This year I’m giving each nominated work for the Hugo and Nebula novel awards their very own entry after I read them.
I first heard of Hild by Nicola Griffith through its Big Idea post on John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever. I distinctly remember reading the description and not being motivated to learn more. However, that is typical of my take on the Big Idea posts. The one time I thought that a book sounded really neat, I looked it up and read a sample. The writing style of the sample completely turned me off to what had been an intriguing book idea.
To be honest, that probably would have been my reaction if I had looked up a sample to read of Hild. Although, the writing style of Hild is not, as the other one was, simply irritating. Instead, it is exactly what it should be, an archaic, historical style. The story takes place in 7th century Britain and the language used fits.
And this kind of novel is not what I generally look for when I read.
However, once I got past the first two chapters, I found myself relaxing into the style of it. The names were still difficult to pronounce in my head, but not that difficult to keep track of. The variety of the names and the unfamiliar spellings and mysterious pronunciations did remind me of reading War and Peace, but without the excessive number of nicknames (and patronymics!).
I had some difficulty figuring out what the point of the book was. I couldn’t figure out what the hook was supposed to be, why I was supposed to care about the story being unfolded with such loving detail. And yet, about a third of the way in, I did find myself thinking about the book when I wasn’t reading it. Turning details and names over in my head. Wondering what might happen next and who might be the next to die.
This book crept up on me, becoming more engrossing the more I read. In that, it also reminded me of War and Peace, because once I got into reading that book I became engrossed with it. I keep meaning to reread it, but I want to get a digital edition, because I think I injured my wrists with the copy I read before.
Back to Hild, I liked how the structure of the story imitated a theme that was repeated within it, that of weaving. Throughout the narrative, a part of the woman’s work of the main character involves cloth and weaving. At the same time, Hild’s path is not simply that of a woman, and she weaves herself into places not traditionally open to women.
I’m still not sure what the plot was, or how I would describe it. But I did enjoy the read overall. The main sticking points were the beginning, which I felt was off-putting stylistically, and the ending, which I wasn’t satisfied with. It seemed to just end, leaving many questions open, loose threads dangling. If one or more books follows this story, then my comparison to War and Peace may become more true since this book clocked in at nearly 600 pages.