Regeneration by Pat Barker [Review]

regenerationRegeneration. A brilliant, intense and subtle novel set in the First World War. The book is set at Craiglockhart War Hospital, 1917, a hospital for treating soldiers suffering from different forms of shell shock. It starts with anthropologist turned psychologist William Rivers waiting for the arrival of Siegfried Sassoon, who has been sent to Craiglockhart due to him protesting against the war, throwing his military cross in the Mersey River and writting a ‘letter of wilful defiance’. Robert Graves also makes an appearance in the book, a friend of Sassoon’s, who has actually sent Sassoon to Craiglockhart Hospital to spare him being court marshalled after his declaration against continuing fighting the Great War.

Throughout the book we are met by different characters suffering from shell shock. Some are fictitious and some are based on real people. Despite the fact that some patients are fictitious, Barker seems to have based them on actual cases recorded by the real Dr. Rivers which makes them as real as the likes of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. When reading the book, you cannot help but feel a bit melancholy and sorry for the poor victims suffering from shell shock. While Dr. Rivers makes his rounds of Craiglockhart checking on his patients, you get the feel of a life surrounded by suffering and tragedy. A haunting life.

siegfried_sassoon_by_george_charles_beresford_1915

Siegfried Sassoon

Barker manages to mix fiction and fact so effortlessly. Most of her characters did actually exist. As already mention, there is Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, along with psychologists who actual did exist and treat numerous of shell shocked patients (even though in the book some are nameless). We, the reader, get to see the inside world of these magnificent characters. We meet young, idealistic Wilfred Owen shyly giving his poems to Sassoon to look at. Sassoon helps Wilfred Owen have more faith in himself and soon we experience the writing of one of Owen’s famous poems; ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’.

sidepic

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

They become good friends and eventually have a mutual respect for one another. Dr. Rivers is another factual character in Regenation and you cannot help but love him. He cares for his patients and tries to treat their shell shock with the most humane way possible as well as with something close to tenderness. He himself has never been in battle so there is a distance from the horrible experience his patients have gone through. He lives the experience of warfare through his patients while secretly, I believe, feels guilty that he could not fight alongside his fellow countrymen. He believes that ”the war must be fought to a finish, for the sake of the succeeding generations”.

As well as her factual characters, Baker’s fictional characters are also very interesting. Billy Prior, for example, has a working-class background and risen to become a second- lieutenant. He comes to Craiglockhart not being able to speak (due to his experiences) as well as suffering from severe asthma. He is intelligent, ambitious, awkward and, socially and sexually ambiguous. At first, I have to admit, I was not sure whether I liked Prior as he was rude, crude and just … unbearable at times. But I did grow to like him and I was happy to see his progress and his route to recovery. His relationship to factory worker Sarah Lamb shows his softer side (I believe). Other patients (who are fictional) are: David Burns who has ‘vomiting nightmares caused by a mouthful of decomposing German flesh’ (not pleasant at all!) and Anderson, who was once a surgeon, but due to his wartime experiences cannot continue practising due to the fact that he hates the sight of blood and experiencing mental breakdowns.

There is a particular scene in the book which actually made me feel uneasy. To be fair, there were a few scenes that made me feel uneasy and so sorry for the soldiers going through all that; however, this scene takes place in a London hospital. Dr Rivers visits this particular hospital one day and watches Dr Lewis Yealland administering frequent and agonising electrical shocks to a patient who has been mute by his wartime experiences. When you area reading you can feel the terrified soldier trying to utter one single word so that this inhuman torture can stop. Even Dr Rivers feels uneasy during this ‘treatment’. We find out at the end of the book, an author’s note telling us that Dr. Lewis Yealland actually existed and he did use those ghastly methods during wartime as detailed in his book. Not my favourite part of the book at all.

rivers2

W.H.R. Rivers outside of Craiglochart Hospital

Regeneration is a thoughtful, sombre and sometimes a intense read. It’s a book that explores the mental state of soldiers affected by the Great War. It is a really good read and you do get invested in the characters. You are supporting them through their treatment and hoping they get better. You feel sorry for those who probably will not get better but are still remaining hopeful for them. I would recommend it to anyone especially those who are history fanatics and are interested in the First World War, but also to anyone who wants to give it a try. I have to warn you though, it is a book about a hospital with soldiers suffering from shell-shocked, it will be upsetting at certain times.

