Sunday, October 5, 2008

Thrones, Dominations

I've been reading the Dorothy Sayers/Jill Paton Walsh book Thrones, Dominations, which Sayers never finished and Walsh was commissioned to write from Sayers' notes. I'm not finished with it and may not continue.

It's not that the book is bad, but it's not really very good. And it's not a murder mystery. I'm to chapter six now--89 pages in--and there's no hint of a body hitting the floor any time soon. That's not all that unusual for Sayers; in fact, I can never even remember if Gaudy Night even has a murder, much as I love the book and as many times as I've read it. The mystery in Gaudy Night (and to some extent Busman's Honeymoon) takes a back seat to Sayers' literary romance between Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. They're delicious books, wonderful in every possible way.

I wish I could say the same about Thrones, Dominations, but so far I'm disappointed. It's not a murder mystery, and it's not a literary romance. It's a historical novel trying to seem literary. It doesn't matter if the parts I've read were penned by Sayers or Walsh (if it's Sayers, I strongly suspect most of it would have been cut from the final draft), the book goes into such minutiae of the times--furnishings, clothes, fashions--and the minutiae takes such a central role, that this is flat out a historical novel and nothing more.

One thing I'm finding frustrating is the constant viewpoint shifts. Sayers did this frequently, but the central characters were always Peter and/or Harriet, depending on which novel you read. So far, the first 89 pages of Thrones, Dominations have very little of either Peter or Harriet and too much of lots of other people, none of whom show the least sign of being murdered. The writing is good enough to keep me reading past the third chapter mark (where I usually allow myself to abandon a book if I'm not enjoying it enough), but it's just not engaging me on any level beyond light curiosity as to who is going to die or if maybe no one will. In which case, why am I reading this book, since it doesn't seem to have a plot?


Carrie Harris said...

Yeah, I can't make myself read Thrones, Dominations. I'm prejudiced against books finished by people other than the original writer. There. I've said it.

But seriously? Peter and Harriet are just too cool to screw around with.

K.C. Shaw said...

Yeah, I'm really disappointed. It doesn't have the life or the excitement of Sayers' actual books. At least I can go back and reread the original ones, though!