Tuesday, December 22, 2015

She is...

Well, definitely She is a product of its time. I probably would have thrown the book at the wall if there had been one more mention of the rarity of the gloomy African. Or about how fantastic Ayesha was and how much in love Holly was with her.

To be honest, I will probably not read another Henry Rider Haggard Novel. Not because of the misogyny or the racism, both of which definitely existed, but because this book read very similar to Queen Sheba's Ring and the novelty is lost. Basically Haggard's novels follow the same plot line, a group of people go adventure in Africa, they find some lost civilization or the remains of a dying one, they're amazed by the people and the technology, they fall in love with a female character, they escape after pissing all of the native people off. Now granted in She, the escape was after the death of Ayesha, the female character they fell in love with, who murdered Ustane, the other female character they were in love with. And personally I still feel like Job didn't have to die. I feel like as a writer, Haggard only threw in that premonition to make extra pages and then following through on the most obvious piece of foreshadowing, he killed him. And then to kill him from fright, come on! I might as well add that Haggard is also classist since Job was apparently so lowborn that his feeble brain could not comprehend anything more than fear.

Despite my issues with the book, Haggard is a rather enjoyable writer. He does a very good job painting a picture in only a few words, mostly avoiding purple prose. (There were one or two moments where Holly dove off into the purple prose field.) The action is also relatively well placed and I went through the book quickly, when I wasn't working on my Thesis.

Now part of my complaints come from the fact that She was originally produced as a serial. She is one of Haggard's most popular novels and, as late as 1965, the book has been published in over 44 different languages. She is also a foundational work of fantasy literature, which considering the powers that Ayesha wields is understandable. This may be why I love and hate the book so much because the whole concept of who Ayesha was and the whole civilization of Kor were so fascinating. Really I wanted more of that and instead I got Holly's misogyny.

I guess I leave She with mixed feelings. On the one hand I enjoy Haggard's descriptive writing. Reading his book is like finding a dwarven ruin I haven't explored in Skyrim. As an adventure novel the book works. Although the characters aren't particularly likeable, you can't help but care for them anyway. Except Ayesha, she is a monster and I am still mad at her for what she did to Ustane. But the very fact that I feel that anger at Ayesha proves how good a writer Haggard is. On the other hand the book is definitely a product of its time and all the prejudice that came out of that period of history. (Which as a nineteenth and early twentieth century historian I can say is a lot. A LOT.)

Given the subject matter I can see why my Great Grandfather had this book on his shelf. I imagine he read it as a boy or, if he read it as an adult, with perhaps some of the enjoyment he would have felt as a boy. That said, reading the same books my Great Grandparents read is starting to make clear to me where my own love of Sci-fi and Fantasy comes from. Nine times out of ten I will reach for a fantasy novel over say a mystery. I wonder if my own choice in books comes from a preference passed down through the generations of my family - either genetically or culturally. 

For my next book I think I'm going to look at one that is Non-fiction, or kinda close. That's right! I'm going to read One Hundred Cases for Life After Death.

Till next time, fellow readers.