Apparently Regeneration is the first book in a trilogy. The second book is ‘The Eye in the Door’. Might have to go and find a copy of that soon.  Enjoy!

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out these hasty orisons.

-From Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

The Kite Runner- Khaled Hosseini [Review]

“For you, a thousand times over.”

The Kite Runner. What a heartbreaking story.

It tells the story of Hassan and Amir, two friends who are as close as brothers and great at flying a kite. The two young boys live in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. The book starts with Amir, a grown man, living in America and through him we go back to when he and Hassan were 12 years old in Kabul. We get to know the way of life in Afghanistan, the local kite-tournament (a popular Afghan pastime) and how everything changes when war comes to Afghanistan and the country becomes a dangerous place. the kite runner

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant whereas Hassan is the son of their servant. Despite this, the boys are as close as brothers, both lost their mothers when babies and were nurtured by the same woman. Their fathers also grew up together and were as close as brothers. Hassan is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste, and usually gets a lot of abuse from other Afghan children especially Assef, a known bully amongst the children. Amir during this story commits an act of betrayal towards his friend Hassan, which will haunt him for the rest of his life and have to live with that guilt. During the war, Amir and his father are forced to flee Afghanistan for America. Thus The Kite Runner becomes the story of Amir’s journey for redemption and a way to ‘set things right’. He has to return to Afghanistan to make ‘things right’ as it were. On this journey Amir makes new friends, reunites with old friends but also with old enemies.

The story is fast paced and never dull. When I started reading this story I could not put it down. I needed to know what will happen and will Amir ever find peace. I feel for Amir, love Hassan’s loyalty towards Amir and the sacrifices he makes for the family. I hate Assef and his horribleness. I want to shake Amir’s father and tell him that he needs to accept his son for who he is and to show him that he loves him. You get so much invested in the characters that you can’t do anything but read, read and read. We are introduced to the world of Afghan life, strange and fascinating and devastating when war breaks out.

The Kite Runner tells the unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant. It is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country torn by violence and war. A gripping and emotional story of betrayal, forgiveness and redemption. The Times have accurately stated that ”Khaled Hosseini  is a truly gifted teller of tales. He’s not afraid to pull every string in your heart to make it sing”. It is a powerful novel that has become one of my treasured books, one-of-a-kind classic as others have described it. Definitely give it a read and see for yourself. I won’t lie, you will be heartbroken by the end and it will stay with you for a few days/weeks BUT it is so worth it. I even cried while reading it. Do put it on your ‘To Read’ list!

‘The shattering first novel by Khaled Hosseini… a rich and soul-searching narrative … a sharp, unforgettable taste of the trauma and tumult experienced by Afghanis as their country buckled’ (Observer)

‘A gripping read and a haunting story of love, loss and betrayal. Guaranteed to move even the hardest heart’ (Independent)

George Paulopoulos- The statue and the sculptor [Review]

Γιώργης Παυλόπουλος «Το άγαλμα και ο τεχνίτης»

Σαν έκλεινε το μουσείο
αργά τη νύχτα η Δηιδάμεια
κατέβαινε από το αέτωμα.
Κουρασμένη από τους τουρίστες
έκανε το ζεστό λουτρό της και μετά
ώρα πολλή μπροστά στον καθρέφτη
χτένιζε τα χρυσά μαλλιά της.
Η ομορφιά της ήταν για πάντα
σταματημένη μες στο χρόνο.

Τότε τον έβλεπε πάλι εκεί
σε κάποια σκοτεινή γωνιά να την παραμονεύει.
Ερχόταν πίσω της αθόρυβα
της άρπαζε τη μέση και το στήθος
και μαγκώνοντας τα λαγόνια της
με το ένα του πόδι
έμπηγε τη δυνατή του φτέρνα
στο πλάι του εξαίσιου μηρού της.

Καθόλου δεν την ξάφνιαζε
κάθε φορά που της ριχνόταν.
Άλλωστε το περίμενε, το είχε συνηθίσει πια.
Αντιστεκόταν τάχα σπρώχνοντας
με τον αγκώνα το φιλήδονο κεφάλι του
και καθώς χανόταν όλη
μες στην αρπάγη του κορμιού του
τον ένιωθε να μεταμορφώνεται
σιγά σιγά σε κένταυρο.

