[LMB] SP: comments on CVA

Elizabeth Holden azurite at rogers.com
Thu Jul 5 21:46:29 BST 2012


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First of all, I really loved this book.  Best read in a long time.  By favourite Bujold novel since Memory, I think.

I very much loved Tej, and thought she was perfect for Ivan - and that she fit into her family very much the way Ivan fit into his - i.e., not very well. Not that she didn't love them, but that their high-energy achievements, Jacksonian style, weren't her way of doing things.  

I loved the way Ivan was comfortable with himself as he is - despite fears of his Uncle Ivan - and his relationship with Alys seemed warmer and more comfortable than I'd been led to think when Ivan was younger, or when it was seen through Miles' point of view.

I really like Byerly - I have always liked Byerly - and enjoyed his role in his book.  I don't quite understand Ivan's attitude to him - is it that Ivan is a hard worker, good at his job, and sees Byerly's job as being that of an opportunistic dilettante?  Or is it the scorn of the aristocrat for the spy?  Ivan is not usually snobbish in any way, but he could we have adapted attitudes of his military peers.  Which Byerly is very definitely not.

I loved the Jewels.  I liked Rish so much, and liked her with By so much, that I was happy to give up my hopes of Byerly and Ivan getting together.  As it stands, they are brothers-in-law, an amusing development for both of them.

After all the horrific bad press we have seen about Jackson's Whole, it was wonderful to see a group of more-or-less good Jacksonians.  I don't particularly like the Jacksonian lifestyles, but it was nice to see that they aren't all corrupt or exploitative - well, depending on how you define 'exploitative'.  Opportunistic, but not abusive... and I liked the sense that a businessman's word was his bond.

I was glad that no one called Ivan "that idiot Ivan", but then I found myself muttering "you idiot, Ivan," as I read, and he was slow to understand how much he really loved Tej, and how much she loved him, and how they were perfect for each other.  And then - smart boy - he did figure it out, but the plot was in full swing and he didn't get the chance to tell her.

I totally loved seeing a glimpse of life on Barrayar as lived by one of the Cetagandan occupiers.

I loved it that Ivan brings home a part-Cetagandan bride, and his family, bless them, not only scramble to adjust, they put their heads together and scheme to prevent the planned divorce.  At least, that's the picture in my head - Lady Alys calling up Uncle Flaco and saying, "Whatever you do, don't put the divorce through!  She'll leave, and we'll never see her again, and she's just what Ivan needs!" and Uncle Falco, maybe chuckling a little, saying, "Don't worry, I'll make sure the marriage stands."

I loved their whole conversation with Falco about grounds for divorce - abuse? abandonment?  non-consummation?  adultery?  Nope, nope, nope...

It was nice to have the glimpse of life on Komarr again, but I was relieved when we got back to Barrayar and I felt myself to be on comfortable home ground.

I was thrilled to see Miles from a point of view other than Miles' own - something that hasn't happened much since he became an adult.  Then I was a little bit disappointed that we saw Miles through Tej's eyes not Ivan's, and then I thought that was for the best - since we got a fresh look that way, without all the complications of their shared past.  It made it all the more interesting to see Ivan's feelings about Miles and his family as glimpsed, barely, through Tej's viewpoint.  

In fact, that was a technique I was enjoying all the way through: the way the reader knew more about what was happening than the characters involved, in a lot of cases.  We know and recognize Miles and Illyan and Gregor, but Tej doesn't.  So we get a double view: the in-joke aspect of what we know, and the fresh viewpoint with no preconceived ideas.

The only disappointment there is that we didn't see Aral or Cordelia.  Not that they really belonged in this story; just that I always want to see them.

The glimpse of Miles' son reminded me of the blessing/curse my own mother used to bestow on me at the age of three or so: "I hope when you grow up, you'll have a little girl who's just like you, so you'll know what I'm going through!"  That used to make me laugh uproariously.  I was also, of course, reminded of the frantic search for Miles at the end of "Barrayar".

Does Ivan really not like children?  It seems to me that in many ways, he will be a better father than Miles. Which is not to say that Miles isn't a good and loving father, but given Miles' own personality... Ivan's laid-back acceptance of others, and his ability to cope with interaction within his own family, seems more fatherly to me than Miles' high-octane momentum.

I liked it that Ivan had to face his own worst fear - of being trapped in the dark, with water involved.  And I like it that this phobia bothered him, however justified.  And I like it that he coped just fine, and I would like to think, romantically, that he coped because Tej was there and he was more concerned about her than about himself.

I susprised  myself by actually liking most of Tej's family, except maybe. (I had some trouble remembering which sibling was which, and which were Jewels.)  I particulary liked her father. 


I've never liked Lady Alys before; I always thought her something of a snob.  Here, I liked her.  Her motherly instincts seemed to be to the fore, and she wasn't using Ivan for her own wishes or convenience, as she seemed to do before. Besides, she was nice to Tej.

It was fun to see the post-Memory Simon Illyan. I love it that his stepfatherhood clearly meant something to him.  He is now free of ImpSec, free of Aral, free to make his own choices - and even to get into trouble.

Seeing ImpSec HQ sink into the mud was a delight. I wished Aral was there to see it, or Miles.

It was good to see the fully-mature Gregor.

I like the way Ivan is a contrast to Miles, and yet resembles him in some ways, too.  Of course I loved the snakes, but even more, I liked the way his sense of humour came to the fore - sending the ugly vase to Miles, for example.

The book was delightfully visual.

I could go on... and probably will, later on.  I ended it wanting to read it again, which is always a sign of a good book.

namaste,
Elizabeth

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