A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes introduction to the world)

This review was posted first on Book Lovers Inc: a cooperative blog with great reviews, interviews and lots of giveaways.


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It was in A Study in Scarlet that Arthur Conan Doyle first introduced to the world's most well known fictional detective - Sherlock Holmes. 

Not only do we get to meet Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, but we get to immerse ourselves in a murder mystery centred around a dead body found in an abandoned house, with the word 'Rache' scrawled in blood on the world and a female wedding ring next to the dead body. Who did it?

The story begins with Dr Watson's return to England after suffering an injury during the Afghanistan War. He finds himself with little do and very limited funds and needing accommodation. Through a chance encounter with an old friend, he is introduced to Mr Sherlock Holmes who has found the perfect rooms, but needs someone to live in them with him. The two move in together, and find themselves to be well suited as housemates.

It over breakfast one morning that Sherlock Holmes discloses to Dr Watson his profession as a private consulting detective, based on his excellent deductive powers. Dr Watson is of course a sceptic of Sherlock Holmes' skills and so when Holmes is asked to play a role in solving the mysterious murder in the abandoned house, he asks Dr Watson to be of assistance.

The book is split into two halves. 

The first half is narrated by Dr Watson himself and is an account of his meeting with Sherlock Holmes and their subsequent investigation of the murder. Dr Watson is a good and honest narrator. The great thing about watching the story unfold from Dr Watson's perspective is that it allows the reader to see the clues unfold and attempt to solve the murder alongside Mr Holmes.

The second half of the book is the back story to how the murderer came to commit these horrific acts. The change from the first to the second half of the book is very sudden, and I have to admit that at first I didn't realise what was happening. I actually thought that perhaps Arthur Conan Doyle was playing a cruel trick on me and after revealing who the murdered was, wasn't going to explain how Holmes figured it out. It was therefore a relief when I began to identify how the second half of the book related to the first and was able to start piecing the puzzle together myself.

I had read a lot of the Sherlock Holmes short stories as well as The Hound of the Baskervilles and so it was nice to see how Holmes and Watson began their friendship. Holmes has his weaknesses, which Dr Watson is very cognisant of, but the two men are able to form a solid friendship despite their differences.

I loved the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and I can't wait to get stuck into more of them.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
The ultimate in murder mystery.


Do I recommend this book?
Yes, I recommend all of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries without hesitation.


Do I recommend that you buy this book?
No, borrowing it would be fine unless you a big Sherlock Holmes fan.




Star Rating

6 / 8


Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it.

Have you read any of the Sherlock Holmes novels? Do you have a favourite?

Has a book ever disappointed you upon rereading it?


Welcome to Page Turners!

Thanks for dropping past Page Turners on this weeks book blogger hop. If you are new to Page Turners, why not consider joining in my fun Friday meme: BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAY.

I have three reviews to share with you all this week:
I also did a guest post about the classics on Desert Book Chick - it is all about why it is important to read the classics and I hope to serves to remind me people that there are many different types of classics out there for people to try. I also did a post about the 'Buy One Book and Read It Challenge'; a challenge that arose out of a rather scary statistic about reading habits in America.

I follow just over 200 blogs.


Rereading Books


I have been thinking about the habit of rereading books a lot lately. Until this year, I have been a massive rereader. I has read almost all of the books that I owned many times, some of them I was rereading 3 - 4 times a year (the most reread being the Harry Potter series, the Lord of the Rings series and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier). I have always been a rereader because I love to read the books that I know that I love. 

Yesterday though, I had a disappointing rereading experience. 

As a teenager I loved the Tomorrow, When the War Began series by John Marsden. I read it many many times, particularly the first three books in the series. I loved the thought of camping out alone with adult supervision. I loved the description of the bushland too. I grew up in a house very close to a national park and spent many years growing up bush walking with friends. I loved the way that angst of teenage-hood was dealt with; trying to develop grown up relationships for example. The concept of an invasion too was unique, although I think that honestly back then I was a little to apolitical to give much thought to the social and cultural messages contained in the series. 