Τώρα η αλογίσια οπλή του
την πόναγε κάπου εκεί
γλυκά στο κόκαλο
και τον ονειρευότανε παραδομένη
ανάμεσα στο φόβο της και τη λαγνεία του
να τη λαξεύει ακόμη.

_________

Translated by K.J.Koukas:

George Paulopoulos- The statue and the sculptor

As the museum was closing
late in the night Deidamia
came down from the pediment.
Tired from the tourists
she had her hot bath and then
hours in front of the mirror
she brushed her golden hair.
Her beauty was forever
‘trapped’ in time.

Then she saw him there again
in some dark corner lurking.
He came behind her silently
and grabbed her waist and breast
and ‘trapping’ her loins
with his one leg
he tamped his strong heel
and the side of her splendid thigh.

This did not surprise her at all
He threw himself at her all the time.
Besides she expected it, she was used to it by now.
She resisted as though she pushed
with her elbow his sensual head
and as her whole self got lost
in the gripping of his body
she felt him transforming
slowly slowly into a centaur.

Now his horse-like back
hurt her somewhat there
sweetly on the bone
and she dreamt of him  surrendered (to him)
between her fear and his lust
as he lusted after her still.

 

COMMENTS/MY VIEWS:

I recently decided to go back in time and revisit some poems I looked at during my school years. I grew up in Greece and studied a lot of Greek poets. We would always focus on Greek authors, Greek poets, Greek history… etc. By the time I got to university I wanted something different so I disregarded anything to do with Greece. I had already discovered authors such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and poets such as Robert Browning but wanted to find more. Despite my ‘stand against’ anything Greek related it was inevitable for me to revisit a bit of my schooling. I will admit that I did like some of the poetry we studied and had to learn. Some have stuck with me and for the past few months I have been going through them. I have rediscovered poets such as; K.P. Kavafi, Odysseas Elitis, Giannis Ritsos and many more. While I was at home (over Christmas) I found my old text books from school, I was looking through them and found more poems, some that I had completely forgotten about.

This particular poem ‘The statue and the sculptor’ by George Paulopoulos is one of those that have just stuck with me. I could not remember who the poet was, but I did remember that the poem was about a statue coming alive after the museum closed for the day. (something like Night at the museum I guess!) When I was looking through my text book I found the title and I knew instantly that this was it. I have no clue why this particular one stuck with me. Is it because of my interest in Ancient history? Due to my degree? Who knows.

I have tried my best to translate this poem and I hope it works for the non-speaking-

Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs. Temple of Zeus

West Pediment- Battle of Lapiths and Centaurs. Temple of Zeus. (found online)

Greek-poetry-fanatics out there.  Before I start rambling about the poem let me give you some background to who the statue is meant to be and the mythology behind her. The statue is the nymph Deidamia and the whole story is the one depicted on the west pediment of Zeus’ temple in Olympia. It tells the story of the battle between the centaurs and the Lapiths. According to mythology the Lapiths were a people in Thessaly who lived near Pelion. The centaurs were creatures with the upper body of humans and the lower body of horses. The king of the Lapiths was getting married to the nymph Deidamia and amongst the guests were the centaurs. It is said that at the wedding celebration the king of the centaurs, Euripion, had a bit too much to drink and sexually attacked Deidamia. As you can imagine that did not go down well and a battle between the Lapiths and the centaurs commenced. This particular poem depicts the centaur Euripion violently embracing Deidamia.

As far as I remember from my school years and what I gather from reading it again after so many years is that the depiction of the battle depicts the battle between ‘spirit and animalistic passion’ towards something or someone who is god-like beautiful.

Life, the beauty of youth and the precious emotion of love remain for eternity, protected by the harsh passing of time.  Deidamia waking up and becoming alive after the museum closes shows that her beauty has been ‘shielded’ and ‘preserved’ in the manner of being a statue. The sculptor, who is anonymous, made sure to preserve her beauty  and offers her the possibility of immortality.  He gives her the possibility to harness this youth for eternity, giving her a life away from the discreet eyes of the public.

