Between the Covers: Stories from My Bookcase

Monday, May 31, 2010

Voices by Ursula Le Guin

Anyone reading my blog, and most everyone who know me, also know about my propensity to hoard books. Specifically second-hand ones. In fact, if I take the time to look for them, I'd probably find any number of blog posts talking about this, and how it takes a lot of effort for me to stay away from book shops for fear of spending too much on books (like what happened this time). Most of the time though (98% of the time), I do not regret shelling out the money. I find solace in reading. When I'm in a bad mood, or a bit out of whack, or just bored, books keep me company.

Reading also wakes up my mind. :)

In one of my book shopping sprees, I came across this book:

My copy doesn't actually have this cover :(  It was hard bound and cost half as much as what a paperback copy would have. It's my first Le Guin book. I read one of her short stories back in College but I can't remember the title. I think it's the one with Mr. Underhill. :S Anyway, I just knew I would like her writing, and I wasn't wrong.

It amazes me how stories are written, and ones like these that are set in a totally different reality than ours keep me in awe. Le Guin built a whole new world with its own belief system and there created conflict that was so believable, and surprisingly, relevant.

Set in the city of Ansul, Voices tells the story of young Memer who was born in the year that her city was occupied by foreign troops. The invaders have banned books for their demonic nature, and because Ansul was the seat of learning it was especially ravaged and its great university was torn down. All the books that the Alds could gather were burned and those who possessed them were persecuted. The head of Mer's household, the Waylord, was among those who were thrown into prison and tortured.

Voices is about Mer's discovery of many secrets. First, of the hidden library in Galvamand, then of her own abilities and her role in the larger scheme of things. She grew up learning to hate the invaders, but she later learned that not all of them are despicable. In the reviews that I've read, this one echoes my sentiments:
Perhaps the strongest element of the novel, however, is the way it moves from black and white to shades of gray. Orrec believes that all people have some good in them, and as Memer is forced to get to know the invaders she despises, she realizes that they are not all terrible and cruel. Some of them are simply different, and unable to understand her way of life. The message seems to be that it is far better to reach an understanding with others, even if you dislike them, than to take revenge. In a time when cultural and religious clashes make news almost every day, this should hit home with many readers.  - Review by Lynn Crow, on the website

I can't ever imagine living in a world without books! I guess though, if you grew up without them, then you don't know what you're missing. The people of Alds relied on Makers, storytellers, like Orrec. He travels far and wide not only to tell stories, but to learn them too. Much like how our ancestors kept culture alive, by passing on our stories by mouth, so does he.

Only by the end of the novel did I realize that Voices was part of a series. It definitely stands on its own, but I would be very interested in finding a copy of Gifts too, along with Powers. And you know what? If I find a copy of The Wizard of Earthsea, I'd definitely buy it.

*This is a repost from my personal blog