This installment: Le Guin revisited (f); an English prep school under stress (f); and an outrageous English comedy of manners (f).
Powers by Ursula Le Guin
The third in a trilogy but it was fine to just hop on. Our protagonist has two powers: visions of the past and future and the ability to memorize just about anything. As a slave he educates the masters’ children but brutal things keep happening and he has to flee. A interlude in the forest which seems like an improvement but this “freedom” is dominated by a gross despot. Then back to the marshlands from which he sprang. However his gifts are thwarted there. (Only women have access to stories. Identified as a seer, he discovers the initiation is rigid and dangerous.) So following another vision he flees again to a place of learning—a university that embraces him—at last. Big in scope, well fleshed out, and very moving. RIP, Ursula, but here she lives again.
Different Class by Joanne Harris
Oh those venerable English prep schools, so steeped in tradition. But times change and now the Latin master, aptly named Straitly, is being forced out. But there’s a scandal afoot: another fine teacher is being unfairly persecuted by the manipulative new head of school who happens to have been one of Straitly’s less than stellar old students. Action flips from the origin of the scandal in ’81 to present day, ’05. There are excerpts from a student diary of one of the perpetrators, complete with nicknames, and this can get a little confusing. Straitly, for all his fustiness, is a brave fellow. Suspense, local color, social commentary and a good yarn.
A Dubious Legacy by Mary Wesley
This author is so outrageous and I really had to suspend disbelief but when I did, I had lots of fun. Henry has a beautiful farm and a very unpleasant wife, Margaret, who took to her bed when she arrived from Egypt to join him and has been intractable and unmovable ever since. Pilar and son Ebro, rescued from Franco by Henry’s father, keep things running. Two couples are betrothed on the property and we follow their lives through a number of decades; the young women are best friends. Henry has a role in providing at least two of their offspring. (Don’t ask…) There’s a cockatoo which meets a bad end, two faithful hounds, and the” Js,” old queens who have a very stable relationship. Quite a cast o’ characters! We finally find out why Henry married Margaret and put up with her bad behavior for all those years. Rapturous descriptions of the countryside. A romp of a read.
Back next week.