Malafrena and Always Coming Home


New Member
Feb 27, 2009
Have anyone read any of the two novels mentioned in the title?

Ursula Le Guin is my favorite author and I normally love her books. I think she wries beautifully, with a language where every sentence is well considred and worth noticing.

But these two books I don't seem to be able to finish, I always end up putting them away and reading something else, and then not returning until years later, then starting over again... ;)

So have anyone finished these and can tell me it's worth yet another try? :)

The Procrastinator

1 Candlepower Brain
Mar 11, 2008
Why do people apostrophise plural's? Is it capital
I haven't read Malafrena but I have read Always Coming Home. I usually love Le Guin but I just didn't get Always Coming Home. I finished it, but I struggled with it and haven't bothered reading it again. Maybe I should give it another go (first go was years ago) and see if I have the same reaction.

Dede River

New Member
Dec 27, 2011
I love LeGuin, largely because she is, fundamentally, a story-teller. Most of her books and stories are anthropological/sociological investigations, tied to a story, sort of "Here is a world where people marry in a complex pattern of two men and two women, this is what such a society might look like" coupled with "Here is a woman in this world who is lesbian, and chafes under the rigid social structure. She doesn't want a husband. Here is her struggle to find love and happiness." She often comes back to a society she creates and tells different stories. This is particularly true of the Hain universe stories, where the Hain are an ancient race of intergalactic explorers who train people from planets with more recent history to be sociologists. :) What is so wonderful about LeGuin is that her alternate societies are really interesting, and even better, her stories have characters drawn with real emotional depth, and she doesn't rely on standard tropes or stereotypes.

Malafrena is not part of her interplanetary explorations, but is a series of linked short stories taking place from the medieval to the modern period in a fictional middle-European country. They are just stories, without a framework of an unusual society. They are poignant, often emotionally deep character studies. I really enjoyed the book, but they are not LeGuin's usual fair. I can understand how some might not like them, but they are really interesting for themselves. They are non-fantasy stories by a wonder speculative fiction author.

Always Coming Home is almost the other side of things. It is essentially a fictional anthropologist's notebook about a society, with a minor story of someone in that society fighting the rigidities, but in many ways it is the society itself that is the focus of this work. I didn't find it nearly as compelling as most of LeGuin's work, but I did read it (I'm a completionist) ;)

Speaking of stories a little outside the norm, one of my favourite of LeGuin's stories is The Shobie's Story from Fisherman of the Inland Sea, which is a really interesting conceptual story about the psychological experience of Faster Than Light (FTL) travel.


Aug 15, 2012
When I was reading Malafrena I had to interrupt many times... to give myself time to cry.

I realize that many of her books contain themes that can only be appreciated by people who have had certain experiences. In this particular story, the themes of a pro-democracy movement, being an activist, dealing with moral questions that come up in the Movement are key to the "inner voice" that connects the author with the reader.

I think it's ok to put a book aside if we're not in a stage in life when we might appreciate it.



The Lad Himself
Aug 28, 2013
I've read Always Coming Home. I think with that book it's more of an exercise in anthopology than a sustainable story. Le Guin creates this world and wants to showcase all manner of piece to it, just like an anthropological record. The imagination and genius in it is apparent, but like JRR Tolkien's Silmarillion, it's not meant to be an easy read I don't think. I think it's fabulous myself.

edit: I wrote this without reading what Dede River had put. I agree as a narrative it's not compelling, but I don't think it was meant to be.


Oct 23, 2008
I don't have anything critically reasoned to contribute like the other posters but, just to answer the question, I've never read Malafrena and I don't remember if I finished Always Coming Home or not but I did start it and didn't like it. It's definitely not worth another try to me. I do like most Le Guin up to c.'75, though - even if I'd consider trying ACH again (which I wouldn't) I'd rather spend the time re-reading what I liked.

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