Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkien

Title:  The Two Towers
Author:  J. R. R. Tolkien
Pages:  328
Genre:  Fiction, Fantasy
Source:  Started on my beautiful hardover edition, ended on the kindle.
Why I picked it up:  Working on that re-read!
What you'll love:  Lots of action.
What will bug you:  The story is split into two books that follow two sets of characters - so the story is told in big chunks rather than continuously.

A few things before I share my thoughts with you...

First.  I've never been more thankful for my Kindle.  I'm breastfeeding the little man, and it takes up a pretty big portion of my day since he eats every 2-3 hours (with the exception of a 4 hour stretch at night he so graciously gives us!).  I really enjoy doing it, especially since I've discovered I can prop my Kindle on my lap and read!  It's improved things, especially the late-night feedings, the "cluster feedings" when he's eating every hour or so, and the feedings where I'm just exhausted and on the verge of nodding off!  So happy!

Second.  I've read The Fellowship of the Ring probably 4 or more times.  I've read The Two Towers twice (this is my third run), and The Return of the King only once.  I noticed so much more this time around, so I'm happy to be re-reading the series!  The subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences that appear in the movies sometimes get jumbled up in my head, so it was great to go through the story as intended.

Third.  Since the books and movies are pretty well known, I'm not making any effort to conceal spoilers.  So, consider this to be a big spoiler alert!  If you have not read the stories, have not seen the movies, and wish to be surprised, you may want to skip this post.

This book has always felt so bleak to me.  There's so much happening that seems hopeless, it's hard to imagine things ever looking positive again.

I see The Two Towers as being divided into three storylines.  Merry and Pippin and their excellent Treebeard adventure.  Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli in Rohan.  Frodo and Sam journey to Mordor.

Perhaps I'm being a bit hasty, but the Treebeard section has always seemed to drag for me.  I definitely appreciate the background information provided in these chapters, and of course the rich histories and detail is something I love about Tolkien's writing.  However I'm always anxious for the story to start progressing more - too much talk, not enough action.  That's really my only complaint about the book.

As I said with The Fellowship, the detailed writing is fantastically done.  I think Gollum is one of the most imaginative and multi-layered characters I've encountered.  He's so unlikable, yet you want to feel bad for him because you get the sense that it's his obsession with the ring that is dragging him down.

The last time I read this book I was bored with the "Frodo and Sam" half.  I felt like it was 200 pages of Frodo and Sam taking a walk.  However this time around I really enjoyed it.  There were pieces of action - it's not like the battles depicted in the first half of the book - but action nonetheless.  I found myself feeling kind of pissed at the movie's depiction of Faramir.  The character in the book is nothing like the character in the movie, and I like the book character far better.  He is so different than his brother.

Rohan sounds like a lovely place.  I don't really like horses, but the wide open landscape seems beautiful.

I really see this whole series as a story about friendship.  The bond between Frodo and Sam is the epitome of friendship and trust, and the closeness that develops between Legolas and Gimli is pretty amazing too.  I'll speak more about this at the end of The Return of the King, but it is one of my favorite aspects of the series.

So the scenery is lovely, the writing is rich, detailed and beautiful, the characters are well developed and dynamic.  My only qualm is that Tolkien does not tell the story of "Frodo and Sam" and "the rest of the fellowship" simultaneously.  The first half of the book is about Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, etc. and just when you're really in the thick of things he changes gears and the rest of the story is exclusively about Frodo and Sam.  I have always found it to be disjointed because you get so far into the Aragorn et. al section and then have to get through 200 pages or so before you join them again.  Perhaps this is why I always got bored with the Frodo and Sam part?

A wonderful book!  I'm happy to have read it again.  I'm really looking forward to book 3 because I've only read it one other time.  See you at the end of the series!

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