Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin

Tenar, once the White Lady of Gont and Priestess of Atuan, is alone. Her husband is dead and her children have gone. While she accustoms herself to her new, isolated life, a young girl is abused and nearly killed. Tenar takes the girl in and loves her, even though there are those who see only the child's scars. Then Ged, Archmage of Roke, returns to Gont on the back of a dragon. Tenar's relationships with Ged and the child, Therru, blossom, bringing her a new perspective that enriches her life. However, her love for such outlandish people isolates her further, and draws violence from her neighbours.
What I love about this story is what I love about all of Ursula Le Guin's stories: her subtlety and winning narrative. It takes a true craftsman to write a novel with a lot of narrative, and not have the narrative swallow the story whole. It's not easy to know exactly what to tell readers and what to show them. As an editor, I usually warn my clients against using too much narrative because it can bog down character development. But Le Guin balances it flawlessly with delineated scenes that bring her characters to life for readers.

But, even without her well-executed narrative style, Tehanu is a compelling study of misogyny and how society treats victims. It explores the day-to-day life of a middle-aged woman raising an abused child; while there are dragons and sorcerers, kings and vagabonds, they are peripheral. The story is not carried by swashbuckling adventure and fantastic locales. Instead, it's a transcendant tale that explores and vindicates a life in the home, and shows the power of women in and of themselves. In this story, as in life, living is not mundane activity; it's magical, spiritual, and powerful.

Copy source: library
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Format: hardcopy

View my list of suggested books by Ursula K. Le Guin

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