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Gifts (2004)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Annals of the Western Shore (1)

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1,838557,105 (3.67)88
When a young man in the Uplands blinds himself rather than use his gift of "unmaking"--a violent talent shared by members of his family--he upsets the precarious balance of power among rival, feuding families, each of which has a strange and deadly talent of its own.
  1. 10
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» See also 88 mentions

English (51)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (55)
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
The more I read Le Guin, the more I am struck by her depth and skill at telling stories. I read this looking for a YA novel that had more nuance to it than much of the commercial fiction my grandchildren read, and Le Guin did not disappoint me. Sending this first volume out to two of them, and the remaining novels in this trilogy will become gifts for the grands as I read them. ( )
  nmele | Aug 4, 2020 |
With the recent publication of the third volume of the Annals of the Western Shore, I decided to go back to the start and re-read the first two and follow it up with the latest.

Gifts is the first book. It is narrated by Orrec Caspro son of his clan's leader. The clans of the uplands have uncanny powers, Gifts, at least if the family blood runs true, but Orrec's mother is not of the clan or even of the Uplands where the clans lead their isolated impoverished existence, feuding and farming. Orrec's Gift has gone awry, apparently uncontrollable, and it is the Gift of Unmaking - destructive, deadly and a threat to the neighbouring clans. Orrec goes blindfolded to protect those around him, for the Gift cannot operate without looking at that which is to be Unmade. Meanwhile his friend, Gry, whose clan Gift is that of calling animals, finds that she is Gifted indeed - but she cannot bring herself to call animals to the hunt. Training horses and dogs is useful but it is calling to the hunt that really provides income to her family.

Orrec and Gry grow up together and find themselves increasingly at odds with their families and the whole Uplands way of life, which brings tragedy to Orrec.

Gifts examines the relationship between parents and their children with particular regard to parents' expectations: It concludes that it would be better to support and encourage the talents that a child manifests, not those the parents have or want their child to have - which may be absent altogether. Trying to force parental will on the child might lead to total estrangement....

Another theme is the relationship between the Gifts as used by the clans and the clan way of life, which is full of poverty and fear. Gry suggests that there might be a link between the two - that there might be more constructive ways to use the Gifts that would in turn make life more peaceful and fulfilling.

It is no great leap (though it had to be suggested to me before I noticed) to believe that LeGuin is using the Gifts as an analogy with the general talents shown by humanity - engineering can be used for warmaking or peaceful purposes, the arts can be used to propagandise or enlighten. LeGuin would prefer we chose the constructive use of our talents.

As usual with LeGuin, one is left with plenty to think about, but as sometimes happens with her books, plot is almost an afterthought and the languid prose does not provide much drive either, so I cannot consider this volume to be top-notch by the exceptionally high standards she has set with books such as A Wizard of Earthsea, The Farthest Shore or The Left Hand of Darkness (among others). Nevertheless second-rate LeGuin is a goal most authors can strive for but never obtain. ( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
Gifts is a coming of age story about the gifts our parents give us and what we choose to do with them.

It says something about my stage in life that I relate less to the main characters, the children in this story, than I do to their parents. When we give someone a gift, we can hope they use it the way we choose, we can hope they appreciate it as we'd like them to, but in the end, it's theirs to do with as they choose. We give it away and it belongs to them.

I offer my children what I can, and they make of that what makes sense to them, even if it doesn't make sense to me. I think about the teenagers---my children's generation---demonstrating for safety from gun violence. I think about my generation, Generation X and Millennials---I'm not convinced that there should be as distinct a division between those groups as some would like to imagine---and how those older than us have chosen to criticize our use of what they've passed on to us, of how resistant they are even to let us have these gifts as our own. When we try to assert our adulthood and our right to use those gifts, they seek to discredit us by treating us like disobedient children. (The image that comes to my mind is of the second debate of the 2008 presidential campaign when John McCain gestured towards Barack Obama and referred to him as "that one.")

Maybe that's the way of every older generation, maybe it's the way of parents to want to hold on to the illusion of control over their children and to forget how fervently they themselves wanted the freedom to be separate from their own parents, to see what they could do in the world. "Do as I say, not as I do." Maybe that's the nature of parents, but I hope it's something my generation of parents can set aside.

I hope, at least for myself, that I can let my children make the gifts I give them their own, to feel their own sense of power and beauty and wholeness, whether I can make sense of it or not. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jun 28, 2020 |
**Gifts** by *Ursula Le Guin* is one of the books that I will be able to remember clearly for its atmosphere for a long time, but I didn't actually particularly like it. It's good Fantasy, with a ton of character building and world building. The atmosphere is oppressive at times. Wish I could say more, but the slow pace of the book would turn most things into spoilers. I think I'll switch to Le Guin's nonfiction at this point. ( )
  _rixx_ | May 24, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ursula K. Le Guinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Colby, JamesReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nielsen, CliffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rostant, LarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saramäki, SamiCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyatt, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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He was lost when he came to us, and I fear the silver spoons he stole from us didn't save him when he ran away and went up into the high domains.
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I had no sense of the sacredness of a story, or rather they were all sacred to me, the wonderful word-beings which, so long as I was hearing or telling them, made a world I could enter seeing, free to act: a world I knew and understood, that had its own rules, yet was under my control as the world beyond the stories was not. In the boredom and inactivity of my blindness, I lived increasingly in these stories, remembering them, asking my mother to tell them, and going on with them myself, giving them form, speaking them into being as the Spirit did in Chaos. (Ch. 12)
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When a young man in the Uplands blinds himself rather than use his gift of "unmaking"--a violent talent shared by members of his family--he upsets the precarious balance of power among rival, feuding families, each of which has a strange and deadly talent of its own.

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When a young man in the Uplands blinds himself rather than use his gift of "unmaking"--a violent talent shared by members of his family--he upsets the precarious balance of power among rival, feuding families, each of which has a strange and deadly talent of its own.
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