She stared across the wood. It had swallowed Harry, then breathed out Scathach. It had filled her head with legend, then sucked her in, a fish sucking in a fly. (p.317)Reread for book club: this is a book which I adore, which I used to read often, and I still retain some sentences word for word. ("There is old memory in snow.") Odd what I remembered and what I didn't: I remembered the time loop, and Vaughan Williams, and the cloud shadows, and Bird Spirit Land, and of course the masks; I'd forgotten the hollyjacks, the gaberlungi, Wynne-Jones and Tig and above all Harry. Perhaps I was so focussed on Tallis's journey that I didn't pay attention to the fact that it was also a quest.
Some of the points that came up in book-club discussion were interesting. We talked about whether or not the whole story's a time loop. I found the idea that Tallis was doomed to repeat her journey incredibly depressing, both on first read and on rereads, but if she's broken the loop, broken the story, and freed herself then there's resolution. Or maybe that last coda is not as real as the rest of the tale: maybe it's all in Tallis's dying mind.
We couldn't work out what happened to Harry. I don't think it's specified in the book, and the internet didn't know either*. We're left with him losing Tallis and yelling "I've lost everything!" That's sharp and raw.
It's a story about siblings -- Tallis and Harry, Scathach and Morthen. Tallis's mother is emotionally absent (something of a theme in Holdstock's books); her father is warmer, but ineffectual, though the night of her departure is a harrowing scene.
And it's a story about how lives become stories become myth, and mythago. Someone asked "Is Tallis a mythago by the end of the book?" It is, of course, rude to answer a question with another question: nevertheless I countered, "Is she a mythago at the beginning of the book?" (I'm still thinking about that one.) (Wish I could ask Rob.) What Tallis is, is something more powerful than anybody else who's come into the wood; her mind engenders older myth(ago)s than Robin Hood or Guinevere. She and her brother share this ability to bring into being ancient, primal myths.
I must have read The Hollowing -- though I remember only scattered fragments -- but rereading Lavondyss has sent me back to it, not right now but very soon.
*except that Rob Holdstock's cat was named Harry.