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King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett

King Hereafter (edition 1992)

by Dorothy Dunnett

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7191822,045 (4.21)83
Back in print by popular demand--"A stunning revelation of the historical Macbeth, harsh and brutal and eloquent." --Washington Post Book World. With the same meticulous scholarship and narrative legerdemain she brought to her hugely popular Lymond Chronicles, our foremost historical novelist travels further into the past.  InKing Hereafter, Dorothy Dunnett's stage is the wild, half-pagan country of eleventh-century Scotland.  Her hero is an ungainly young earl with a lowering brow and a taste for intrigue.  He calls himself Thorfinn but his Christian name is Macbeth. Dunnett depicts Macbeth's transformation from an angry boy who refuses to accept his meager share of the Orkney Islands to a suavely accomplished warrior who seizes an empire with the help of a wife as shrewd and valiant as himself.  She creates characters who are at once wholly creatures of another time yet always recognizable--and she does so with such realism and immediacy that she once more elevates historical fiction into high art. From the Trade Paperback edition.… (more)
Title:King Hereafter
Authors:Dorothy Dunnett
Info:Arrow Books Ltd (1992), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 880 pages
Collections:Your library

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King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett



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This doorstopper tome of a novel is the story of the Earl (and, yes, King later) Thorfinn of Orkney. It suggests that Thorfinn was in fact the historical character we know of as Macbeth. The story takes place in roughly 1050 AD in what we would call Scotland, which was known as Moray, Caithness, Orkney, and (a bit later) Alba.
This is definitely literary historical fiction. I had mixed feelings upon reaching the conclusion (which, reading every night, still took over a month to do!). On the positive side, several of the characters, most notably Thorfinn himself, are well-portrayed, interesting and complex. Thorfinn is analytical, moody, and tends to be cold emotionally (though this latter changes a bit as the story opens up). The analysis of 11th century politics is deep, complex, and probably very accurate. The plot is anything but straightforward. There's a lot of depth here, which serious readers will like. King Hereafter could easily be characterized as "deep reading". For these readers, this might well be a 5-star read.

On the flip side, well, there might be rather TOO much depth for many. There are pages (and pages and pages) of description of political plotting and obscure genealogical points, which the plot often hinges upon. By the time I'd reached the book's halfway point I felt very weary of reading political analysis. Also, battles are most often rendered with a few simple sentences, rather than getting into the thick of things. (Though there are a few exceptions, notably the last 20% or so of the book.) Coming at 11th century English historical fiction from more of a Bernard Cornwell type POV, this was hard to adjust to. In short, this is far from a "real page-turner".

In summary, those looking for some serious literary historical fiction may well enjoy sinking their teeth into this. Those looking for something a bit easier to dip into, or detailed descriptions of medieval warfare, should probably look elsewhere. ( )
  caimanjosh | Dec 4, 2018 |
There were some parts of this I liked, but it felt about four hundred pages too long. I got sick of it after a while and had a hard time recovering. ( )
  JBD1 | Apr 5, 2018 |
Meticulously detailed and researched, full of the shifting allegiances of the times, and occasionally difficult to keep track of; this history of Thorfinn/Macbeth was absorbing... But Macbeth is a complex hero or protagonist, more in the Niccolo mould, never so engaging as Lymond, and the personal moments in the book that bring the main characters to life are only sprinkled in... But well written and a great tragedy. ( )
  jkdavies | Jun 14, 2016 |
Magnificient historical fiction. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy Dunnettprimary authorall editionscalculated
Eisenman, SaraCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hood, AlunCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Wealth dies.
Kinsmen die.
A man himself must likewise die.
But word-fame
Never dies
For him who achieves it well.

Wealth dies.
Kinsmen die.
A man himself must likewise die.
But one thing I know
That never dies--
The verdict on each man dead.
First words
When the year one thousand came, Thorkel Amundason was five years old, and hardly noticed how frightened everyone was.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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