Review – The Left Hand of Darkness

Posted 13 December, 2013 by Nikki in Reviews / 8 Comments

Cover of The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula Le GuinThe Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin

Reread this for my SF/F class on Coursera. I loved it more, this time: read it slowly, appreciated the details, just as the professor suggested. Partially because, of course, I knew it would be rewarding with Ursula Le Guin. I don’t think I was ready for this book when I read it before: the fierce joy and love in some parts of it, the devastation, the making-strange of familiar things and the making familiar of strange things.

Some parts were… maybe less subtle than I thought Le Guin would be. All the stuff about Orgoreyn seemed fairly obviously a commentary on the relations between the US and Russia; the portrayal of Karhide was more subtle, but the Voluntary Farm seems a fairly naked commentary on the gulags. I expected more subtlety, really.

I do love the world Le Guin builds. I was impatient with it last time, but having experienced more of her work, all the detail and background is part of the picture, part of the creativity, not ancillary to the plot.

Don’t read this if you’re not ready to be shaken up about gender, but really, that isn’t the important thing about it. The real importance of it is not the way Le Guin plays with and reflects on gender (Tehanu would be equally important for that, I think), but the way she thinks about dualism/wholeness, the imagery of Yin and Yang which her whole story invokes.

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8 Responses to “Review – The Left Hand of Darkness”

  1. I’m certainly ready for a re-read of this as I’m aiming to read more of her Ekumen stories (having recently acquired Four Ways to Forgiveness — in Cardiff’s Oxfam bookshop!). In fact it’ll be my third read, if I remember aright, followed I hope by a review.

    • Enjoy! Le Guin is always worth rereading, I think.

      It’s always weird to hear of someone frequenting the same bookshops as me, somehow. I was under the impression I kept them going all by myself. *laughs*

      • I agree!

        Whenever we’re in Cardiff I try to get to a couple of bookshops. I’ve never seen you there (avatars are singularly absent) but then I’ve always got my nose stuck in a book or craning my neck sideways to read spines…

        Can’t work out if the Cardiff Oxfam shop has fewer books since it’s changed premises. Slightly disappointed that the Oxfam bookshop in Marylebone has reduced the bookshelf space to accommodate other secondhand stuff — the choice is much contracted now.

        • I assume you know and love Troutmark Books in Castle Arcade, then? I could spend hours there (and often do). The Oxfam shop, I think the selection has been reduced, although the shop itself is larger so that could just be the way it seems. Or they could still be building stock there back up after reducing it to shift it.

          Have you seen a picture of me IRL at all, or did you join the ranks on Goodreads after I stopped using a photo of myself? *curious*

          On 15 December 2013 21:13, Bibliophibian Inc.

  2. Yes, though don’t linger too long in Castle Arcade as my time in Cardiff is usually limited.

    No, I hadn’t seen a pic of you in real life until you posted one a few weeks ago here, but had an image of you in my head just from the reviews and discussions you’d posted on Goodreads on Library Thing. Guessed about the glasses (scholarly type, I’d assumed), even the short hair, but got the hair colour wrong (not blonde, as I’d assumed — unless…)

    And, before you think I’m creepy or something, I usually have an image in my head of writers I’ve never seen a photo of — I’m quite a visual person, myself — and 50% of the time I’ve got it completely wrong!

    • People usually try to limit my time in Castle Arcade, but… If I haven’t been for a while and the stock has changed somewhat, they’re doomed.

      Naturally brown/red-haired, though naturally more brown than red — I have some chemical assistance with the red, haha. The short hair is only since this year, actually; till early 2013 I had very long hair!

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