The Tombs of Atuan

“What she had begun to learn was the weight of liberty. Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveler may never reach the end of it.” (Ursula K. Le Guin, The Tombs of Atuan)

The majority of books these days have one of three lengths: a normal 300-page novel, a long novel (between 500 and 800 pages), or a short story of only a few pages. It is quite a shame that all other lengths have been forgotten. What about gargantuan novels of 2,000 pages or lovely medium length novels that are in no way short stories? This dearth of book-length ranges is akin to decreeing that all meals need to be either a bowl of cereal, a sandwich, or a combination of meat, starch and veggie.

The Tombs of Atuan, part two of the acclaimed Earthsea quartet, is a well-proportioned novel of 150 pages. It is a novel to read between novels, a book to take by the sea, a read that sticks with you well beyond its diminutive size. The Tombs almost reminds me of a fairy tale in that it clearly enunciates a moral objective, but at the same time skirts around being obvious and heavy-handed. Ursula K. Le Guin’s writing style is rather mythical as well; part of the reason she could write such a compact novel is that she maintains a healthy distance from her characters by only describing the bare minimum of necessary details.

Beverage: This book has a slow, dark feel to it, so I would go with the darkest black tea you have access to. Perhaps the smokiness of a lapsang-souchong would also work well.

Reminds me… of Der Waldmensch, a short story by Hermann Hesse.

*Check back in a few weeks for reviews of the remaining Earthsea books*

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One thought on “The Tombs of Atuan

  1. Pingback: God Help the Child | Book Lion

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