I’m currently knee deep in supply teaching work and trying to work on the Earth Balm Music material, learning much about the limitless possibilities of music software and my limited abilities on the piano keyboard on the way. I have a day’s break today and just as well because I feel compelled to post about the passing of the great Ursula K Le Guin. The news has finally made up my mind for me – she is my favourite author of all that I have read (and she is in some high calibre company with Rosemary Sutcliff, Joan Aiken, Susan Cooper, Philippa Pearce etc.). Her characters are so well developed, her books explore ideas about social systems and politics so subtly and she handles big plot moments so delicately. I’m about to radically thin out my book collection and I’m keeping all of my UKLG books as I know I’ll only regret losing them if I pass them on. Please, let her be known as more than just a science fiction / fantasy author because she was so much more.

Photograph of author Ursula K Le Guin. Source Wikipedia, credit Gorthian.

Here is a quote from Ursula’s Wikipedia page:

Le Guin exploits the creative flexibility of the science fiction and fantasy genres to undertake thorough explorations of dimensions of both social and psychological identity and of broader cultural and social structures. In doing so, she draws on sociology, anthropology, and psychology leading some critics to categorize her work as soft science fiction. She objected to this classification of her writing, arguing the term is divisive and implies a narrow view of what constitutes valid science fiction. Underlying ideas of anarchism and environmentalism also make repeated appearances throughout Le Guin’s work

Croopus! The Stolen Lake

I finished reading Joan Aiken’s novel “The Stolen Lake” this morning. I know that I’d promised to read “Midnight is a Place” first but the note to the reader at the start of the book said that the reader didn’t need to read either “Black Hearts in Battersea” or “Night Birds on Nantucket” to enjoy the story and I needed another Dido Twite adventure so I went ahead and read “The Stolen Lake” first.

There are so many unsavoury characters for Dido and her companions to overcome. I don’t want to give away too many plot details but the Queen is an absolute ogre, her dressmaker and the dressmaker’s assistants are monsters and Silver Taffy is utterly ruthless. But Bran and Mr Holystone are the sources of Dido’s strength at key moments. Bran in particular is enigmatic and resourceful.

The whole narrative is laced with Celtic (Welsh in this case) and Ancient Roman mythology and Arthurian legend (albeit twisted out of shape and in a melting pot) and at times I didn’t know whether it was appropriate to laugh or to cry. One comment from Dido made me laugh out loud (something that doesn’t happen often).

It’s grim in places and quite loopy in others but a thoroughly enjoyable romp none-the-less.

Joan Aiken wrote a wonderful story full of odd characters and clever observations and it’ll be even more enjoyable when I next read it again.