In thrall of Francis Crawford, Phillipa Somerville & Dorothy Dunnett

It feels like my life has been consumed by Dorothy Dunnett. Francis Crawford of Lymond and Phillipa Somerville have grabbed hold of me so forcefully that I do not even wish to enter a new world any more.

I am just about able to restrain myself from jumping a few pages ahead to see how it all ends. As I’d mentioned earlier this struggle between wanting to slow down and gallop ahead seems to mark this first round of reading. The sheer brilliance which is these books has just started to register with me – Rich character development: check; Layered and a thorough plot line: check; Prose: Ahh, what can I say about the prose… I have to stomp down the desire to break into hyperbole. I have this niggling feeling that I have just scratched the surface with this first reading and have yet to plumb the depths of delight offered by these books. I see now why Dunnett fans have read and re-read these works.

In fact I am contemplating purchasing the companion book which I suspect will deepen my appreciation of these books for my next round of reading. Indeed I have found myself wikipaedia-ing Mary Tudor, Richard Chancellor, Ivan the Terrible, Henry the IV, the Siege of Calais and the innumerable other characters and events from history that form the canvass for Miss Dunnett’s imagination. Reading up on these I am in awe at the way Miss Dunnett integrates these actual historical figures and events so adroitly and seamlessly into her narrative. I can only wonder at the sheer research which must have gone into the writing of these books. The fact that Miss Dunnett delivers so consistently with each one of them amazes me.

I am now on the sixth and the final installment of this phenomenal saga. I am both loath and impatient for it to end.

15 thoughts on “In thrall of Francis Crawford, Phillipa Somerville & Dorothy Dunnett

  1. Pingback: a reading meme | Nooks & Crannies – 'cus they're perfect for a book lover

  2. I felt exactly the same thing when I first read the Lymond books about 2 years ago. I even had to wait a while until I could bring myself to be consumed yet again, as I knew it would happen after starting The House of Niccolo. I’ve been making these last and afterwards I still have King Hereafter on the shelf.


    • Hi Alex! I know! And that’s why I’ve decided to wait till the new year before embarking on the Niccolo series. I don’t even remember how I found the Lymond Chronicles but am just glad that I did. So good to come across someone else who’s been in the grip of these books as well. thanks for stopping by! 🙂


    • I began this thrilling and hugely enjoyable journey with Francis and Nicholas many years ago and signed up for the M& K fanzine.I look for and have found some new authors that i enjoy , but none are like DD.


  3. If you go to the Dorothy Dunnett Readers Assn, you can find contacts for the various list serves which read these books and discuss them. Almost no one begins to grasp all the things that are happening in them the first read, but the story just gets better and better as you understand it more deeply.
    We also strongly recommend that you NOT read the House of Niccolo series immediately after the the Lymond Chronicles. They are both written by Lady Dunnett and have similarities, but most readers are looking for more Lymond, and there isn’t more. Nicholas de Fleury is a very different hero on a very different journey. They are amazing books in their own right, but it helps if you come to them with a bit of distance and willingness to find a new amazing world to inhabit for 8 books..

    After you read both series, you may want to learn more about Dorothy Dunnett herself, an amazing woman over and above writing some of the the most engrossing and fascinating books of the last century as well as her husband who was also extraordinary. As Dorothy has said, Alasdair Dunnett did more for Scottish nationalism than Lymond ever did. Alexis.


  4. Very well put. I felt the same way after the first read. And I continue to be in awe of Dorothy Dunnett’s brilliant plot lines and the way she weaves her fiction in with historical events and people. Each time I read the series I get more out of it. Francis Crawford was the James Bond of his day. 🙂 Love him, and love these books.


    • I agree! As a complete n00b to the world of 15th and 16th century Europe I’ve learnt a great deal. Indeed one reason why I am purchasing the companion books is to have a deeper appreciation of the historical and political context so that I can develop a deeper appreciation of the stories.

      Thanks for stopping by, Anna!


  5. Ah, the reading joy! Don’t be sad about the end of the saga being within pages’ reach – i re-read the series often and there are still gems to discover. in 25 years i have never been part of the discussion groups and only just bought the companion books this Christmas, but maybe i will brave the chats as i am passionate about these books and, honestly, these characters and their journeys seem so real to me. agreed – love Lymond and adore DD and love, love these books!


    • Hi Caroline! How awesome to meet somebody who’s been on this journey for 25 years! If you ever feel the desire to chat some about these books feel free to drop a message here. I’d love to know if the way you relate to the books, your perception of them has changed with each successive reading.

      I’ve just placed an order for the companion books myself. I decided to have them by my side before I embarked on the House of Niccolo series.

      Thanks for stopping by!


      • Well, to be honest, I think I read the books the first time simply wanting to know who would grab Lymond’s heart! I was knocked about badly by the blows I didn’t see coming, and angry with every character who didn’t understand Francis (not that he helped them there …). I was mesmerised by the prose and the wit and the sheer brilliance of it all. I read it the first time without paying too much attention to the classical allusions or the multi-lingual exchanges, I just was filled with urgency to know how it all would end. And I was grateful for the down-to-earth Somervilles and the steadfast Archie whose ways and wiles I “got”. I missed so much the first time. I raced through – exhilarated, devastated, delighted, shocked and amazed. I’ll have to think about how much things have changed for me! One change I know – the characters have become like family to me! And another would be, no racing, much more savouring.


  6. There is only one problem with reading Dorothy Dunnett. Since I first read Lymond at least 35 years ago now, and have re-read both series at least half a dozen times, nothing else I have read since ever quite satisfies. I would not however trade the experience for anything, just glad that I got through Game of Kings that first time.


    • I know this is a very old posting but I just chanced upon this tonight. I couldn’t agree more about not being satisfied with other fiction after this. I only read non-fiction now unless I’m re-reading D.D.. Glad to see a man’s opinion. For some reason, I don’t see many men commenting on this work- even though primarily it is swashbuckling adventure.


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