Thursday, May 5, 2011

Strange History: Thendara House

Thendara House (Darkover Series)Somehow I missed most of the Marion Zimmer Bradley Darkover books, which I associate with the seventies. Actually a lot of them came out in my teen age, when I should have been perfectly timed for them, but I didn't get hooked.  But when Jo Walton reread some for her re-read series, I became intrigued enough to pick one up second hand, and then eventually to read it.

Thendara House (Darkover: Renunciates Trilogy, Bk. 2) feels a bit like a thought experiment, and a lot of it feels very dated.  It contrasts a Darkover woman trying to live and work in the modern Earth society and a Terran citizen trying to achieve status in a rigorous Darkover sisterhood.  The back copy describes it as "two cultures, one male-dominated, one egalitarian" which is true although in the book it is the Terran society that seems male-dominated, although only because the Terran woman immerses herself in an all-female enclave, so that it is egalitarian as a matter of course.  The Terrans pride themselves on their equality, which seems quaint as Bradley shows them as incapable of grasping the concept of a woman keeping her last name after marriage.  The Terrans do not appear in a favorable light, being too busy making assumptions to ever see anyone clearly.  But the Renunciate society feels too contrived to be convincing.

Most of the time is spent deep inside the heads of Jaelle and Magda as they negotiate their new environments.  They often have wide emotional swerves, many of which they recognize but cannot control.  It's an interesting look on what defines femininity and personal responsibility, if a bit claustrophobic at times.  I'm left with an interest in more books of the series.  B+

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