C. J. Sansom's Dissolution

Discussion in 'Historical Fiction' started by Snowdog, Feb 15, 2009.

  1. Snowdog

    Snowdog Well-Known Member

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    I've just finished reading Dissolution and wondered what others thought of it. I'm hmm-ing and haa-ing about whether to get the next one.

    For a first novel I thought it was very well-written. Despite its length, it was a page-turner and I polished it off quickly.

    But I thought the plotting for the mystery was, well, rather poor.
     
  2. Talysia

    Talysia Lady of Autumn

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    I've recently finished Dissolution myself, and I really enjoyed it. I usually read very much historical fiction, and probably less crime fiction, but there was something about this book that kept me interested and immersed in Sansom's Tudor world.

    In my opinion, Dark Fire is a bit stronger, and the world is every bit as detailed and the story just as involving. I'm hoping to move on to Sovereign soon, and I have high hopes for it.
     
  3. paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    Dissolution is quite claustrophobic , but Dark Fire is much more open and you get to see a lot more of Tudor England. The books DO improve , the 3rd being my favourite
     
  4. Tezz

    Tezz Active Member

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    Ive got the latest Shardlake on my shelf waiting to be devoured (Currently trekking through Malazan books of the fallen all 11 of them...) I have really really enjoyed the series so far the first one is a bit of a struggle at points but the series gets stronger and stronger as time goes on.

    Stick with it get the rest (especially as i think they are on 3 for 2 at waterstones right now) Sovereign and Dark fire are pretty amazing.
     
  5. paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    Personally I was a little disappointed with the latest one ; quite a large,sprawling epic - far more so than the rest of the series - but detracts from the atmosphere of the other 3.
     
  6. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    I noticed Lamentation in Sainsburys - lovely cover, and made me look twice - but I hadn't realised that it was the 6th book in a series.

    However, I've just noticed the ebook of book 1, Dissolution, is currently only £1.19 on Amazon.co.uk:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1447285832/?tag=brite-21

    1000 reviews: 656 of them at 5 stars; only 20 of them with 1 star.

    So I've just treated myself using a £1 promotional credit I had. Opening seems fine - I just hope I'm going to enjoy this. :)
     
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  7. The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    It's a good read, and I hope you enjoy it! I've read four of the Shardlake mysteries so far, with Lamentation sitting in my TBR basket (I've not got Revelation yet).

    I have enjoyed them all, and you'll find good period atmosphere and interesting historical details, but on the downside I feel he has a tendency to dump all his research onto the page, something I found it particularly bad with Heartstone as I read it after seeing the new Mary Rose museum, and he'd basically just regurgitated everything from there. To my mind, too, Shardlake and the other obviously good characters are a bit too modern -- they tend to have liberal tendencies at a very illiberal time (that was really brought home in Dissolution itself, which evidenced remarkably relaxed attitudes to active homosexuality which I didn't find convincing). They are all big tomes, and to my mind could do with a damn good edit, but I've still raced through them, as they're well written and easy to read. And I imagine I'm in the minority, but I find all the legal stuff totally fascinating!
     
  8. Bugg

    Bugg A Lerxst in Wonderland

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    I really enjoyed the first four books. Sovereign is my personal favourite, although I loved Dark Fire because it was set around the area where I work, so it was fun visualising the place as it must have been in those days :)

    I wasn't so keen on Heartstone, for spoilery reasons which I won't mention here, and haven't read Lamentation as yet.
     
  9. The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Is the spoilery reason to do with Hugh? I had some problems with that, too, if it was.

    Anyway, after this thread reminded me how much I enjoyed the books, I pulled Lamentation out of the TBR basket on Wednesday, and I raced through it in little more than a day. For me, this was one of the weaker stories. It has the faults of the others, to my mind -- the info-dumping and repetition of plot points -- and I found the denouement unsatisfactory. But nonetheless an engaging read.
     
  10. paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    Before reading Lamentation, I've just revisited the previous Shardlake novels. My opinion has changed; on second reading, I actually think that Dissolution is the best of the four. It's the one with the least info-dumping and the most realistic storyline.

    If you've read 'Name of the Rose' then you'll enjoy this, as imho it's better; also think it would translate very well to a film or tv series.
     
  11. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    I've finally finished this - I have to admit I found it a struggle to read. The opening was weak - mostly dialogue and explanation. I found the characterisation very bland - the only notable thing about Shardlake is his hunchback. At least Sansom wrote that into his story, but without that attribute the character would have been formless.

    The same applies to most characters - they are defined only by physical attributes, and I never really got any sense of character from any of them. This made it especially difficult to differentiate any of the large number of monks enough to have much sense of what was going on, by whom, to what end.

    It wasn't until halfway through that I began to even feel engaged, and that was simply because of the story from Brother Jerome which brought in some interesting moral relativism. Yet I never felt any resolution to any of the moral problems raised by Cromwell or the monks' actions - the story lifted itself up to ask political and social questions, then sank down to leave these unanswered to order to solve a basic crime.

    If this had been written by a chronner I would have lauded it as a great effort, while wishing they had put the opening into crits so that it could have been polished up. The fact that it's trad printed yet left such a structurally weak opening just leaves me shaking my head at poor standards.

    Possibly I came to it with too high expectations - but it felt like a very good self-published novel, rather than a very good traditional print novel. In that regard, I have to admit I found Ann Swinfen's opening book better - The Chronicles of Christoval Alvarez by Ann Swinfen - though perhaps that's because her character takes us around more of Tudor England than Sansom's did, which allows the reader more room to breathe and enjoy something of the experience.

    I'd probably rate Dissolution at around 3 stars. Mostly competent, sometimes interesting, but I'm surprised it's a bestseller.
     
  12. Theophania Elliott

    Theophania Elliott Well-Known Member

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    Loved it - I read it years ago, so I mostly remember it as being deep, dark and detailed; I'd definitely recommend moving on with the series! :)
     

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