Lymond 3: love is cryptonite

Lymond has fallen in love. It was possibly the best fictional moment ever.

Some thoughts about how the most superior, restrained, unreachable character I have ever read managed to fall in love believably. (And this is a useful thing to look at, given how often a great, tortured hero is made void by falling in love.)

I had no idea how Dunnett would have him fall in love with Philippa, given that he is superior to everyone he meets – and they always want him more than he wants them, which always gives him the upper hand.

It seemed to be a two-armed approach – though I’m sure the beast really has at least ten arms, and I’m just missing all the subtleties, as usual.

1. Philippa doesn’t give in to Lymond’s bullying, where everyone else in his life, at some point or other, does. The worst threat he can hold above her is to deny himself the friendship of she and her mother, which he can’t afford to do (as this halves the friends he has in the world, poor old Lymond). And even then she won’t be turned aside.

2. She is as inquisitive as him, quicksilver intelligent, and courageous in a human, error-filled way that he is not. So whilst the fact that she can stand up to him has some fascination, it is tempered by the way that her brain sparks his alight, and by the ways she surprises him – and most of all by the fact that she made him laugh.

Here is a brilliant moment: Dunnett has spent five books plumbing the depths of Lymond’s restraint and, particularly in the fifth book, paring away all the human sentiment in him that holds him back from greatness. And then Philippa makes him laugh, by hitting him with a costume axe.

Then, when the realisation that he’s in love strikes, he walks around in a daze all evening, not aware of what’s going on around him.

It reminds of an anecdote an old boyfriend told me: He saw a guy jump the curb on a skateboard. The skater didn’t land the jump and stood there, staring at his board, for a whole minute. By the fact that he was so put out by misjudging such a simple trick, said boyfriend knew he was a pro.

So here’s how I think Dunnett pulls off the ultimate anti-hero in love: With his great powers of intellect and restraint, he doesn’t let that knowledge affect his life, or the way he conducts his life. But he is unable to control his actions quite so well as before, and an element of unpredictability has entered the life he is used to controlling down to every last expression.

I have some thoughts about heroes and their heroine-as-kryptonite that you can read here.

About anna cowan

I look around, and here I am - housewife and aspiring romance novelist. This seems unexpected.
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5 Responses to Lymond 3: love is cryptonite

  1. Alex says:

    Yes, the moment when he falls in love has to be one of the best things ever written. And their race through the roofs in Lyon… I was completely enticed. I agree with your two reasons, but feel a that the fact she’s able to make him laugh should be an equally important factor.

    I had some issues with Checkmate which so far I haven’t been able to iron out – maybe you can help? (SPOILER ALERT!)

    I understand the reason why he doesn’t want to be close to her at the beginning, he thinks his intensity will destroy her (‘a la Marta and Jerott) and that she’s young and is still not sure about herself and her feelings. But it reaches a point in the novel where Philippa manages to convince him that on her side, it’s also the real thing. I think he says as much to another character, something along the lines of “Ah, if you had only a tenth of what Philippa and I have…” As of that moment, Dunnett lost me. Why the angst? Why the whole show when they were living together in Sevigny? They’re married, they both know that there can never be anyone else, so why is he holding back? I’ve read somewhere that he feels that Philippa couldn’t handle a sexual relationship after the rape and it would be to painful for Lymond to be with her without being with her in that way. I’m not convinced.
    Any thoughts?

    • anna cowan says:

      eeep! I’m still reading the end of Ringed Castle, so I stopped reading your comment at “race through the roofs of Lyon” which sounds super exciting, but I haven’t read yet. Will read and respond to your comment once I’ve gotten that far!

      (Am grinning stupidly on the inside, because I just got to the bit where you find out that “yunitsa” is a loving endearment. Oh yay!)

    • anna cowan says:

      phew! I’ve finally finished! So here are my thoughts:

      After he realises she equally loves him, his honour won’t let a “hunchback” (ah, Lymond) like himself have her. His self-laothing would have killed him, as Philippa realises at some point.

      After the rape, she can’t bear to be with him in any physical way at all (see how she vomits after seeing him swimming naked, and hearing the men refer to sexual appetite). He tries to keep his love limited to the mind – and given that this is Lymond we’re talking about, his will-power gets him a certain distance on this score. But given also that it’s Lymond we’re talking about, he does nothing by halves. This is the only woman in the world he desires, and his nerves have no capacity for restraint. Also, I think there’s quite a lot of reference to warlike men and their physical appetites.

      His love is extreme, his desire is extreme. It’s Lymond. He has had to regulate himself his whole life; Philippa is his promise of fulfilment; he has to forgo fulfilment.

      Er, I don’t know if that clarifies anything. I’m a bit tired, and still in shock, because Austin/Marthe scene at the end totally sucked me in.

      The angst all worked for me, I think because I found the post-rape scene so horrific. Much as I was on team-Marthe when she went and told Philippa to get over it, I also got how that just wasn’t possible for Philippa – because of course she would have done it, if it was.

      Also, the way Dunnett goes about telling us about their time at Sevigny is really creepy. We’re getting the fulfilment we’ve been wanting for two books at least, but there’s something really wrong. It felt a bit like a horror film to me. I think the weird, second-hand witnessing of it all, and the superficial signs of everything being right, and the telling absence of things that pointed to something being horribly wrong.

      I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say on the subject 🙂

  2. Alex says:

    OOPS! I though you were re-reading them. Yes, DO come back (don’t forget!), I’d love to get your view on this one!

    yunitsa! How sweet is that?

  3. Pingback: the awful I love you | diary of a(n accidental) housewife

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