Three reviews

Three for the price of one! How’s that for a bargain? Oh wait… you’re not paying for this, are you? This blog is FREE to read. Okay, change of approach…

Continuing with my series of multi-review posts, pretty much seems to be the only way for me to keep up with telling you about the books that I’ve been reading. This time around, I’ve got three books of different genres and eras — mystery from the 1800s, anthropomorphised animals from the 1970s and humorous gothic storytelling from the 21st century.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1894)
Written for grown-ups, but suitable for younger readers.

Sherlock HolmesI’ve been slowly working my way through a box set of Conan Doyle’s books about the greatest of all fictional detectives. This is the second collection of short stories.

These are such entertaining stories. Not all of them are great mysteries, but most of them are cracking good adventures. By this stage Conan Doyle has become very comfortable with the characters of Holmes and Watson and there isn’t too much variation (inconsistency) in their presentation.

This collection is most notable for its concluding story, “The Final Problem”. This is the story in which Conan Doyle famously kills off his creation. But don’t worry (WARNING: Spoiler!), he brings him back by popular demand later. 🙂

What is most interesting about reading this collection, is how the Holmes canon differs from my original expectations. Based on various film and television adaptations, I’ve always assumed that Sherlock’s brother Mycroft was a frequent supporting character and that Moriarty was a recurring villain. Both these assumptions are shattered. Mycroft is only in two stories thus far, and Moriarty first appears in the story in which he dies (Oh dear, more spoilers!).

The other thing I noticed is that Conan Doyle often doesn’t explain all of Holmes’s deductions. And, in “The Final Problem”, he doesn’t tell you anything about how Sherlock defeats Moriarty. All we get told is that it was a pretty brilliant plan. There is a reliance on reputation and past cleverness. But that story is more about the friendship between Holmes and Watson than about adventure or mystery… and as such, works admirably.

All up, it’s a great collection. Can’t wait to read to next book in the series.

[Read my review of A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the FourReading Sherlock]

Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)
Written for older children, but suitable for grown-ups.

Watership DownWatership Down is a Carnegie Medal winning CLASSIC! I read this many years ago after visiting England and watching rabbits in a field one afternoon. This time around, I read it to my eldest daughter (12). I loved it all over again and got to see it afresh through her eyes.

The story is about a group of rabbits who break away from their warren after one of them has a premonition of doom. They travel across the English countryside in search of a location to establish a new warren, eventually settling on Watership Down. But even then there are problems to solve with the lack of does, and a threat from a dangerous rival warren called Efrafa.

The whole story (with the exception of one short section) is told from the rabbits’ pov. It is a remarkable book. It is not cute or twee. It is dramatic and exciting and emotional and, at times, quite violent. The animal characters are never anything but completely believable. The rabbit society is portrayed in intricate detail, with customs, history and mythology. The writing is mature, philosophical, subtle, complex and sometimes unexpected in its approach. The imagery is vivid and often disturbing, particularly the events at Efrafa, with their Nazi overtones. This is an outstanding book and an extraordinary read.

Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright by Chris Riddell (2015)
Written for kids, but full of references for the enjoyment of grown-ups.

Goth Girl 3This is the third book in Riddell’s illustrated, humorous gothic fantasy series for kids (there is a fourth on the way). The series follows the adventures of Ada Goth, only child of Lord Goth of Ghastly-Gorm Hall. Her best friends include the plucky and intelligent Emily Cabbage and William Cabbage, the boy with chameleon-like abilities; both children of inventor Charles Cabbage. Ada’s governess, by the way, is a vampire named Lucy Borgia.

In this instalment, Ghastly Gorm Hall is hosting a literary dog show, while a strange creature lurks the halls chewing on the shoes of the Hall’s staff. As with the previous books, puns and name-play abound, with references both modern and classic. The writers entering the literary dog show include Plain Austen, author of Prompt and Prejudice and Northanger Cabbie; Sir Walter Splott, author of Drab Roy; William Timepeace Thackeray, author or Vanity Fete; and Homily Dickinson, author of Of What I Speak Thou Knowest Not. And then there are the judges Countess Pippi Shortstocking and Hands Christmas Andersen.

The illustrations are gorgeous. Loved every single one of them.

Whilst definitely amusing, this book is the weakest of the three so far. It seems to get carried away with the jokes and forgets about the plot until right at the end. The Wuthering Fright of the title barely even features in the story. Nevertheless, it is enjoyable and worth getting for the illustrations alone.

[My review of book 1 is included in 10 mini-reviews]
[My review of book 2 is included in A bunch of mini-reviews]

Okay, that’s it for this time. Go home!

Catch ya later, George

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George Ivanoff

LITERARY CLUTTER: Bookish bloggings from the cluttered mind and bookshelf of Melbourne author, George Ivanoff. George is the author of the YOU CHOOSE books, the OTHER WORLDS series, the RFDS Adventures and the GAMERS trilogy.