The movie adaptation of Tomorrow, When the War Began is set to be released here in Australia in September and so I decided to reread it before I saw the movie. 
It was the first time that I had reread it since I was a teenager and I have to admit that it just wasn't the same for me. A book that used to take me a couple of days to read only took 3 hours for a start. 

I had trouble putting my finger on the bigger problem - but I think that it really comes down to the genre. Reading this young adult novel as a young adult was a wonderful experience and one that i loved experiencing over and over again. I remember that feeling very fondly. Yet reading it again as an adult it just wasn't the same. There was no avoiding the fact that it was written for young adults and I just couldn't appreciate it like I used to. The language was aimed at the wrong age group and the content was aimed at the wrong age group. 

I still enjoyed the trip down memory lane, and I am glad that I have refreshed my memory of the book before I see the movie. Unfortunately, I just didn't enjoy it as much as I remembered. 

What about you? Have you ever really loved a book, and then felt a bit disappointed when you have reread it? Are you a rereader or do you mainly read new books?

Book Beginnings on Friday


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence. (Thanks to Rose City Reader for inspiring this meme)

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth


I have always been a little apprehensive about starting this one given it is the longest book ever written in English language. Despite my misgivings though, it is actually really easy to get into the story and I am really enjoying it. Having said that, I have been reading it for a week and am only 1/3 of the way into the book. Here is the opening sentence:
"'You will marry a boy that I chose,' said Mrs Rupa Mehra firmly to her younger daughter."
I love this opening line. It ties is so perfectly to the title of the book and immediately sets the tone as well. It seems like such a firm place to start, like a real beginning.

What about you? Leave a link to your Book Beginnings on Friday post in the Mr Linky below.

Lights, Camera, Blog Action!

This is a special feature dedicated to spreading the word about the other great blogs that are out there! I have found a lot of great blogs through such features and I want to be able to share some book blog joy too!

If anyone would like to participate email me at pageturnersbooks(at)gmail.com

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Today I am featuring Skip from The Reading Ape. This is perhaps the most intelligent blog that I have the pleasure of following. I has such wonderfully thoughtful discussion of literary issues that I can't get enough of it. If you are looking for something slightly different to the average book blog, something that holds real interest and inteliigent discussion, then this is a blog for you.

Tell us something about yourself

Well, I grew up in Kansas, moved to New York for graduate school, and now teach writing and literature at a small liberal arts college in Manhattan. I guess my best reading-related biographical story is that when I was a kid, my folks would send me to my room when I got in trouble—until I discovered novels. After that, being sent to my room wasn’t much of a deterrent, so it was off to the laundry room with me. I thought it wise not to tell them that I eventually wedged a few books behind the washing machine.  

What was your favourite book as a child or young adult, and why?

Like many young readers, I burned through a bunch of series: Lord of the Rings, the Narnia books, the Wrinkle in Time stuff, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and on and on. In sixth grade, I pulled The Last of the Mohicans off the shelf at my school library and can still remember the feelings of danger, sadness, and I guess you might say honor that book spurred in me. There’s a non-zero chance I’m still chasing that first shock in my reading to this day.

Why do you love to read?

Because it makes my life richer. Rounder. Deeper. More meaningful. Reading provides wonder, sadness, and exultation in quantities no other human activity can match. It’s pretty swell, really.

How do you choose your books?

No idea. Not kidding here. I definitely have a stable of authors who make me rush to the bookstore when they release something new, but as for finding new writers, the process that leads me to check someone out is a bit of a mystery to me. Some combination of reviews, blogs, cover blurbs, and subject matter has to coalesce in some obscure way. If anyone has a better way to do it, I’d love to know.

What are you currently reading and what's been the best book you have read in the last 6 months?

