So I imagine that everyone comments on this, but first off it's worth saying that this collection of tales is a real eye-opener when set beside the DiSo I imagine that everyone comments on this, but first off it's worth saying that this collection of tales is a real eye-opener when set beside the Disney canon. I was aware of the major differences in some of the stories, like Cinderella with the fur slipper instead of glass and the sisters doing some fairly terrible things to themselves but I never imagined for example that Disney deleted Snow White's sister from the story altogether.
In terms of writing style, most of these tales are short and sharp, very little, if any space is generally given over to expanding the backgrounds of the myriad worlds that the Grimm brothers have offered fleeting insight into. There are no explanations for the existence or workings of magic, because these tales come from an age less sceptical than our own where magic worked because the author said so and no further reason was needed, and the notion of character development is seldom paid more than lip service unless an Aesop is involved about someone mending their wicked ways and benefiting from it. That said these tales are timeless and well known throughout the Western world. They also offer the source, or at least the most prominent examples, of some of the most well known story motifs out there in the fiction world.
It is difficult to comment on the characterisations or the settings because there are so many presented here, but suffice it to say that very little effort is wasted on them, they are unfolded exactly as far as they need to be to allow the story to work, and no further. The Grimm brothers were also clearly not afraid of simply ending a piece in mid-air, the words and they lived happily ever after or some variation thereof finish a goodly portion of these stories, unless there is some anecdote about the fate of the villains of the piece.
All in all therefore, this is a very spartan read, but still very interesting. The backgrounds and characters may not be as rich as a modern novel, but there is still something compelling about the terse and to the point narratives of these stories. Moreover it is worth the time to get to know the 'real' story behind some of the most well known children's stories out there....more
Possibly the most famous of all of the cases of Sherlock Holmes, the Hound of the Baskervilles pits the super-sleuth against a supernatural legend givPossibly the most famous of all of the cases of Sherlock Holmes, the Hound of the Baskervilles pits the super-sleuth against a supernatural legend given substance. As with all the other Holmes tales, the story is recounted entirely from the point of view of Dr Watson, but unlike the prior tales of Holmes' exploits, Watson has a much greater role than bystander in this story. Indeed for much of the time Holmes himself is absent and it is Watson who conducts the investigation, doing his best to follow his friend's unusual methods of inquiry.
The plot of the story is fast-paced, with a great eye for detail. As you reach the end plenty of little clues that you were receiving throughout the story become clear in their meaning, and there is hardly time to get bored as events roll on towards the climax of the story. Also, again unlike the previous stories of Holmes, the tone is more tense. There are several seeming reversal's for the heroes, and a positive outcome seems much less assured on this occasion than in others of Holmes' case-files.
Also deserving of a mention is Doyle's excellent portrayal of the moors of Devon. Usually Doyle neglects to offer much detail concerning his setting, since for his target audience London, where most of Holmes' cases are set must have been very familiar territory, needing nothing more than a street or district name to provide context. Here, however, he proves that this is not due to a lack of ability to describe landscape. His descriptions are evocative without being long-winded, and in the end few details are wasted yet still he manages to convey an image of raw bleakness that is well-suited to the story and very much in keeping with the reality of some parts of Dartmoor.
Overall I heartily recommend this as an excellent way to spend the time it takes to read it. If you're up for a good mental exercise, then I challenge you to try and solve the mystery yourself before reading the final two chapters where the truth is revealed. If, however, you are merely looking to be entertained, then just sit back, relax and read through to the end where all is explained for you by Holmes himself in a small coda....more
A piece of 'Biblical fanfiction' that has been made into a classic by it's (sadly much more famous) movie adaptation starring Charlton Heston. The stoA piece of 'Biblical fanfiction' that has been made into a classic by it's (sadly much more famous) movie adaptation starring Charlton Heston. The story is an intriguing one following the story of one Judah Ben Hur as he lives through the late 1st century BC and early 1st century AD. As is mostly the case, the book adds a dimension that the film did not offer to the story, in particular it is easier to see why the book is subtitled 'A Tale of the Christ' than why the movie is given that in the book Ben Hur has much more to do with Jesus than in the film.
As to the writing, General Wallace does a somewhat patchy job of capturing the essence of life under the Roman Empire in this period. Where he gives them, his detailed descriptions and explanations of aspects such as places, peoples and customs make this quite an educational read as well as an entertaining one. However a lot goes unsaid that may not be known to the average reader of today since the Classics have now fallen out of favour in mandatory mainstream education. His style of prose is somewhat formal compared to what the modern era habitually produces, but this is not necessarily a down-side for the interested reader. His action scenes certainly are not impeded by his formal style, and it feels very right for the characters to be using 'thee' and 'thy' and more deliberate sentence construction in their speech as an indicator of their archaicness.
Moreover his characters are very well developed as characters. They have flaws, motivations and developments that are made very clear across the story. Events of importance leave clear marks, and not always good ones, as they should, and very rarely do any of their actions or reactions feel contrived.
