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King Hereafter

de Dorothy Dunnett

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8192226,942 (4.17)115
Back in print by popular demand--"A stunning revelation of the historical Macbeth, harsh and brutal and eloquent." --Washington Post Book World. With the same meticulous scholarship and narrative legerdemain she brought to her hugely popular Lymond Chronicles, our foremost historical novelist travels further into the past.nbsp;nbsp;In King Hereafter, Dorothy Dunnett's stage is the wild, half-pagan country of eleventh-century Scotland.nbsp;nbsp;Her hero is an ungainly young earl with a lowering brow and a taste for intrigue.nbsp;nbsp;He calls himself Thorfinn but his Christian name is Macbeth. Dunnett depicts Macbeth's transformation from an angry boy who refuses to accept his meager share of the Orkney Islands to a suavely accomplished warrior who seizes an empire with the help of a wife as shrewd and valiant as himself.nbsp;nbsp;She creates characters who are at once wholly creatures of another time yet always recognizable--and she does so with such realism and immediacy that she once more elevates historical fiction into high art.… (mais)
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How do you review a book you’ve lived with for two months, a book you loved at first, a book that let you down? I’ll try, I’ll try ;)

The life of historical Macbeth is quite different from Shakespeare’s version, and I was excited to read a novel about him. The writing hooked me, it felt so right for the times and the characters – there was a cadence of Icelandic sagas in the background, which was lovely. I am not an expert on European history of the 11th century, so there was a lot of fascinating stuff in the book: the end of the Viking Age; the melting-pot of cultures and languages in Northern Europe; kings and queens and earls and bishops and emperors and popes. Let’s not forget the intrigues and the battles (naval battles with longships!).

I loved Thorfinn (Macbeth) and Groa his wife. The romance was cringy, to be honest-“I’m treating you abominably, because I am in love with you and I am afraid of loving you.” Sigh.
Their marriage, after”the Macbeths”learned how to relationship, was wonderfully described and made me feel for them both. (My favourite part was Groa ruling her own lands by herself, though.)

My buddy readers disliked the chapters about Thorfinn’s journey to Rome. I think that my fascination with and love for Rome helped in this case. The descriptions were beautiful, despite the political maneuvering that went on and on, chapter after chapter.

“The voices rose, and fresco and mosaic gave them back. Gold sparkled and winked through the mists of burned spices.”

“Below the liquid eyes of the Prophets, among the clear peacock wings of the angels, his men stood behind in the aisles and forgot who they were and where they came from.”

But why the disappointment?

This is a very ambitious book, with a lot of passion for history, and for Scotland’s nation-building. Unfortunately, it means that as the book went on and the author forgot about her editors (if she had them in the first place, which I doubt), there was more and more history and less and less historical fiction. In the meantime, I just wanted “a Dorothy Dunnett novel”, with characters that I would love, hate, despise, admire, root for, cry over. This is what the first four books of the Lymond Chronicles taught me to expect. Nope, it wasn't to be. The characters kept getting flatter and flatter and flatter. They were crushed by the weight of history, I suppose. Ha ha! The endless info dumps made my head swim, my eyes glazed over. I couldn’t tell all the secondary characters and historical figures apart any more.

It’s interesting that history started crushing everything after Rognvald (an amazing character, he was very Dunnett ;) ) disappeared from the book. I’m guessing that it was the end of the Viking age for the other characters, so that they could go about nation-building. This insight doesn’t help me much, the info dumps were still boring and unnecessary. It was frustrating to find flashes of brilliance in there, and imagine what this book could have been like.

The last two chapters were excellent, they made my heart ache. But now what I mostly feel is “Phew. Freedooom! Freedoooom! Freedooooom!” ( )
  Alexandra_book_life | Mar 4, 2024 |
hardback
  SueJBeard | Feb 14, 2023 |
Here's what I wrote about this read in 2008: "Required some online review to recall, but . . . Now remember a more generous treatment (than Shakespeare's) of MacBeth, who is Thorfinn in Dunnett's novel of this Scottish King and his capable Lady." ( )
  MGADMJK | Sep 22, 2022 |
the real Macbeth
  ritaer | Jun 20, 2021 |
This doorstopper tome of a novel is the story of the Earl (and, yes, King later) Thorfinn of Orkney. It suggests that Thorfinn was in fact the historical character we know of as Macbeth. The story takes place in roughly 1050 AD in what we would call Scotland, which was known as Moray, Caithness, Orkney, and (a bit later) Alba.
This is definitely literary historical fiction. I had mixed feelings upon reaching the conclusion (which, reading every night, still took over a month to do!). On the positive side, several of the characters, most notably Thorfinn himself, are well-portrayed, interesting and complex. Thorfinn is analytical, moody, and tends to be cold emotionally (though this latter changes a bit as the story opens up). The analysis of 11th century politics is deep, complex, and probably very accurate. The plot is anything but straightforward. There's a lot of depth here, which serious readers will like. King Hereafter could easily be characterized as "deep reading". For these readers, this might well be a 5-star read.

On the flip side, well, there might be rather TOO much depth for many. There are pages (and pages and pages) of description of political plotting and obscure genealogical points, which the plot often hinges upon. By the time I'd reached the book's halfway point I felt very weary of reading political analysis. Also, battles are most often rendered with a few simple sentences, rather than getting into the thick of things. (Though there are a few exceptions, notably the last 20% or so of the book.) Coming at 11th century English historical fiction from more of a Bernard Cornwell type POV, this was hard to adjust to. In short, this is far from a "real page-turner".

In summary, those looking for some serious literary historical fiction may well enjoy sinking their teeth into this. Those looking for something a bit easier to dip into, or detailed descriptions of medieval warfare, should probably look elsewhere. ( )
  caimanjosh | Dec 4, 2018 |
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Dorothy Dunnettautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Eisenman, SaraDesigner da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Hood, AlunArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Back in print by popular demand--"A stunning revelation of the historical Macbeth, harsh and brutal and eloquent." --Washington Post Book World. With the same meticulous scholarship and narrative legerdemain she brought to her hugely popular Lymond Chronicles, our foremost historical novelist travels further into the past.nbsp;nbsp;In King Hereafter, Dorothy Dunnett's stage is the wild, half-pagan country of eleventh-century Scotland.nbsp;nbsp;Her hero is an ungainly young earl with a lowering brow and a taste for intrigue.nbsp;nbsp;He calls himself Thorfinn but his Christian name is Macbeth. Dunnett depicts Macbeth's transformation from an angry boy who refuses to accept his meager share of the Orkney Islands to a suavely accomplished warrior who seizes an empire with the help of a wife as shrewd and valiant as himself.nbsp;nbsp;She creates characters who are at once wholly creatures of another time yet always recognizable--and she does so with such realism and immediacy that she once more elevates historical fiction into high art.

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