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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
A Bed of Earth by Tanith Lee 
1st-Jun-2006 11:59 pm
When I say that books ferment on my backlog, they sit there for so long, I wasn't joking. This volume's pages have acquired a distinctly yellow cast that was not present when I first acquired it. >_<

Lee, Tanith. A Bed of Earth. New York: Overlook, 2002.
Summary: Book III of The Secret Books of Venus quartet. The gravedigger Bartolome discovers in middle age when he at last meets his soulmate Flavia of the Barbarons discovers that they were destined in love to unite two clans feuding due to disputed burial ground. Instead, he perished unborn in the womb of his terribly wronged mother, and a ghostly afterimage of the person he would have been meets and falls in love with another Barbaron, Beatrixa--and they answer fate. The afterimage Silvio eventually finds happiness by befriending a bereaved widow, and Bartolome, who cannot have children, in the end meets "his" child, product of her union with Silvio and "quickened" by the seed of Chesare Borja.
Comments: Regal in its stately, slowgoing prose and wondrously comprehensible after all of the convoluted narrative threads are woven so beautifully together. Of course, this is at heart a Romeo & Juliet-esque plotline, save that only the first of many couples die together. I am distinctly reminded of Lee's much earlier Silver Metal Lover since it too deals with the nature of love, spirituality, and reincarnation, but that book is a hack job in comparison to this one. I'm not a big fan of esoteric mystical explanations of anything, but at least Lee's not trying to trump science with them--only history and traditional Christian religion. Italy lovers and history buffs should get a real jolt out of what Lee does here; everything from architecture to the meals on the table are sumptuously described. And if you're looking for dark fantasy-laced sex and violence (Death by castration! Death by flamingo!??), you've come to the right place. About the only discordant note I noticed struck was the Dionyssa subplot, the most fragile and least thought-out of the narrative threads.
Notes: hardcover, 1st American edition
Rating: 7/10 - Read it alone or with the rest of the series, doesn't matter. The pleasures are manifold regardless.
2nd-Jun-2006 08:38 am (UTC)
Have you read the first two of The Secret Books of Venus?
2nd-Jun-2006 11:27 am (UTC)
Yeah. The first one shortly after it came out, the second last year.
2nd-Jun-2006 12:20 pm (UTC)
And what did you think of them?
2nd-Jun-2006 12:47 pm (UTC)
Dammit, you're making me dig. ^_~ Let's see...what I wrote last year for Saint Fire is here. I recall REALLY liking Book I, but can't specifically compare it to the others. A Bed of Earth was way better than Saint Fire, though--more complicated, and it didn't lay the Catholic mysticism on so heavily.

What did you think of them?
2nd-Jun-2006 12:57 pm (UTC)
I haven't read them but I was thinking of buying them.
2nd-Jun-2006 01:09 pm (UTC)
Have you read the Paradys quartet? The Venus books are similar, but less gothic and more baroque...and there's also more spirituality to undercut the sex/death/violence.
2nd-Jun-2006 04:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, I love the Paradys books.

I'm not real keen on spirituality though...
2nd-Jun-2006 04:24 pm (UTC)
I'm not real keen on spirituality though...

*nods* I know. So it's a toss-up as to whether or not the Venus Books II and III will irk you or not.

Hmm. Have you read Silver Metal Lover? If THAT ending bothered you, it's quite possible the Venus books will too.
2nd-Jun-2006 04:59 pm (UTC)
Actually I loved the ending of The Silver Metal Lover.
2nd-Jun-2006 06:40 pm (UTC)
Well, then! ^_^ There shouldn't be any problems!
2nd-Jun-2006 10:16 am (UTC)
This is one of her best books. I am surprised that it never won an award or anything. It's a great fantasy.
2nd-Jun-2006 01:18 pm (UTC)
I loved this one - Tanith Lee writes some beautiful stuff.
2nd-Jun-2006 01:21 pm (UTC)
I really am set alight by passionate and vibrant writing style, and even if I kind of feel detached from some of Lee's themes I absolutely adore her writing. A few of her short stories in particular have really moved me. I also love "The Birthgrave", though I still don't really understand the ending.
1st-Jul-2006 01:38 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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