I just wrote a post about my favorite novels of 2010 (so far), and Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes took the top spot. As a student and scholar of American literature, I track war writing somewhat carefully, and I think this is a significant work. The tone is really remarkable—clear-eyed and critical, where much writing about Vietnam plays up the hysteria of the experience and of the domestic politics.

When and why did you start your blog?

I started my blog in earnest a few months ago, but I’ve been circling it for about five years (There was in fact a previous version of The Reading Ape for a while in 2005, but school and teaching devoured it—quite mercifully actually, like a lion plucking a diseased zebra). I wanted a venue to talk about books and literature in a way the academy doesn’t really accommodate, somewhat less formal and dare I say joyful than what passes for scholarly discourse. I also like to write things other than criticism, and I thought The Ape might provide some structure for those experiments. We’ll see.

How did you choose your blog's name?

Is nothing sacred? But really, it’s because I’m a Virginia Woolf junkie and her account of the remunerations of the reading life seems to me a kind of gospel for the bookish(Side note: Woolf’s sister called Virginia “Ape” as well): When the day of judgment comes therefore and all secrets are laid bare, we shall not be surprised to learn that the reason why we have grown from apes to men, and left our caves and dropped our bows and arrows and sat round the fire and talked and given to the poor and helped the sick – the reason why we have made shelter and society out of the wastes of the desert and the tangle of the jungle is simply this – we have loved reading.

What do you love about book blogging?


Man, book bloggers are supportive. That’s been the real surprise—the level of enthusiasm people have for books, for their and each other’s blogs, and for talking about books. It’s really pretty inspiring.

What tips do you have to offer to other book bloggers?
 
Well, shoot. I don’t know that I have much writerly advice yet, but as a reader of book blogs, I find variety, voice, and honesty the most compelling reasons to read someone. 

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I love how you describe why you read. I have been thinking about this lately. I used to answer escapism, but increasingly I think that it is something more than that. Escapism is an enjoyable side effect (if I can use that phrase) but I think my motivation to read is something bigger than that, and I like how you expressed it. 


Thank you for participating. I hope everyone takes the time to have a look at The Reading Ape.

Some misconceptions about the classics

The idea of reading a classic can sometimes be intimidating to readers, and so it is no surprise that there has been a lot of discussion about the classics recently in the blogosphere.

Amanda from Desert Book Chick has had an entire month dedicated to the classics and Jane Doe from Dead White Guys has been doing a series of posts about reading the classics as well.

I have taken part in some of these discussions because I love reading the classics. What people forget is that there are modern classics as well as the historical ones, and so reading classics should not be as intimidating to people as it may seem. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that reading classics is essential if we want to be balanced readers and improve ourselves in the process.

I have written a Guest Post for Desert Book Chick all about some misconceptions about the classics and why it is important, as readers, to read them.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

This is the third instalment of the Harry Potter series, and doesn't fail to deliver the fun, magic and danger we expect from this series. 

Until the later books in this series, The Prisoner of Azkaban was my favourite of the Harry Potter series. I loved that it was the first book of the series where Voldemort doesn't appear. It served to remind me that there was a bigger story going on behind the scenes, and one that we were finally getting real glimpses of.

I also loved meeting the character of Lupin, and getting to know Sirius more after his appearance in The Chamber of Secrets. Trelawney was a funny character as well, and I love that having read all of the series, it is now possible to read the clues is The Prisoner of Azkaban that establish the important role she has already (and unknowingly) played in Harry's life. 

Harry, Ron and Hermione's school life became much more exciting with the introduction of their electives. I loved how Hermione kept brushing the boys off when they asked her about her busy timetable - she is so marvelous the way she can be so haughty and supercilious with them when at the same time she is concealing a big secret. 

The way that we get to live through the end of the story for a second time but from a different angle (if not a different perspective) makes the ending a fabulous one.

