Reading: Nicola Griffith — Hild (2nd time)

Poor book, it took a battering on the month of my wandering. It was my one book I brought along, both for its size, so I’d be guaranteed something to read for at least a few days (ended up lasting two weeks of sporadic page-turning), and because of all the books I wanted to read again, this was top of my list (Ancillary Justice was also a possibility, but I figured it wouldn’t last as long). I read it the first time only in August last year, so barely six months have passed, remarkably small gap between readings for me.

I’m a little embarrassed and sad at how butchered the dust jacket became after those weeks in my bag, even in its own bag. It went from pristine (ignoring the usual grubby finger marks and spilt food) to furry and worn. That could also be a demonstration of how much I love this book. I’ve already frothed at the mouth in describing my first reading of Hild, so I won’t do more of that here. What can I say, then?

It’s better the second time. Sometimes books on the second reading, it’s the flaws that become evident, repetitions of words or phrases, odd choices of words or timing, I’ll get to the end and think, “yeah, that was good, but I won’t read it again.” Hild, I’ll be reading a third time. I almost started while in Kraków, needing something to read, but talked myself out of that. I’m not trying to destroy my enjoyment of it here.

What else? My memory of it was in places wildly inaccurate. Some things happened far, far further through than I remembered; others happened quite differently, and were not nearly as significant single moments as I’d thought, being spread open across chapters instead of half a page. Others were just as tense and gripping as the first time, even more, knowing what was coming. Hild getting herself caught in an arranged marriage to Cian didn’t feel half as weird as the first time.

And? The writing is sublime. Throughout, Griffith returns to weaving, it’s almost the centre around which the women and the story turns. Hild is like a tapestry, laid out and from a distance, it’s a vast tableau that would stretch the length of a hall and reach to the rafters; but come closer and the detail remains, there’s no diminishment. It can’t be my book of the year this year; subsequent readings don’t count. Now I’m just waiting for the second part.