Author: Nicola Griffith
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: abandoned (1 / 5)
So, I’ve been struggling with Hild: A Novel–or as I think of it, Hild: Nicola Griffith Did Her Research and She Really, Really Wants You to Know It–for almost a month now. I am only halfway through the thing. I’ve been thinking the whole time that, gosh, there are probably people who would love this book and devour it and celebrate its own unique intricacies, and how unfortunate it is that I am not even close to being one of those people. I do really love some things about the book–the political intrigue, the interesting and fascinating characters, and Hild’s experiences most of all. At the same time, I would rather do just about anything than read it. I was finding any excuse to put it down, from doing my homework to taking out the trash to really tedious stuff like renaming files on my computer. Usually I read to try and avoid doing that stuff, which should tell you something about how Hild landed with me. The actual reading of it was pretty much not at all enjoyable.
To give you a taste, here is a random sample: “Two days latter, sitting in the meddaeg sun in the ruins of Broac, Brocavum that was, Cian was still lost in tales of Yr Hen Ogledd, this time of Ceneu and Gorbanian, the sons of Coel Hen, as told by Uinniau, Rhoedd’s younger sister-son, who had ridden with them to the remains of the fort.”
The whole thing is basically like that. There is so much detail but it’s the wrong kind of detail for me. There seem to be lots of these types of sentences whose ostensible goal is to build some kind of authentic atmosphere, but so far they’ve all been dead ends; they’re just window dressing. The way I read books is that I assume that what the author is saying is, you know, somehow significant to the story. You drop Broac, Brocavum, Yr Hen Ogledd, Unniau, Rhoedd and their younger sister-son, Coel Hen and his sons, Gorbanian and Ceneu on me all in one sentence, I am going to try to commit all that to memory because it could be important later. But it’s not–at least it has not been so far. It doesn’t matter if you know who Rhoedd is–so why mention Rhoedd and the younger sister-son and Broac-or-was-that-Brocavum at all? Meanwhile Hild’s story itself jumps along without enough character development or information about her daily and/or inner life for my tastes. It is actually really really frustrating, because I am interested in what Breguswith is up to, and I care about Hild and her sister and her friends and her ~~wyrd~~ (it means FATE). But I can’t read about the captivating Hild when Ms. Griffith is so aggressively pushing the “…half a mile from the tideland estuary full of oysters and mussels rounding into Streanaeshalch, the Bay of the Beacon, with its harbor that saw trade from Pictland and the North British, from Lindsey and the East Angles, and even the people of the North Way, whose narrow ships brought [blah blah blah]…” angle instead. She almost always sacrifices character development to this sort of super detailed history lesson (and I was at one point a history major, just so we’re clear that I do actually appreciate history). Yes, it is thoroughly researched; I can’t tell if Griffith was so enthralled by what she learned that she thought all her readers would be too, or if she was bored to resentful tears and wanted to inflict some of her suffering on us. So my eyes just end up glazing over and I’m like, “hey, I think there might be some grout in the other room that I can get on my hands and knees and scrub…” or, “you know what, there are some bills I need to pay,” or perhaps my least favorite chore of them all: “time go buy ingredients at Costco.” It was that bad, you guys. Ideally I would still like to finish it…eventually…but it’s time to move on to something else for now.