The Prisoner of Azkaban is one of the best books of the series.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
It is a children's book, so it is quick and easy to read, but it is truly magical.

Do I recommend this book?
There are not many other books that I could recommend more strongly than books in the Harry Potter series.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
Yes Yes Yes


Star Rating

8 / 8


One of the best books I have ever read. Everyone should read it - it is totally amazing. I am in love.

What was your favourite part of The Prisoner of Azkaban? Was is the new subjects? The new characters? Or something else?

Lovesong by Alex Miller; a story within a story

Lovesong is a beautifully written love story, that is not only about love and family, but is also about the art of story telling. 

Ken has recently returned to his life in suburban Melbourne following a trip to Venice. His wife has recently passed away, he has retired from his life as a fiction writer and his 38 year old daughter has moved in with him following her separation from her husband. In short, Ken is feeling lost and having difficulty adjusting to his new life.

Upon his return he notices a new bakery in the local area, and he soon becomes fascinated with the family that runs it, particularly the beautiful woman with the sad eyes behind the counter. He soon strikes up a relationship with her husband John Patterner, who begins to tell Ken his life story.

The bulk of Lovesong is Ken's account of John's tale of how he met and fell in love with his wife Sahiba in Paris many years ago. Their love story revolves Sahiba's urgent desire to start a family, but her inability to fall pregnant. In the end, she commits a horrible act of betrayal in order to achieve her desires.

The simplicity of this story is beautiful. The prose is simple and bare and the story explores the essence of love.

But there are really two aspects to this heartfelt novel.

First there is the love story between John and Sahiba. Through this story Miller not only explores the essence of love; he also explores the reality of growing old and starting a family. He looks at questions of fidelity and fertility and solitariness within a relationship.

Then there is the story within a story - a story about the act of storytelling itself. Ken becomes drawn into John and Sahiba's love story, until his story becomes entwined with theres'. He also becomes struck with the desire to write their story, despite it not being their story to tell. The ethics of storytelling are thus explored as Ken still determines to write John and Sahiba's story in his own words.

My only reservation about the book was the character of Sahiba. I wanted to like her, and initially I did. In the end though, I felt like her selfishness so surpassed any good qualities that I become somewhat depressed by her. She wanted something so badly, that she was completely unable to appreciate what she had, and was willing to put it all at risk for her own needs. I can't even imagine the pain of being unable to have children, but I cannot use that to justify her behaviour. In the end, I only felt a sense of dissatisfaction at the outcome of their love story.

Having said that, I loved this book.  I cannot remember another book where I have so easily been drawn into and along with the story. The prose makes you feel as if you are floating peacefully down a river. The quality of the story and the writing is remarkable and I can't recommend this story highly enough.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
A simple but meaningful read.

Do I recommend this book?
Very much so, to everyone.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
I am definitely glad that I won it, but I think that this might be one of those books that you could probably read from the library and then decide if you love it enough to purchase.


Star Rating

7.5 / 8

Brilliant, couldn't put it down. Everyone should read it  - it is amazing!


Alex Miller is an an Australian author that (sadly) I didn't know much about before this years Miles Franklin Award and the controversy that Miller stirred up with his comments about the disparity of funding between what should be Australia's premier literary award and newly created awards such as the Prime Ministers Literary Award. I have written more about this controversy here if you are interested in some interesting discussion in the Australian literary world.

Have you ever read this book? I would love to know what you think of it. Does the story appeal to you? How do you feel about a love story that doesn't just focus on a happy outcome, but explores the innermost desires of people and how those desires have the potential to thwart their love?

It's Monday! What are you reading?

 

It's Monday, what are you reading? is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is a chance for us to share with other book bloggers what we have just finished reading, what we are currently reading and what we are reading next.


Just finished

A Room with a View by EM Forster


I listened to this one on audiobook this week because my eyes were playing up again and I really enjoyed it. Althogh I have to admit that I found Lucy somewhat irritating. 

Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor

I read this book for my monthly book club. The author will also be attending which is very exciting. I only wish that I enjoyed the book a little more.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon


This is perhaps one of the most unique books I have ever read, both in terms of content and style.

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

This book was an Australian book that I was very excited about reading, especially after I heard the publisher discussing it at the Sydney Writers Festival this year. It didn't disappoint me, I couldn't put it down. 


The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

This is a very talked about book here in Australia, an now internationally given it has become one of the books on this years Man Booker Prize long list. I enjoyed it, but it was..... hmm. Its a bit hard to say. Stay tuned for the review.

Currently Reading

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

I will be starting this book now that my eyes are back on track. This is a massive challenge for me. It is the biggest book ever written in one volume in the English language, and believe me, it is massive. My edition comes in at 1474

Up Next

I suspect that A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth will take me at least 2 weeks to read, especially as I am going back to work this week and my reading time will again be limited to the train to and from work. So at this stage I will not be planning that far ahead. 

I hope that everyone else is enjoying their current reads!



Clandestine in Chile by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Clandestine in Chile: The Adventure of Miguel Littin, is about Chilean film director Miguel Littin and his secret return to his country of birth during the Pinochet dictatorship. 

Littin was arrested during the Allende coup, as were many creative people during the coup. Littin found himself under arrest, facing the possibility of execution. In fact, whilst he was being held against his will his wife was told that he was already dead. Like many stories of escape during this period of time in Chile, Littin's escape was gaol was all done to luck - one of the arresting army officers holding him was a fan of his movies and gave him a chance to escape. He managed to escape the country, but was exiled by Pinochet forever. Littin was then forced, like many of his countrymen, to watch the damage being done to his country from afar.

In 1985, Littin re-entered the country disguised as a Uruguayan businessman with the secret purpose of filming a documentary about the reality of daily life under the Pinochet dictatorship and to show the world the atrocities that were committed during this military dictatorship.

I had two motivations for reading this book.

The first was personal; my family in law are from Chile. Fortunately my parents in law left the country before the coup, but they had family that suffered significantly at the hands of Pinochet.

The second was literary; I am a very big fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I greatly admire his fiction, and was very keen to read his non-fiction.

Marquez writes this book in the first person perspective, that of Littin. In order to write from Littin's perspective Marques spent over 18 hours with him, discussing Littin's experiences and feelings during this difficult and dangerous period of his life. In the introduction Marques says this about his decision to write the book from Littin's perspective:
"I preferred to keep Littin's story in the first person, to preserve its personal - and sometimes confidential - tone, without any dramatic additions and historical pretentiousness on my part.  The manner of the final text is, of course, my own, since a writers voice is not interchangeable...Notwithstanding I have tried to keep the Chilean idioms of the original and, in all cases, to respect the narrator's way of thinking, which does not always coincide with mine".
I felt like this decision to write from Littin's perspective was successful. It was fascinating reading about Littin's 'adventure' from his point of view. Marquez's style in this book is very different to that of his fiction which is only to be expected given the difference in genre.

Littin returned to a very different country to the one that he left, and it was a little bit sad to see how he felt about the changes that had taken place since he was exiled. It was also very tense watching him attempted to remain anonymous and unemotional as he directed his documentary from afar. He was even anonymous to the film crews to protect himself and those that were assisting him to remain anonymous in the country and to meet those in the underground movement that acted against Pinochet's military dictatorship. His time in the country came under threat when he was nearly discovered and had to escape the country again.

What I want to do now is to share some quotes from the book with you, that reflect how the Pinochet dictatorship effected various aspects of the Chilean way of life. I know that some of them can be a little long, but I feel like I have learnt a lot about this book and I want to really share some of the things that Littin risked his life (and others) to share with the world.

