King Hereafter: Character Notes

Dorothy Dunnett, King Hereafter, originally published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1982.

One of the challenges faced by readers of King Hereafter is that there are more than 200 named characters. And Dunnett does not make it easy for the reader to keep track of “who is who?” or “who did or said what?” Since the characters are based on actual historical persons, many have similar sounding, some identical, names that that are unfamiliar and sometimes unpronounceable, at least for most American readers. Furthermore, to follow details of the complex plot the reader often has to remember what individual characters said or did in earlier sections of this historical fiction novel that runs over 700 pages. Clearly, Dunnett was not trying to write for a general audience. Analogous to the recruiting slogan of the Marines, her appeal is to “a few good readers” who are willing to read slowly and carefully, taking notes and paying close attention to details.

In order to make this task somewhat more manageable, I have prepared a Character Notes Spreadsheet that is accessible by clicking on the following:


There are three columns in this spreadsheet. The first indicates the first page where I encountered a particular character’s name. The second is the actual name of that character. The third column contains notes I made for myself about the character while reading the novel. It is possible to sort by either the first column to see the notes listed in the order in which the characters are revealed to us, or by the second column (the default) to have the notes organized alphabetically by name.

I only list 169 of the characters. The ones listed in the spreadsheet are not all major characters. However, I am pretty sure the inverse assertion is true: If a character is not listed in the spreadsheet, it can be safely assumed that the character is not important enough to necessitate keeping track of. So, one of the main ways I think this spreadsheet might be valuable is for a reader trying to decide whether a particular character named in a particular section of the book needs to be remembered.

Ron Boothe

About Ron Boothe

I am a Professor Emeritus at Emory University, currently living in Tacoma Washington USA.
This entry was posted in 2019 Selections, King Hereafter and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to King Hereafter: Character Notes

  1. gil4or says:

    Ron Boothe chose a work that seemed daunting to many of us, requiring ample leisure to pore over its 700+ page saga of Macbeth’s rise to power in the days of Nordic tongues mingling with Anglo-Saxon and various Gaelic dialects, as well as the churchmen’s Latin, however that may have sounded. Dorothy Dunnett might seem a writer for a very specialized readership, but to my surprise here in Cascade, Idaho (pop. 909) I came across a man working in a True Value hardware store who guessed I was describing a Dorothy Dunnett book before I got to the point of mentioning Macbeth. He mentioned he and his wife had read her corpus of works over a decade or so when they first came to Idaho. What a synchronicity!–David

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