Deidamia every night, after the closure of the museum,  is able to release herself from the centaur’s tight embrace and is free to enjoy moments of peace, freedom and quietness. She is able to relax by having a bath and brush her golden hair… or does she? It can be argued that even though the night bathing and brushing of her hair might seem as means of relaxation, they are in fact a  means of preparation for his reception. It is believed by some (according to my notes) that the centaur’s lust for our beloved nymph plays a key role to her immortal beauty and preservation. The sculptor, the man who carved the beauty of this young woman, is the one that is lurking in the dark corner, waiting for the opportune moment to grab her and lay his hands on his beautiful creation. He is the one who slowly turns into a centaur. He imitates the centaur from the myth and the scene on the pediment. He wants nothing more than to hold this beauty close to him. The sculptor’s passion for his creation is thus shown.

It is shown that she is used to his attacks, does this mean that she knows she belongs in his violent embrace? Her return to the Centaur is inevitable. She knows that she was created in his embrace and according to the story of the battle between Lapiths and Centaurs she eventually ends aggressively attacked by the Centaur. Her place is with the Centaur and in the end she will be in his tight embrace. Thus her freedom is brief, enough for her to have a bath and brush her hair. Her return to the Centaur’s embrace is immortal and repetitive as this happens every night. Both the Centaur and the sculptor want to be by her side.

Now according to my notes and from what I remember from my readings and research of this poem, the element of love and passion can be witnessed in this poem. The love and passion between the sculptor and his creation and between Deidamia and the Centaur.  Some say that without passion and love there would be no meaning in life. As already mentioned it could be said that the sculptor and the Centaur are linked and both want to have Deidamia’s love. In addition,  if the Centaur owns her body for eternity (by claiming it through his lust), then the sculptor owns her soul which he claimed with his creation of her and shielding her beauty forever.

I have no clue whether any of my rambling makes any sense to you. But I thought I should share this poem and my thoughts and ‘old school notes’. It is a good poem and it has stuck with me for a long time. I hope you enjoy it as much I do.

Battle-Between-the-Lapiths-and-Centaurs- Luca Giordano

Battle between the Lapiths and Centaurs. Painting created by Luca Giordano

 

[any information about background and comments for the poem I consulted with my old school reports/notes from my-then-teacher and some little facts online]

84 Charing Cross Road- Helene Hanff [Review]

84-charing-cross-road-coverA timeless classic that every book lover should read at least once in their life. A page turner and a must have on anyone’s bookshelf. 84 Charing Cross Road is a book of letters between book lover Helene Hanff and Marks & Co of Charing Cross Road. At the beginning, the correspondent from Marks & Co is bookseller Frank Doel, soon though Helene Hanff is exchanging letters with other staff members and even Frank’s family. She starts her correspondence with the following letter:

“Gentlemen,
Your ad in the Saturday Review of Literature says that you specialize in out-of-print books. The phrase ‘antiquarian book-sellers’ scares me somewhat, as I equate ‘antique’ with expensive. I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions, or in Barnes & Noble’s grimy, marked-up school-boy copies.

I enclose a list of my most pressing problems. If you have clean second-hand copies of any of the books on the list, for no more than $5.00 each, will you consider this a purchase order and send them to me?”

What initially starts out as a business correspondence, between the most reserved Frank Doel and the rather outspoken Helene Hanff, becomes a friendship through the letters exchanged to each other and their love of books. A friendship that lasts for 20 years. The letters start from October 1949 and stop October 1969.

As their friendship blossoms, Hanff starts to send food packages to the antique bookshop for Doel and its staff members during the war, and in return the people at Marks & Co send Helene a Christmas present, a linen cloth made by Frank’s neighbour. The mention of going to visit her dear friends in London is always mentioned in her letters but sadly never happens due to finances.

Guaranteed to cry  and laugh, every reader will love this short bittersweet story. In the revised edition of 84 Charing Cross Road, an account of what happened to Helene Hanff when she finally did manage to get to London a few years after the events of 84 Charing Cross Road is included named The Duchess of Bloomsbury. I will try and not spoil anything, but Helene Hanff as you might have guessed collected all the letters she sent and received from Charing Cross Road and published them as a book. Safe to say, it became a success and thus she managed to go to London after a few years. I will say no more, as there is a bittersweet ending to 84 Charring Cross Road.