What happened to the individuals during the military dictatorship? Here is an example of what happened to the individuals that broke the law - torture and the affect on the family

This is a true anecdote about the experience of individuals under Pinochet's regime. He tells the story behind a cross and bunch of flowers on a cathedral in what is known now as Plaza Sebastian Acevedo:
"Sebastian Acevedo, a coal miner, had set himself on fire on that spot two years before, after fruitless efforts to find somebody to intercede for him at the National Centre for Information to stop the torture of his twenty-two-year-old son and twenty-year-old daughter who had been arrested for illegal possession of arms. Sebastian Acevedo did not plead, but he gave warning. The archbishop was away on trip, so he spoke to officers of the archbishopric, to reporters of the leading newspapers... to anyone who would listen, even to government officials, saying the same thing to everyone: 'If you don't do something to stop the torture of my children, I will soak myself with gasoline and set myself on fire in the atrium of the cathedral'. Some did not believe him. Others did not know what to do. Sebastian Avecado stood in the atrium on the appointed day, emptied a pail full of gasoline over his body, and warned the crowd gathered in the street that if anyone crossed the yellow line he would immediately set himself on fire. A carabinero, in an effort to stop the immolation, stepped over the line, and Sebastian Acevado became a human bonfire."

Chilean culture was destroyed

Littin also shares an anecdote about the cultural damage that Pinochet inflicted upon his country. It revolves around famous poet Pablo Neruda and what happened to his possessions during Pinochet's dictatorship:
"His principle residence was his house on Calle Marques de la Plata in Santiago, where he died a few days after the coup, of chronic leukemia exacerbated by grief. This house was sacked by soldiers who threw his books onto a bonfire in the garden".
The economy was destroyed

Littin describes the false sense of economic growth that Pinochet created and that ultimately landed the country in more debt and economic struggles that it was before his coup:
"Not only was Chile a modest country until the end of Allende's regime but even its conservative bourgeoisie considered austerity a national virtue. To give an immediate and impressive appearance of prosperity, the military junta de-nationalised everything that Allende had nationalised... The result was an explosion of flashy luxury goods and decorative public works... Within a five year period more goods were imported than in the previous two hundred years, using dollar credits guaranteed by the National Bank with money obtained from the denationalisations. The United States, in complicity with international credit agencies, did the rest. But when the time came to pay up, the illusion fell away; the economic fantasies of six years vanished in one. Chile's external indebtedness increased to $23 billion, almost six times the debt of the Allende administration... The economic miracle made a few of the rich much richer and the rest of Chilean society much poorer."

And what was the dictatorship like at the time Littin returned to his country? How did they treat the concerns of their own citizens?

Littin explains why he was late for a meeting during the making of his documentary:
"I arrived late,having been held up by a political demonstration. A new group for nonviolent resistance had formed on the heel of Sebastian Acevado's self-immolation in Concepcion. The police attacked the group with water canons while more than two hundred of them, soaked to the skin, stood impassively against a wall, singing hymns of love."
 This book frocussed equally on the personal challenges that Littin faced making his documentary in the country he had been exiled from, as well providing excellent social commentary on this dictatorship that I suspect a lot of people don't know a lot about.

It took such a lot of strength and courage for Littin to do what he did, and I can't admire Littin enough for being willing to put himself at risk to bring the truth about such a dictatorship to the rest of the world.

The content of this book and the talent of Marquez are two wonderful reasons why you should read this book.

Summary

What kind of read is this?
It is a small book, so it is quick to read. It is a good blend of the political and the personal, with a dose of great story and skilled writing.

Do I recommend this book?
Absolutely. I think I learnt a lot from this book and I like the think that other people would as well.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
No. This is one that you could get from the library and not be disappointed.


Star Rating

6 / 8


Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it.


What do you think? Do you know much about the Pinochet dictatorship and does learning more about it appeal to you? I would also love to know what people's opinion is of Marquez's decision to write the book from Littin's perspective, even though he acknowledges that the voice is more his own than Littin's.