Lin Conklin – Choices in the Great Circle

Librarything Early Reviewers gave me the opportunity to read and review Choices in the Great Circle by Lin Conklin. It supposed to be a historical novel. But, after 130 pages read, still nothing has happened. Where regular novel writers do their best to describe the places, the circumstances, this novel is based on dialogues. So, don’t expect any scenery of north-west England in the High Middle Ages. Don’t expect too much pagan practices, other than vague descriptions of a cave, lessons and Old Ways (whatever they may be) and dreaming. In some sense it’s a matter of choices for a girl named Amay and her mother Minne between the Old Ways of paganism and the New Ways of the local Christian Church. Without any date, King or ruler mentioned I take the High Middle Ages as my history teacher taught: 11th-13th century. Well, in these centuries Christianity was certainly no set of New Ways in England!

Every little detail is told in dialogues between mother and daughter, her lovers Reynard, Ixion and Robin. Modern age, American styled, self-help psycho oneliners destroy the ancient setting. Life lessons such as you’re responsible for your own choices, a mix of all religions are makes you happier than choosing one, and we have lost touch with nature (because of the church) are OK (for some readers). Please place them at the end of a story, an adventure, a parable woven into a story, but avoid them in dialogues between English people living 1,000 years ago.

The author has a bold and outspoken view on paganism and (Catholic) Christianity, without true explanation or using facts. Switches between the various characters is done too often, even within the same scene and without clarification. Most of the sentences were extremely short and the vocabulary used was very simple. Other phrases are lengthy. That’s normal in my native language, Dutch, but not in English. An example: “Ixion had just finished delivering an important message to one of the elders at the woman’s training area whem he politely asked for permission to visit Amay.”  I had to write down a who is who for myself, and that’s quite unusual for me, reading thousands and thousands of pages in both fiction as well as non-fiction books. I would have appreciated a richer pictionary of the storyline instead of reading spoken dialogues without much happening.