Friday, July 23, 2010

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

There are few books as iconic as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

The Mysterious Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Puffin Classics)

So I admit I went to this book with a healthy doze of expectation. I first thought of reading this book because my little brother decided to dress up as Sherlock Holmes in her 'become-a-book-character' contest, and I had to find some good quotes for him to use - because the quotes that I saw, on this page, were so interesting that I just had to read it. And of course, with my great classics read (and re-read) project already on, I decided that it couldn't hurt to read this book.

My verdict: It was pretty good. Not mind-blowing. But not bad, either.

The first thing that irked me about this book were the size of the stories. This book contained roughly fifteen stories, each about 10 pages in length, which I felt did not do justice to the innovative plots, the characters, or the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, the impression which I got was that the books, though the adventures of 'Sherlock Holmes' did more justice to the schemes of the villains (which were, quite frankly, quite, quite different - I mean, 'red-haired league', anyone?)than the detective skills of the main hero. In so many instances Holmes does not even explain how he comes to his miraculous conclusions, and I'm left with the feeling of 'there should be more to this'. I found this unsatisfying, which is why I don't think I'll be rushing to pick up the next Sherlock Holmes book from the library.

What did I think of the stories themselves. Well, I think I'll borrow the words of Dr. Watson for this (who, by the way, was just brilliant. I liked him more than Holmes) - "In the many adventures of Sherlock Holmes I have chronicles, there are many which are tragic, some which are humorous, but all that are fantastic or different." (paraphrased) I don't think I've read any mystery series (I don't speak as a mystery buff, but I used to be an ardent fan of the Hardy Boys, I used to read a lot of Nancy Drew, and I've recently begun to enjoy Agatha Christie) with so many interesting plots. The motives are the most basic of all human emotions - mostly money, sometimes love or jealousy - but the characters think of such interesting ways to get what they want (for a teaser - an organization that sends five orange pips to a person before killing them) that you really want to read these stories. This is what, in my opinion, separates a Sherlock Holmes novel from any old book.

Holmes himself is a fascinating character who should have more screen space. Although I can see why someone reading an abridged (read 'sanitized') version of this book might find him highly perfect and hard to emphasise with. His major flaws, which include drug addiction and an extreme arrogance, when shown serve only to complete his character, but when glossed over leave us with nothing to sympathize with. Some of his ways of inspection are still timeless - like the iconic scene where he tells a person where they're from and other details about them through observing their appearance, and then demonstrates this as the easiest thing in the world - still don't fail to impress. Others, though dated, still hold a certain charm. It seems clear to me that Holmes was way, way ahead of his time and therefore still manages to appear fresh and interesting even today, many decades after this novel was first written.

Final thoughts: I definitely don't regret reading this novel. I think everyone should read at least one Sherlock Holmes novel in their life, just to get a taste of how good this genre of books can get. For people who like mysteries, of course, these books are a must-read. But I don't think I'm going to return to this detective anytime soon - for now, I'm satisfied.

Other thoughts: My great classics read (and re-read) festival continues. I borrowed Frakenstein from the library today, and I'm quite excited to complete it. On the other hand, I have recently re-read Meg Cabot's Airhead and How to be Popular (because my friends were reading them and me, being me, couldn't resist) so I might give myself (and everyone) a break from the classics by reviewing one of these today or tomorrow.

6 comments:

  1. I just started a book review log. I would like to ask you to stop by and give it a look. I am looking for advice for those who have "gone before". Please let me know if you have any advice for me...

    Many thanks,

    Angie

    www.boundtogetherforgood.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am a Sherlock Holmes fan, so any comment I make is bound to be biased. But I think starting with Study the Scarlet might be a better idea - it was the first Holmes book and Conan Doyle spends a little more time explaining the process. Holmes also gets more screen space there so you get to know about him more.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Pujhita, sorry it took me so long to get to this.

    I'll definitely consider reading a study in scarlet, because frankly reading only this has left me unsatisfied.

    Thanks for reading. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi,

    This is your first review that I've read, and I must admit that your POV more or less echoes mine. When one reads Sherlock Holmes today, one does feel a little under-whelmed. But that should be seen in the context of the fact that there have been so, so many derivative works from this, that the original seems somewhat unoriginal now. Other than that, I would urge you to look up two more reincarnations of Sherlock Holmes. 'The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes' written by Jamyang Norbu is a very interesting addition to the canon. Also, look up the new BBC series called 'Sherlock.' It's a very entertaining modern-day rendition (not to be confused with the new movie).

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi,

    This is your first review that I've read, and I must admit that your POV more or less echoes mine. When one reads Sherlock Holmes today, one does feel a little under-whelmed. But that should be seen in the context of the fact that there have been so, so many derivative works from this, that the original seems somewhat unoriginal now. Other than that, I would urge you to look up two more reincarnations of Sherlock Holmes. 'The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes' written by Jamyang Norbu is a very interesting addition to the canon. Also, look up the new BBC series called 'Sherlock.' It's a very entertaining modern-day rendition (not to be confused with the new movie).

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Rishi,
    Thanks for the comment. I think you're right...and I will definitely read/watch the two reincarnations you've suggested if I can. Recently I've read two reincarnations myself that I enjoyed (one in Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things that combines Sherlock Holmes and fantasy - and another in Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes which I'm reading right now called the Doctor's Last Case - both highly recommended)

    ReplyDelete

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