the pleasure of talking about books

Some long time ago I mentioned here that I was pining for a few smart people who would be wlling to discuss Dunnett’s Niccolo Rising series with me, because I’ve re-read them so many times and still they churn away in my head. Finally I appealed to two local friends, both very busy, very smart women who were in a bookgroup I once belonged to. Neither of them were familiar with Dunnet, but I made a pitch and they, good people both of them, agreed to give it a try.

Two nights ago we had our first Niccolo discussion over dinner, which I cooked for them out of gratitude, and with real delight.

First, I was worried that they would not like Niccolo. My tastes are eclectic, my appetite for history boundless, and I couldn’t be sure they wouldn’t just run in the opposite direction because as I’ve said before, these novels are not for the faint of heart. The story is consuming, the characters tremendously complicated and intriguing, but Dunnett does not coddle her readers, and you’ve got to be up for a challenge. Then Audrey came in and said, I’m in love with these books, I can’t put them down and Cheryl came in and said, I think Niccolo Rising may be the best book I’ve ever read (this from a woman who has read everything, and knows The Name of the Rose amost by heart), and I felt like I had found long lost sisters.

So we ate well and luxuriated after dinner with truffles and strawberries and talked and talked and talked about Niccolo, his motivations, his intelligence, the world he lives in, the people he loves and the people he doesn’t love. When they left I felt like a seventeen year old girl after her first real, successful date.

Next week we meet to discuss book two, Spring of the Ram. When we are all done, we are thinking, a trip to Bruges would be in order.

5 Replies to “the pleasure of talking about books”

  1. Hello Sara,

    I so enjoy your Weblog. I became hooked after reading Into the Wilderness. These Nicclol books sound interesting. My library webpage lists them but I’ve no idea in which order they are supposed to be read. Could you assist me be listing them in order please?

    Thank You,
    Cynthia in Florida

  2. You are telling the truth when you say Dunnet doesn’t coddle her readers. I have the first three books in the Lymond series but I quit about half way through the first one. I keep saying I’m going to get back to it but it takes focused concentration to read her writing. I found the point of view was a little challenging to me.

    I know you love historical tales and I was wondering if you’ve ever read Philippa Gregory. I just finished her new release THE QUEEN’S FOOL and I really enjoyed it. Just picked up THE OTHER BOYLEN GIRL too. You don’t have a review on either of these and I wondered if you have read them? If so, what did you think?

  3. Sara, Recently several members of my book group read/reread The House of Nicollo. I managed to hang with them through Scales of Gold which was my favorite of the first three but gave up in To Lie with Lions. Gelis and her goings on finally did me in.

    But while I agree with you that Nick is a wonderful character, Thorfinn is my man. (King Hereafter) The very best of Dunnett’s men in my opinion.

    My group is going to start a reread of Lymond in April.


  4. Jeanette! I’m so happy you stopped by.

    I have yet to read King Hereafter, but it is on my list. It’s great that you are still carrying on your discussions.

    I know a lot of people have trouble with Niccolo once things go wrong with Gelis, but I finally forced myself to read the following books carefully and I found it worth the trouble; I even got to the point where I could see what DD was up to, and accept (if not appreciate) it. I have also really, really tried, and failed, to like the Lymond books even half as much.

    Cynthia (and Barbara) — if you want to give Niccolo a try, there’s a lot of information (including a list of the books in order) here at the official site. I haven’t read Philippa Gregory yet, but she’s now on my TBR list. I’ll let you know when I get that far.


  5. Thank you for this great site.

    I was searching for details of “the 9 point arc of plotting” !! when I stumbled on to it.
    I love Niccolo & Lymond too .. I reread them every two or 3 years & still find things I missed. I love the way DD makes you work .. sometimes the only clue to what is going on in Niccolo’s mind is some seemingly random quote, which you have to trace back & back & suddenly.. the light dawns!
    One of my great delights in travelling is visiting places she descibes so vividly. Having read those books gives so many places so much resonance .. the bells of Venice wouldn’t sound the same to someone who does not have “Pray silence for the master of the house has come.” ringing silently in their ears, would they?
    Anyway, enough gushing. Thanks again. When I write my great novel I’ll send you a copy in gratitude! Ha ha!

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