For someone who's always been so sure that she didn't like fantasy, I've really surprised myself in recent times. Last year was the year of Harry Potter. This is the year of The Lord of the Rings. I realise now that I probably should have read Tolkien before Rowling. That way I would have understood where Rowling got some of her ideas from. (Trees that swallow people ... Giant spiders ...). I suppose if you pretty much invent a genre, lots of writers are going to pay tribute to you.
Anyway, after a slightly shakey start with The Fellowship of the Ring, which I felt suffered from too much talking and not enough action - and I say that as someone who has no problem with long books and lots of description - the second installment in the trilogy is pretty great. I like that there is plenty of action and not quite so much speech-making about it. I like how the characters and the relationships between them develop and I like how the narrative shifts from one group of characters to another.
In relation to the characters, I particularly like the warmth of the connection between Frodo and Sam and the way in which they both grow as they engage with each other and with their quest. In addition, I find Gollum fascinating, with the overtones of schizophrenia or some type of personality disorder in his behaviour. (I suspect that whole articles have been written about this particular issue.)
There are a few aspects of the novel I find less successful. Tolkien's prose is not always elegant: I'm not sure about this, but I seem to recall something being described as "lit by light" (or words to that effect). Also, I found myself contemplating a Freudian analysis of the Frodo / Sam / Shelob episode. That was a bit distracting, I must admit, and I had to tell myself quite firmly that a spider might just be a spider, a tunnel might just be a tunnel and a sword might just be a sword! I appreciate that this probably says more about me than it does about Tolkien. I also got a little distracted in the battle scenes. I always have difficulty following what's happening in battle scenes, whether in books or in films. But again, that's more about me than it is about Tolkien.
Overall, there was plenty of excitement and suspense, some very moving scenes and a couple of real surprises, not to mention a great cliffhanger of an ending. While Rob Inglis' narration annoyed me a little in The Fellowship of the Ring, I had no problem with it as I listened to this book. His voices for Frodo, Sam and Gollum are particularly well done.
I move on to The Return of the King tomorrow and I'm very much looking forward to it. I'm enjoying this as a buddy read with GR friends.