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Thendara House (Darkover) Mass Market Paperback – September 1, 1983
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The cross-currents of two cultures, one male-dominated, one egalitarian, combined with the human problems of two who switched allegiances, brings into focus all the deepest questions of love and marriage, justice and injustice. THENDARA HOUSE is a novel of speculation which has become a classic masterwork on the role of women on any world, past, present, or future.
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I really enjoyed 'Shattered Chains' and 'Thendara House' gripped me from the very first pages. I read through this novel--longer than 'Chains'--over a weekend, during which I hardly put it down, and never left it behind! I just started 'The City of Sorcery' the next in the Renunciates grouping, and am already totally into it--thank goodness it's friday!
This novel switches between the viewpoints of two characters: Magda Lorne and Jaelle n'ha Melora. Magda, or Margali as she is called by the Darkovan natives, is of Terran heritage (and is an employee of the Terran Empire), but she was raised on Darkover since she was a child. During the events of "The Shattered Chain", Magda took the Oath of the Renunciates under duress when she was trying to rescue her former husband, Peter Haldane. By the end of that novel, she decided to honor that Oath and came to believe in it. Thendara House is the chapterhouse of the Order of the Renunciates and Magda is to spend the next six months in training at Thendara learning the ways of the Renunciates. Jaelle is the Renunciate who took Magda's oath (this is a special relationship). In order for Magda to be able to fulfill her obligations, Jaelle agreed to work at the Terran spaceport for the 6 months that Magda is at Thendara. Magda is also now married to Peter Haldane, Magda's ex-husband. Peter, like Magda, is a Terran citizen who was raised on Darkover and works for the Empire.
Neither woman truly belongs where she is. Jaelle feels alienation because she is a Darkovan working at the Spaceport and everything she is experiencing is new and different and strange to her. Her relationship with her husband is also becoming strained as she is still struggling against those gender roles she had thought she left behind when she joined the Renunciates. Magda knows that she can never truly belong to the Renunciates because she is Terran and, at least for a time, she has to hide who she really is to fit in at all.
"Thendara House" is a more complex novel than it at first seems to be. Bradley works through the ideas of belonging to a culture and what happens to those cultural transplants which are put into a new and different environment. She works with the friendships between women and the complex relationships that women can have, both casual and intimate. "Thendara House" is the best of the seven Darkover novels that I have read so far and this came as a pleasant surprise to me.
That said, I love this book. The only minor quibble I have about it is that I get a slightly stronger sense of Magda's character than of Jaelle's, even though the book is supposed to focus equally on both women.
One of the best things about this book, to me, is that even the antagonistic characters are not portrayed as evil. Bradley makes excellent use of the shades of gray in every character throughout the book.
(Also, it's so nice to have a major character refusing to define herself exclusively as heterosexual or lesbian! Definite yay!)
Two cultures, one is male-dominated and another is ruled by technology. The cultures continue to fight for dominance and in the middle of it two women from different cultures find themselves working together ...
Jaelle, now married to the Terran Peter Haldane, is trying to fit into the life of a Terran. Her life has changed drastically. She has to eat the same things that Terrans do, dress and talk like them and also get used to their lifestyle (which is nothing like her own). Two of her major problems are; one, she can't understand how the medics, who are men, can be so impersonal about women. The major issue for her though is ... her husband is supposed to stand up for her, fight for her, and think for her. What's with that?!?!?!
Magda is living with some Renunicates now, widening the way her mind think and making new friends. She finds that she can think and speak for herself. She also finds that some people, men and women alike don't support the Renunicates and their way of thinking, while others agree with Renunicate ways.
After a time the two women have to put together the information they learned as well as their differences, combining them and using them together may be the only way that they will survive ...