her Issues.)

A Solitary Blue (5/5): I was afraid I wouldn't love this book as much as I did when I first read it, but no worries. I cannot explain why I adore this book so much. I don't see why it speaks to me in a way that none of the other Tillerman books quite do, but it does. I think it's because the way Jeff thinks internally is sort of kind of like the way I think internally, even though his experiences are nothing like mine, and he has some qualities I do not have. (And it's kind of amazing that she wrote almost every book with a different protagonist, and they all have different modes of internal thought.)

Also, man, totally setting up Jeff's particular Issues for Seventeen Against the Dealer.
cahn: (Default)
4/5. I seem to have fallen into a Tillerman series reread, in the sense that I picked up this book from the shelf a month ago while E was sick, was (as usual) stunned by how much I still loved it, and now I’m reading all the rest of them too, completely out of order (except possibly for Homecoming, which I find too painful to read and have never actually finished).

I like A Solitary Blue better than Come a Stranger, but let’s face it, I am hopelessly in love with the Tillerman series in general, and you’re just going to have to deal with my squeeing about all of them. So, you know, I have this huge bias going in. These books are the last set of books I’ve actually fallen in love with as an adult. (Bujold was the penultimate set. Sutcliff I know I would have fallen in love with had I read it as a kid, but now it’s just a strong like.)

Come a Stranger was the hardest one for me to find when I first read all of these around five (?) years ago (all the other ones were available from the library, and this one I had to request specially, although it has a respectable number of reviews on amazon, and has since been rereleased and my library now owns it, and I own it too). It is the one about a black girl, Mina Smiths, Dicey’s friend.

It is a wonderful book, like all the Tillerman books. Mina finds out that sometimes people are prejudiced against black people more than she thinks they are, but the book isn’t about that. She makes friends with Dicey, and in the process finds out that people aren’t always as prejudiced as she thinks they are, but the book isn’t about that. We see some of the events of Dicey’s Song from Mina’s point of view, but the book isn’t about that. Mina has a quasi-romantic entanglement (slightly more about that later) but the book is most emphatically not about that.

It’s about — it’s about life, and the relationships we make, and love, and growing up, and living in the world. It’s about being human and what makes us human.

One of the things it’s about, without making a big deal out of it, is — Mina’s family. It’s very background, no attention is paid to it at all. There’s no huge drama or conflict; the interfamily conflicts that do exist are the kinds of short-term ones that every family has, and in fact the biggest family drama in the book has nothing to do with Mina herself. And yet on this reread I found myself noticing very strongly how Mina’s family plays into who Mina herself is, and how that compares and contrasts with how Dicey’s family plays into who Dicey is, and Jeff’s family, and Dicey’s mother’s family, and how their strengths and weaknesses are supported or exacerbated by family… I think this whole series is a seven-book rumination on family. And I love that. And I love that it manages to do so in such a quiet way that I never really explicitly noticed until now. (Of course it’s hard not to realize it for the Tillermans themselves! But the themes are deeper than I realized. I even think that each book taken by itself is not necessarily about family, but the cycle as a whole is clearly about family.)

So one thing that is more in the foreground is that Mina falls in love with — well, someone where a working romantic relationship is not at all possible. And there are so many ways this could have gone terribly wrong, and in another author's hands it would have, and it — doesn’t. It’s exactly right, in my estimation.

(I probably won’t natter on quite so much about all the other books, but this one is special to me, if only because it was so hard for me to find.)
cahn: (Default)
In case anyone else is interested. (This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are the things I think would be most fun to read in the company of others.)

In the next week: John M. Ford’s Klingon novel, The Final Reflection (reread), in the hopes [personal profile] sineala will also reread. If anyone else does read this, and even if you don’t, I shall ask all the dumb questions I still don’t understand about this book. (I seem to remember some confusion about Maxwell Grandisson III and Van Diemen and who was responsible for whose fate. We shall see!)

In the next month or so: Cynthia Voigt’s Tillerman cycle (reread), completely out of order, and probably not including Homecoming, which I find so painful I’ve never actually gotten all the way through it. I’ve got a post on Come a Stranger queued, and probably will read The Runner, Sons from Afar, and Seventeen Against the Dealer in that order. Then probably I’ll give Homecoming a stab, and then Dicey’s Song and A Solitary Blue. (I, um, don't recommend this order if you're reading it for the first time. Start with Dicey's Song or Solitary Blue and work more-or-less in order of publication.)

In the next three months: Moby-Dick. I say three months because what with various Summer Plans I suspect it will take me that long to get through it, although of course I hope it doesn’t take that long!

In the fall: Cordwainer Smith’s short stories with [personal profile] duckwhatduck! And possibly some Baudelaire. I've never read any Baudelaire, but apparently "Drunkboat" would make a lot more sense if I had.

(Fall reading will, of course, be ramping up to Yuletide, so if there's anything else I should read for Yuletide then feel free to lecture me about it ;) I think maybe I should read Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London novels? What else?)


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