Friday, May 8, 2009

Book Review: something other than dragons

I'm attempting to write this with a cat pacing across my keyboard, so any typos this time can be laid at Mabel's feet. Literally.

Anne McCaffrey has been called the grand dame of sci-fi fantasy. If she's not THE grand dame, she's quite arguably one of them. She's probably best known for her dragons (Pern) or perhaps for the Crystal Singer books. But in addition to dragons she also dabbled in romantic suspense and novels, and if you've never run across any, do yourself a favor and look them up. I'll admit, the first time I picked up today's book, many years ago, I was anticipating dragons. What I discovered instead was realistic fiction, probably slightly more realistic than my mother would have appreciated at the time, but I enjoyed it. Enough so that years later I tracked down a paperback copy of my very own.

The Lady by Anne McCaffrey
By the time she's thirteen Catriona Carradynes is aware that all is not exactly well with her mother. The Caradynes are horse folk, bred to the bone for generations back. Catriona's mother is not. For Catriona, there is nothing better than horses, whether riden, breathed in, sketched or written about, they're pretty much all she thinks about. They're also everything her rigidly religious mother doesn't want for her youngest daughter.

Well and good, you may be thinking. It's another story about a teenage girl who loves horses and her overbearing parents.

But it's more than that. McCaffrey winds together emotionally charged strands of story - she doesn't pull back from sensitive issues, covering religion, divorce, abuse, the nature of love and foregiveness and growing up. This is no fairy tale, and the happy ending - okay, there is a happy ending - is hard fought, but well earned.

It's Catriona's story, but it's also the story of the Carradyne family, and a look at an Ireland in transition. (And there are plenty of horses, too.)

The Lady is one of my favorite books. It's not short - 370 pages for the paperback edition - and don't expect an easy read if you tend to get wrapped up in the characters' lives. But it's worth the time you'll invest. At least I think so.

Mabel and I are signing off now. She's decided to sleep across my arm on my lap. My hand is falling asleep, but she's happy. Anyone know any sayings about disturbing sleeping cats?

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