A film adaptation of 84 Charing Cross Road was created , starring Anthony Hopkins as Frank Doel and Anne Bancroft as Helene Hanff. I have seen the film and I will say this. It’s a sweet film, Anthony Hopkins is great as Frank Doel and the films does justice to the book. I would recommend anyone to see it, but read the book first as the book is better, of course! 😉

“If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me? I owe it so much.”

Trade Wind- M.M Kaye [Review]

”An enthralling blend of history, adventure and romance”

Not so long ago, I wrote a review about M.M. Kaye’s Shadow of the Moon. I did love that book, still do. After reading that my mum suggested Trade Wind. She guaranteed that I would love it also. By god she was right. Now I don’t know which one is better, Shadow of the Moon or Trade Wind? I cannot decide, they are both equally as good.

Whereas Shadow of the Moon was based in India during the Indian Revolution in 1856-7, Trade Wind is based in Zanzibar in 1859. Zanzibar was the last and largest centre of the slave trade. Hero Hollis, our main protagonist, is the niece of the American consul in Zanzibar and a passionate opponent of slavery. Her main mission is to travel from America to Zanzibar and try and stop the slave trade. Soon she involves herself in a revolt that sweeps the island, and then cholera breaks out.Trade Wind

A story full of action and drama. A book that I could not put down. Hero Athena Hollis is a handsome, courageous, wealthy American who travels to Zanzibar after her father’s death. Her journey to Zanzibar was anything but smooth. She finds herself caught in a storm and soon is thrown overboard, thought to be  dead by her fellow companions. She is then fished out from the harsh sea by a Captain Emory Frost. Rory Frost is scandalous, gun-runner and slave trader; everything Hero stands against. You want to hate him but you can’t. Rory delivers Hero to Zanzibar without realising what a beauty he has had on his ship, as Hero was battered, bruised and sick from her fall in the ocean. Probably for the best really! Once in Zanzibar, Hero finds herself joining a plot against the Sultan (with the best intentions as far as she is concerned)in order to throw him off the throne and his younger brother, Yabid Bargash, to take over.

M.M. Kaye’s story is rich in historical detail and background, the storylines have depth and scope. Kaye’s description of Zanzibar is just magical and so colourful. Images of an exotic paradise  of shimmering sand beaches, crystal waters, and perfumed with the scents of blooms and trees. But, there is also the horrible side of Zanzibar, that of squalor, filth and disease. When Hero arrives to Zanzibar she comes across with the sight of slaves being thrown overboard , being sold or just transported. She is horrified, and cannot believe a place as beautiful as this can be at the same time horrible and barbaric. The contrast between the eastern and western cultures is interesting and thought provoking. Hero soon comes to the conclusion that her noble mission to stop slavery might not be as simple as she hoped.

Hero can be seen as naive and spoilt. She thinks that she can change the world despite Rory Frost telling her it is not that easy. She soon realises that everything is not black and white as she originally thought and you get to see Hero mature throughout the book and gain a perspective that is more realistic. She becomes more open and warm. We also get to know Rory Frost’s background and the reasons that led him to be who he is and do what he does. Hero and Rory’s relationship is intriguing, and despite the fact that when you began reading the book, you could see their differences, slowly but steady you understand their attraction for each other and can see it developing into something more.

There is a particular scene in the book that a lot of readers were appalled by and in a way ruined the book for them. I am not going to say what the scene was in case I spoil it for anyone who wants to read this book but I will say this. I will acknowledge that this particular incident is very controversial, but for myself, I can see why M.M. Kaye put it in the story. If you think the context of the plotline, the time period  and maybe the motivation of the lead male character, I believe the action was well justified. I will be honest and say that when I first read this particular scene I was angry, frustrated and shocked. I did not know whether it would make me change my appreciation for the main male character. After thinking about it and when I read his reasons for doing so I could see the importance of ‘building of character’ and the necessity of it later in the story. However, I do understand if other readers will not agree with me.

The characters in Trade Wind are well drawn and some you hate and some you love. From the beginning of the book you know there is something strange with Hero’s fiancé, her uncle’s stepson, Clayton Mayo. He turns out to be exactly what you think and in some certain circumstances he will surprise you. Like in Shadow of the Moon there is always another female character who you dislike at the beginning but in the end turns out to be a respectable woman and a great friend to the main female character. After Rory Frost and Hero I think my favourite character would be Batty, a sailor on Captain Rory’s ship, who was a rogue through and through, but also has a heart. He is the loving uncle who would protect Rory as best as he could and tell him when he is being a scoundrel and wrong. The Sultan is also an interesting character. Rory Frost is his confidant and great friend and can manage to get away with a lot because of his connection with the Sultan.

