Stardust Read-along, Part the First

StardustReadAlongMy husband, to me, last night: “What are you reading?” Me: “Stardust.” Him: “Didn’t you already read that? Why are you reading it again?” Me: “Because it’s good?”

And, I mean, yes, that, but also I am reading it again because I am talking about it with people on the internet! And I can’t keep the internet waiting, so here’s the first batch of questions for approximately the first half of this adorable little novel. There may be spoilers ahead, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum!

1. We have spent a little time with Tristran and even less time with the star. What are your initial thoughts/impressions of our two protagonists?
Oh, Tristran. First of all, what’s with that extra R, and second of all, you are an idiot. Chasing after a fallen star? Continuing to kidnap a fallen star after it turns out to be a person-shaped star? Love is weird, but you, sir, are weirder. At this point in the story the star has just run off, and I do not blame her, and also I don’t remember what happens to her next so I am quite worried. It doesn’t seem fair, getting thwacked and then broken and then kidnapped.

2. There are some very interesting potential villains introduced in this first half of the book. Do any of them particularly stand out to you? If so why or why not?
I adore the brothers, and especially the ghost brothers as portrayed in the movie, but we’re talking about the book right now. I love their ruthlessness and I was greatly impressed by Primus’s fancy plan to send his brother on a wild goose chase. The witches… they haven’t really done anything yet, but not-Morwanneg is pretty much terrifying.

3. In Chapter Three, just after the section with the brothers in Stormhold, Neil Gaiman gives us a description of Faerie that includes “each land that has been forced off the map by explorers and the brave going out and proving it wasn’t there…”. What imaginary lands do you then hope are a part of Faerie?
Um, all of them? Especially the ones labelled “Here there be dragons”? I guess I don’t really see Faerie as, like, the land of actual fairy tales and Snow White and all, but as a place of general magic and wonderment and the “what could have been” that our quest for absolute truth has worn away.

4. We do not get to spend a great deal of time in the market but while there we are given a number of interesting descriptions of the wares being bartered or sold. Which if any of them caught your eye, either as items you would like to possess or ones you would most certainly hope to avoid.
I do very much like the glass flowers of which one is given to Dunstan, because pretty! They can keep the miniature cats (I have enough full-sized ones, thanks) and the eyeballs, but all the shiny things are coming home with me!

5. If you have read much of Gaiman’s work, particularly his short fiction, then you have come across some rather graphic and disturbing portrayals of sex. Gaiman offers up something very different in the way of a sex scene early on in Stardust. What are your feelings of the scene either in general or as a contrast to other Gaiman-penned scenes involving sex?
Ugh, thanks for reminding me of those awkward stories, Carl. Ugh. This one was much much better than those, although differently awkward on account of the servitude and the chain holding that poor girl. There’s a real sense of melancholy and of a need for escape that’s quite depressing, which is oddly an improvement over the seeming gratuity of those aforementioned awkward stories.

6. I suspect Neil Gaiman is influenced by a number of fairy and folk tales in Stardust. Are there any elements of the story that made a particular impression and/or reminded you of other fairy stories you have read or are familiar with?
Not… particularly? Gaiman tosses the reader a couple of poems that I don’t personally recognize and so therefore I assume are British things that I didn’t grow up with. But even though I can’t pinpoint any one thing and say, hey, that’s from that one story I’ve heard, the sense of fairy tales and fantasy is definitely strong. If there are specific stories that Gaiman is referencing, I’d love to know so that I can track them down!

7. And finally, which of the many side characters introduce have caught your eye and why? Or what else about the story thus far is of interest to you?
Currently I am rooting for our friend the bird slash Tristran’s mother. I’m pretty sure she comes back later in the story, but I think even reading this for the first time I wanted her to break free and take back her life. And, of course, I’m cheering on Primus in defeating his younger brother, if not in actually capturing the star because that’s just mean.

Are you reading along? Have you read this delightful tale before? Tell me what you think of this first half!

14 thoughts on “Stardust Read-along, Part the First

  1. nrlymrtl says:

    You’re right, that second R in Tristran always trips me up. If I could roll my Rs really good, I would enjoy saying his name. Alas, I am lacking in that particular rapid tongue flick.

