Reviews tagging Confinement

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin

10 reviews

shonarpakhi's review

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  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes
perhaps it is because i chose to read the left hand of darkness at the wrong time, or perhaps because i did not do it the courtesy of reading with generous time -- i sped through this book in three sittings, over three days -- i did not find it as groundbreaking as i was led to expect. partly there is the fact that i am reviewing it in 2022, whereas it was published for the 70s when it would have been much more subversive. there's no denying the mastery of le guin's writing, which i respect immensely -- it's clean, smooth, perfectly balanced and perfectly judicious in its use of various literary modes and devices, its distinguishment of character voices, the hybridity of its form -- and yet i found myself a little impatient with the rhythm of its expression. something about it didn't resonate with how i like to be led through sentences and paragraphs when i read. it might be a function of the language of the time, a feature of le guin's own style, which despite its beauty and precision refuses to be pinned down and laid flat. larger than life, it demands attention and dedication. so again, it might be a flaw with how i went about reading in the first place. 

i also had some trouble with understanding the novel's use of incest as a narrative device. it wasn't so much the content that troubled me as to its purpose. i've done a little extra skimming on the theme but it's yet to sate my curiosity. perhaps the reveal of sorve as estraven's child of the flesh is supposed to allude to their (estraven's) femininity, an aspect of estraven which genly has largely suppressed his awareness of in order to build the bridge of their friendship, and yet one which he must reconcile himself with in order to reckon with the gethenians in their full non-binary humanity. perhaps incest is an allegory for the political narrative of a contact and communion between two different worlds/cultures -- as the figure of genly comes to merge and then rewrite that arek, so a lasting bond of love can only be founded on true difference (cf. le guin's introduction), and not on sameness? or perhaps incest does not serve any symbolic purpose at all but, as le guin has noted in an interview, acts as a universal taboo, a suitable device to establish estraven's criminality -- a crime so generally stigmatised that readers (presumably?) are assumed to sympathise with estraven's punishment, and it is estraven's character that is complicated and elevated, some may say redeemed, by his loyalty to the gethenians as peoples despite living a life terminally in exile. 

in any case i am sure i will benefit from rereading this when i am more at leisure. this is an excellent book to read as a writer, i.e. to read with special attention to literary craft, form and function, the polishing of narration. it's a book that i think would be better enjoyed in relaxation, non-linearity -- meandering, ambling back and forth -- and with the aid of a pencil.

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giuliabtw's review against another edition

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reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75


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aquamarine18's review

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adventurous challenging emotional hopeful inspiring reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

5.0

A classic, and one of few books I'll re-read. The Left Hand of Darkness is brilliant, and it brings me joy every time. What this book does so well, I think, is ask questions: what happens when something fundamental that we've mostly taken for granted our entire lives is all of a sudden exposed as being totally contingent, as something that could be otherwise? How can one reorient oneself? It is also, at its heart, a book about connection across difference, the erosion of preconceptions, learning to see the world differently and, in the process, emerging changed. As always, Le Guin's writing is beautiful, every line deliberate.
Le Guin, in her wonderful introduction, points out that the book is a thought experiment, not a blueprint; as such, it does not leave the reader with easy answers or a straightforward idea of how things should be. Rather, it is much more demanding than that.

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troisha's review

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adventurous challenging emotional hopeful reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5


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swampmonster's review

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challenging dark emotional hopeful informative reflective tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

A story very focused on political intrigue, the concept of home and humanity, and, most of all, nationalism and it's impacts. Not my favorite on a personal level, but well-done.

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readerette's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

I'm glad I read the afterword in this book, as it called to my attention the benefit of some of the things I disliked, such as the main human character using "he" as a neutral pronoun and seemingly finding every opportunity to disrespect "feminine" characteristics in a gender-neutral world. Turns out that Le Guin later regretted using "he" as gender-neutral, and that on inspection, the main character is not as progressive as he likes to think he is, with his gender bias proving that out.

What I enjoyed regardless was the poetic definition of this new world so different from ours and so much the same. I also liked the relationship between Genly and Therem, which was appropriately complex and believable. Some parts were too slow or detailed for my taste so I did some skimming, but it was still wonderful world-building and sociological exploration.

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kpharoah's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional hopeful reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0


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rini's review against another edition

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adventurous reflective sad medium-paced
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.0


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fondueturtles's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging slow-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.25


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valereads's review

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dark emotional hopeful inspiring reflective sad slow-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

The Left Hand of Darkness was a beautifully written character-driven novel filled with amazing prose and a fantastically realised world more reminiscent of a high quality fantasy novel that your typical sci-fi.

I loved the world this story was set it, it was original and felt truly real. I especially loved some of the short stories in between the main story chapters which told some stories from the world in which it was set and gave the whole thing more depth.

I shall definitely be rereading this book soon and I highly recommend it even (especially?) if science fiction isn’t typically your genre.

Content warnings: exorsexism, sexism, anti-intersex slur, abuse (specifically abuse of prisoners), incest

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