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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
audio book: 4.5 hours

*** Why I Choose It ***

Earlier this year I joined in the Baker Street Challenge to celebrate my love of everything Sherlock Holmes. A review posted during that challenge made me realize that I'd never read what seemed to be a classic Holmes adventure - A STUDY IN SCARLET. Now I've remedied that problem.

*** My Thoughts ***

This was the first introduction of Holmes by Doyle and I loved getting to know the detective from a fresh perspective. The story includes the first meeting of Holmes and Watson and is told mostly from Watson's perspective. Of course there is a mystery involved, but that is almost secondary to Holmes himself (at least it was for me).

I quite enjoyed this book although it was very different from the other Holmes stories I've read/listened to. The story begins with excerpts from Watson's journals. About halfway through it jumps to an omniscient narrator who gives the lengthy background story of the criminal and the cause of his crimes. The story concludes with a return to Watson's journal. At first the middle section really threw me off - it is so different from other Holmes stories - but once I realized what was going on I was fine. I don't think I'd like to have the majority of the stories written that way but this one time was good.

*** Minor Spoiler Alert (this section only) ***

If you've read this story you'll know that the middle section takes place in the American West and centers on a group of Mormons and Brigham Young. Had I not read THE 19TH WIFE I would have been clueless as to the history of the Mormon exodus and settlement in Utah. That knowledge was very helpful in keeping me connected with the story - without it I would have felt lost for a while. I love it when knowledge from other books comes into play in my current read!

*** The (Upcoming) Movie ***

I think it is likely that the upcoming Sherlock Holmes film starring Robert Downey, Jr. will draw much of it's characterization of Holmes from this story. Most of us tend to think of Holmes as an older man, highly intelligent, but not particularly tough physically. In this story however we learn that Holmes was an expert boxer and sword fighter, and that he had several other unexpected abilities. He is also a very young man in this story and is presented as such.

In his later life Doyle was very involved in spiritualism so I think the supernatural aspect of the film comes from Doyle's personal beliefs. To me it looks like the movie will pull together both Doyle and young Holmes to create their main character.

Personally I'm looking forward to it ... what about you?



Lezlie said...

It has been a while since I read this, but I remember really liking it. It was a lot more serious than I thought it would be.


bermudaonion said...

I've never read any Sherlock Holmes and don't think I've seen a movie, either. This sounds like it would be a good book to start with.

justareadingfool said...

You lied. You said you wouldn't have this up until next week. ;)

This was Doyle's first adventure with Holmes and Watson and, yes, it may have been different from others, but for me, it was a classic...

...I'll add a link to your review when I put mine up here later tonight.

Anonymous said...

go ahead & pencil me in to see that movie with you!


Suey said...

I'm really looking forward to the movie... Robert Downey Jr.... hello! :)

I hated, well, disliked, The Study in Scarlet when I read it years ago because it portrayed the Mormons in a terrible, totally ficitonal light. It was awful for me. I had to breathe deeply and stay calm through that part.

Heather J. said...

Lezlie - Yes, the beginning seems almost lighthearted when compared with the center section.

bermuda - It isn't one of my favorite Holmes stories but I did enjoy it.

readingfool - Um ... yeah ... I had completely forgotten when I scheduled it to post when I made the comment on Facebook. :)

ophelia - You got it!

Suey - Have you read the info on Wikipedia about the Mormon portion of the story? It says that Doyle regretted some of what he wrote about them later his in life.

Suey said...

Interesting. I'll have to go check that out.

jpderosnay said...

ooh, you've piqued my interest now. you know, even though i have a holmes collection back home in south africa i've never actually read a single one of them.

i've read other conan doyle stories, but never a holmes.

how weird is that - i must remedy it!

where would you recommend i start?

Heather J. said...

Suey - There isn't much there, but it is interested to know.

JP - I'd just pick up any collection of Holmes short stories to start with. I wouldn't start with A Study in Scarlet though, as it is too different from the rest of the canon. One of my favorites is the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, but I wouldn't go there until you've read some of the short stuff first. Hope that helps!

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