    I too always root for Tristran’s mum in this story, even tho I remember how it turns out. I find myself contemplating about all those years we don’t hear about and what her life of servitude was like before and after her baby.

    • Alison says:

      Yeah, I am incapable of rolling Rs as well. I’m so American. And don’t remind me how things turn out! I like this half-knowing state I’ve got going. 🙂 But seriously, these punishments all around Faerie are so weird — turning into birds, or mice who have to eat things, or owls who have to eat mice who have eaten things… it’s all very strange but also delightful!

  2. cherylmahoney says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one bothered by Tristran’s extra R. That just sounds weird in my head, and even weirder out loud. And yeah, he’s pretty weird at times too.

    Describing Faerie as the “land of what could have been” is just lovely.

    • Alison says:

      Isn’t it? I hadn’t really thought about it until answering that question, which is why I so enjoy these read-alongs. I have to actually think about things!

  3. Jeremy F says:

    You are so right! I just kept thinking, “Okay, this is beyond young, naive love now. This is kidnapping. Stop!”

    I also felt the same way about faerie. Didn’t so much make me think of any particular place but more an infusion of magic, which I think is probably MORE mysterious…

  4. suecccp says:

    1. Tristran is very determined, but so dumb that it is almost painful! 🙂

    2. To be honest, I am surprised that any of the brothers are still alive to have developed grey hairs! 😀

    5. Yikes! After reading what both you and Carl have said about these other stories, I am not sure that I want to read them. Perhaps I should get a list so that I can avoid them 😦

    6. Speaking as a Brit, I can say that I am not familiar with any of it apart from the St Ives riddle, which I have heard before. It is strange how it all seems so familiar and yet isn’t based on anything in particular.

    7. A guess that the brothers only need the topaz, so if they catch the star they don’t need to harm her, unlike the witches. I too want to know more about his mother and I really hope she wins her freedom eventually.

    • Alison says:

      I’m glad I’m not missing any fancy fairy tales, and it makes sense that Gaiman would make things as vaguely fantastical as possible. He’s so smart. 🙂 As to the weird things, yeah, you can avoid those pretty easily and probably won’t feel like you’re missing too much. I love that Gaiman writes such different stuff, because if I don’t like something he writes I can move on to the next thing and try again!

  5. Carl V. Anderson says:

    I love it when I re-read books and cannot quite remember various parts of the story. It adds that element of surprise coupled with something warm and familiar. I totally understand why you wanted to re-read this. I’ve done it many times before. In fact I believe I’ve read both Stardust and Neverwhere in the past and turned right around and started them over after closing the last page because I couldn’t bear to leave those worlds or those characters.

    The bird-woman at the stall is an interesting character, as is Ditchwater Sal, her owner. I like how Gaiman drops other references that there are more enchanted folks in Faerie as well. Makes you realize just how dangerous it would be to be a traveler there and how you would want to be sure to be kind to everyone you came across, regardless of their behavior towards you. Kind and cautious.

    I so love Gaiman’s description of Faerie in that it holds so many possibilities for adventure. It is like every kid’s dream world rolled into one with the extra elements of danger that makes it exciting and a bit scary too.

    • Alison says:

      Sometimes half-remembering is good and sometimes it’s not, but in this case it’s doing me quite well. It’s a sign of excellent storytelling that I can be concerned and excited even about the things I remember clearly!

  6. buriedinprint says:

    We would make good co-shoppers at the market as we seem to be drawn to the opposite kinds of goods. That was my favourite scene in the first half of the book; I wish more time had been spent on what/who was there…even though I realize that’s not really the point. (And now I am really curious about the stories you call “awkward”!)

    • Alison says:

      We could buy up the market together! It would be fantastic. And I would say don’t be curious about those stories, but if you’re all about gross things, maybe they’ll be okay for you? 🙂

      • buriedinprint says:

        What does it say about me that that comment only makes me MORE curious. *sigh* Or maybe I just have an addiction to adding books to my TBR list….

        • Alison says:

          I’m pretty sure we all have that addiction! 🙂 And probably now that we’ve all hyped it up as the grossest most awkward thing ever, you’ll be like, that was it?

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