M.M. Kaye has a beautiful way with words. Her knowledge of the far East shines throughout the book. She stays as historically accurate as she can and she does not hold back when it comes to the customs of Zanzibar, the slave trade and the cholera epidemic. Once again, just as she did in Shadow of the Moon, M.M. Kaye shows us how different the west and east are. How they both have completely different cultures and traditions and will probably never see things the same way. Trade Wind is a beautiful tale that will get you hooked from the first page. I would recommend to any historical fiction lovers, any M.M. Kaye lovers or to anyone who wants to try something new.

A Study in Scarlet- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [Review]

”Truly you are brilliant Holmes!” -Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes series

I have always been intrigued about the Sherlock Holmes books. Part of me knew I would enjoy them but did not realise how much I would. I came across A-Study-in-Scarlet-by-Arthur-Conan-DoyleA Study in Scarlet on my bookshelf and thought it was about time I tried reading it. I was hooked from the first page. I did not put it down until it was finished. I think I even ignored my housemates for the day.  😛

A Study in Scarlet is the first book in the Sherlock Holmes series. It introduces readers to Dr. Watson, the intrepid chronicler, who is newly returned to London from the Afghanistan War after being shot in the leg. He is in search of a place to stay and through a mutual friend he meets the eccentric, nebulous Sherlock Holmes. Soon they both rent a room at 221B Baker Street. Watson learns who Sherlock really is and that he works as a consulting detective. A mystery case comes up and Sherlock Holmes is on the case with Dr. Watson by his side. A dead man is found in an abandoned house, no mark upon him, and no clues save for the word ‘RACHE’ written with blood on the wall.

Trivia for you: A Study in Scarlet was the first detective work of fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.

Trivia: A Study in Scarlet was the first detective work of fiction to incorporate the magnifying glass as an investigative tool.

Sherlock Holmes is a genius when it comes to clues and mystery, he plays the violin beautifully, but he is completely ignorant of other things- such as the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun. “His Ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge.” Dr Watson once remarked.  In addition, Sherlock is very cheerful, eccentric , sarcastic, loves to be flattered, and is bluntly honest. You cannot help but fall in love with his character and love him despite his many flaws. Watson’s witty and snarky (sometimes) comments about Sherlock Holmes are hilarious. You cannot help but laugh at his various observations for his fellow flatmate. He even writes a summary list of Sherlock Holmes’s strengths and weaknesses:

“1. Knowledge of Literature: Nil.
2. Knowledge of Philosophy: Nil.
3. Knowledge of Astronomy: Nil.
4. Knowledge of Politics: Feeble.
5. Knowledge of Botany: Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.
6. Knowledge of Geology: Practical but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them.
7. Knowledge of Chemistry: Profound.
8. Knowledge of Anatomy: Accurate but unsystematic.
9. Knowledge of Sensational Literature: Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
10. Plays the violin well.
11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.”

The mystery itself is great and very well done. Clues were presented at a regular pace and you found yourself turning one page after another until you discovered who the murderer was and how the crime was done. A good crime mystery is that there are a number of suspects, each have their own agenda and you don’t know who the real guilty person is until the very end. You won’t see the ending come, which is why I love this book so much. If you happen to have watched the BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch I will say this; the first episode of the first series, A Study in Pink, is quite faithful to this book and maybe you won’t be surprised with who the murderer is  but the back stories are slightly changed so it is not as predictable as you might think.