Overall, therefore, I heartily recommend this book to anyone who has seen the movie, or the more recent tv mini-series. It's worth it for the extra background that only print can offer to a story. However, I do recommend watching it before reading it to get a better handle on the look and feel of the setting before plunging into the book....more
The second of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. This time the amateur detective is faced with a combined murder-treasure hunt mystery. AsThe second of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. This time the amateur detective is faced with a combined murder-treasure hunt mystery. As with the Study in Scarlet and all of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the focus is mainly on Holmes' unique means of solving mysteries via logic and seemingly insignificant pieces of information. Character development beyond what was established in the first book is practically nil, with two major exceptions that I shall not spoil in this review, but the setting is rendered in great detail, mainly through the observations of Holmes himself as he works out the particulars of the mystery. Doyle is also meticulous in unravelling the plot, making sure that the reader is in no doubt by the end as to what exactly happened and how everything came about.
All in all this is a standard Sherlock Holmes story. Fans will therefore enjoy it, detractors will hate it, and if you haven't tried Sherlock yet, I recommend starting with A Study in Scarlet or the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes first since they do a better job of fleshing out the characters than this particular episode of the detective's adventures does....more
The first of Sherlock Holmes' many adventures. The tale is a fairly thrilling one, and an excellent introduction to the great detective's singular perThe first of Sherlock Holmes' many adventures. The tale is a fairly thrilling one, and an excellent introduction to the great detective's singular personality and methods. While the somewhat lengthy digression into the early history of the Church of the Latter Day Saints and their apparent use of Gestapo tactics to police themselves, which has generated several negative comments in other reviews, is perplexing at first, it does make sense in the context of the overall story, although perhaps the information it contributed to the story could have been delivered without such a jarring shock at another point in the narrative. All in all, an excellent read....more
Dickens' timeless classic concerning redemption of the spirit at Christmas time. While by far the shortest of Dickens' works that I have ever read, itDickens' timeless classic concerning redemption of the spirit at Christmas time. While by far the shortest of Dickens' works that I have ever read, it still contains the same depth and detail offered by his larger volumes. The characters are very lively, although one or two are perhaps a little idealised for the purposes of the story, and there is something about them that seems to draw even the most hard-bitten sceptic in. I have yet to meet anyone who has read this book, or experienced one of its many, many adaptations in other media, and not loved it. If you haven't read it, I heartily recommend it, at Christmas or any other time of the year!...more
This collection of 12 short stories showcases Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective hero in all of his eccentric glory. Each story is devoted to a sinThis collection of 12 short stories showcases Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective hero in all of his eccentric glory. Each story is devoted to a single case undertaken by Sherlock Holmes in his trademark style of deduction from the most minor details to solve cases that baffle the wits of lesser mortals, and the cases range from the absurd to the deadly serious.
For the most part the tone is quite light, doubt in the detectives abilities seldom crops up, and he hardly ever fails to get his man, although he is occasionally too late to help the people who brought the case to his attention. Occasionally, however, Doyle throws in little titbits that allow the reader to perceive the true darkness of crime in the Victorian age. Some of the villains, on second glance, are downright sinister in their manner, and their activities would be wholly unthinkable to the ordinary person in this day and age.
Since this was my first experience of reading on a Kindle, I must also say that I could find few faults with the formatting or the pagination of the book; two things that I understand can be very iffy when books are converted to digital format. Some exotic characters were clearly mistranslated into the digital format, such as the £ symbol, which became a series of nonsense characters, and letters with accents which were also reduced to nonsense, but it was not difficult to work out what should have been written in the places where these small strings of nonsense showed up. The paragraphs were separated by blank lines, and were of a decent size and the dialogue was separated appropriately from the narrative portions of the text.
All in all, therefore, this a book that is more than worth having, particularly since the only expenditure required is the time it takes to read it.
On a side note, viewers of the recent films starring Robert Downey Jr. will recognise some of the lines that have been stolen wholesale from the book, and will probably marvel at how well that actor has nailed the great detective's way of thinking and speaking, although he was somewhat more physically active than the literary Sherlock is....more
A Dickens classic that contains some of the most famous and quotable lines in all of pre-20th-century literature. The story is centred on Lucie ManettA Dickens classic that contains some of the most famous and quotable lines in all of pre-20th-century literature. The story is centred on Lucie Manette and a select group of her friends and acquaintances as they make their way through life in Britain and France during the early days of the French Revolution. At times, however, I found the story difficult to follow because of the writing. Dickens is always flowery in his prose, but in the Tale of Two Cities he turns long-windedness into an art-form. The prose is so purple that I often found myself having to read back to remind myself of events, and after a while that in itself became a little wearing. On the other hand it displays a mastery of the English language that is sadly absent in many recent additions to the body of English Literature.
The minute detail of the descriptions also serves to ensure that the characters are so well-developed that you might reasonably expect them to emerge from the page at any moment. Dickens is not in the habit of writing flat characters, but I have seldom seen any whose emotions and actions are so fully described and then justified with digression into their personal history. Likewise the atmosphere of the setting is palpable. You can almost see the crowds of Fleet Street as they move in their twin streams East and West, you can practically smell the blood on the air around the Guillotine in Paris. It makes it easy for even a person of limited imagination to conjure up images from the words of the page.
Overall therefore, I recommend this book primarily because it is a classic piece of literature rather than because I genuinely enjoyed it. It's worth reading at least once, just to expand your vocabulary and to be able to say that you have, but I don't plan on picking it up again now that I have....more