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Book Review: Lud-in-the-Mist

ludinthemistLud-in-the-Mist had been on my radar for quite a while: it popped up in my Goodreads recommendations all the time. I read the blurb, and it sounded like something I’d like, except that my local library doesn’t have it and I couldn’t find an inexpensive copy. Until Amazon got the Kindle version, and it randomly appeared one day in the Kindle Daily Deals. I was like, whaaaaat? Click. Download. I finished Pretty Monsters and dug in.I read a lot of fantasy when I’m stressed out. It helps me forget about what’s going on for a while and relax my mind. It takes me somewhere else, I guess. (Though Hemingway‘s For Whom the Bell Tolls did that, too. After I finished reading it, I was stuck in the hills of Spain for hours. Also: why did I start blogging so late? I talk about all these books I’ve read, and there’s no blog post to link them. Ugh.) Right now, the plan is to stick to fantasy for a few books.

ANYWAY. Off to Lud.

I’m not sure where this book fits age-wise. It seems to be stuck in teen fiction, but it’s not, really. The main character is a middle-aged mayor – most of the kids run off. Which brings me to the plot. You’ve already got the middle-aged mayor part and the Lud part. It’s a city close to the border of Fairyland, but it’s citizens don’t like fairies and any words associated with them are considered dirty. They don’t like imagination or creativity: they like money and the law. But Fairyland is creeping in by way of fairy fruit, which is smuggled into Lud. Many citizens eat it and go a little crazy or run off to Fairyland. That includes the mayor’s children and lots of the other politicians’, too. And Things Happen.

I really enjoyed this novel, though the fact that it bleeds allegory irritated me a little bit. It’s the Most Obvious Allegory Ever about the importance of imagination and creativity, which, I guess is why it gets put in the teen boat. None of that makes it a bad novel – it’s just a little corny, and corny can be soothing. Lud-in-the-Mist is considered a classic. It’s 1920s fantasy before Tolkien and was very influential among fantasy writers, including Neil Gaiman, who loves it. (He has a new novel coming out very soon, by the way.) It’s also the best-known novel Hope Mirrlees wrote (which, I guess, isn't saying very much). She sounds like an interesting character.

So read the book if you like fantasy. I certainly liked it.

Bonus: Hope Mirrlees wrote the best description of a sunrise I think I’ve ever read. Here it is:

It was not so much a modification of the darkness, as a sigh of relief, a slight relaxing tension, so that one felt, rather than saw, that the night had suddenly lost a shade of its density…ah! yes; there! between these two shoulders of the hills she is bleeding to death.

At first the spot was merely a degree less black than the rest of the sky. The it turned grey, then yellow, then red. And the earth was undergoaing the same transformation. Here and there patches of greyness broke out in the blackness of the grass, and after a few secondsone saw that they were clumps of flowers. Then the greyness became filtered with a delicate sea-green; and next, one realized that the grey-green belonged to the foliage, against which the petals were beginning to show white–and then pink, or yellow, or blue; but a yellow like that of primroses, a blue like that of certain wild periwinkles, colors so elusive that one suspects them to be due to some passing accident of light, and that, were one to pick the flower, it would prove pure white.

Ah, there can be no doubt of it now! The blues and yellows are real and perdurable. Color is steadily flowing through the veins of the earth, and we may take heart, for she will soon be restored to life again. But had we kept one eye on the sky we should have noticed that a star was quenched with every flower that reappeared on earth. And now the valley is again red and gold with vineyards, the hills are clothed with pines, and the Dapple is rosy.

Then a cock crowed, and another answered it, and then another–a ghostly sound, which, surely, did not belong to the smiling, triumphant earth, but rather to one of thise distant dying stars.

 
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