After Sherlock Holmes apprehends the murderer, the entire narrative changes from Watson’s first person account to a third person omniscient. Conan Doyle does this in order to tell us the history of the murderer, his motives and his reasons. I have to say that I did not expect this and I did not know what to make of it, but I did enjoy this change of narration. I don’t think I have come across this in a novel (as far as I remember). I have read that some readers did not like this change and were struggling to get through the book as they missed Dr. Watson’s witty comments. However, I came to enjoy it and as wrong as this sounds I even felt sorry for the murderer. You get to hear both sides of the story as well as the murderer’s reasons for committing the crime. I liked that you got to read [in this book] about different cultures, different traditions in a different country in a completely different time; in this particular case it was about early Mormon settlements near Salt Lake City in 1847. There are some who believe that Conan Doyle was wrong to write this section of the books as he pictures Mormons in a very negative light. I will agree on that argument, when reading about the Mormons I did think that Arthur Conan Doyle was being harsh and maybe he had something against them? But then again this story was written and published in 1887. I did read somewhere that Doyle did state ” All I said about the Danite Band and the murders is historical so I cannot withdraw that”. Later on, his daughter added  “You know, father would be the first to admit that his first Sherlock Holmes novel was full of errors about the Mormons.” So whichever the case might be I am just going to focus on the fiction itself and not on the historical accuracy [which is surprising considering I am a Ancient Historian graduate and History fanatic!]

Overall, It is an incredible and good solid story with witty dialogue and fascinating character development.  Arthur Conan Doyle offers a story full of action, intrigue, and eerie suspense for any mystery-lover. Even Holmes’ arrogance and egotism is amusing and entertaining. A Study in Scarlet introduces us to Doyle’s most enduring character figure and one of the most iconic, strongest pairings in all literature. I thoroughly enjoyed A Study in Scarlet and I cannot wait until the next book in the series.

Sherlock_Holmes

“To a great mind, nothing is little.”

Lost Horizon- James Hilton [Review]

What a fantastic little story. The first time I ever came across ‘Lost Horizon’ was when I 71lMxC8oPCLwas looking at my mother’s books. This wee book caught my attention and I asked her about it. She told me that it is a lovely wee story set in Shangri-La and it involves a small group of people who after a plane crash find themselves in Shangri-La. She then stopped and just told me that I should read it and I will love it. Of course she was right. I am going to be honest, that it took me awhile before I could pick up ‘Lost Horizon’, I think I needed to be in a certain mood. I am glad that I finally picked it up. After finishing it I wondered why it took me so long to read it! Now that I have, I am happy.

It’s a magical story and a well-loved classic. Following a plane crash, Conway, a British consul; Millison,  his deputy;  Miss Brinklow, a missionary; and Bernard, an American financier find themselves in the enigmatic snow-capped mountains of uncharted Tibet. They soon discover a seemingly perfect hidden community where they are welcome with gracious hospitality. Soon though, our travellers set out to discover the secret which seems to be hidden in the heart of Shangri-La.

The book opens with our lead character, Conway, who is found in a hospital by a friend and has no memory of anything before he came to be there. His friend takes him out and puts him on a boat back to England. During their voyage, Conway happens to listen a man playing Chopin on a piano and after playing himself an unknown piece of music (which is clearly Chopin’s), remembers what happens to him. He then tells his friend and soon after we, the readers, get to hear Conway’s story through his own written manuscript.

Conway’s story is a wondrous tale, a tale that goes past any reason and it’s up to you whether you believe him or not. The story of what happened to Conway and his fellow companions is an extraordinary one. James HIlton’s ability to transport the reader into the magical world of Shangri-La is nothing less than beautiful.  Throughout this adventure we are introduced to interesting and well-crafted characters such as Chang; a postulant at the lamasery, who welcomes our travellers to Shangri-La, and the ‘all-mighty’ High Lama who Conway eventually meets (an un-heard honour) and is told the history of Shangri-La.

Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley. Janelle uses this because Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, it’s seen as a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. This is the refuge that Cindi Mayweather needs to escape from Metropolis

A beautiful story set deep within the Himalayans, sits a mysterious place known only to a few as Shangri-La.

‘Lost Horizon’ is a story well written, thought-provoking and a pleasure to read. An enchanting little book that I think everyone should read if they get the chance. I have read various different reviews concerning this book and one statement has stuck with me. It was remarked that ‘Lost Horizon’ is ”the type of book written to make the reader to think”. I have to agree; even after finishing this book James Hilton made me wonder about this ‘lost’ world.  The ending is left open (in my view) letting the reader decide whether Conway’s memories were real or not, and what happened to him after the end of the book.

It is a lovely wee story and I will end this post but saying this; James Hilton put a smile on my face with ‘Lost Horizon’ and I was still smiling even after finishing the last page.

”We rule with moderate strictness and in return we are satisfied with moderate obedience. And I think I can claim that our people are moderately sober, moderately chaste and moderately honest.” – Chang from Lost Horizon