Martine's Reviews > The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
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's review
Jul 31, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: film, modern-fiction, north-american, thriller
Read in February, 1992

Call me a freak, but I have a bit of a crush on Hannibal Lecter. He may be the scariest fuck out there (certainly scarier than the supposed monster of the book, Buffalo Bill), but he just oozes style and knowledge. In fact, he has so much style and knowledge that he doesn't come off as a ridiculous prick when he says things like, 'A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone'* or 'Can you smell his sweat? That peculiar goatish odour is trans-3-methyl-2 hexenoic acid. Remember it, it's the smell of schizophrenia.' Quite the contrary -- he sounds cool saying these things. Sophisticated, even. In this and many other ways, Dr Lecter is so utterly fascinating that you'll still find yourself rooting for him after he has committed several heinous (but brilliant!) murders, hoping he'll stay out of the hands of the police and live out his life in freedom. Now that's quality writing for you.

As you can probably tell from the above, I like The Silence of the Lambs, which is to say the book on which the movie was based. Except for the fact that Harris makes Clarice rather stupid** and that the dialogue in the book is a bit too clever and masculine for its own good***, it's a solid and exciting will-they-find-him-in-time-to-save-the-girl story -- a page-turner if ever there was one. The characters aren't terribly easy to identify with, but that's all right, because for one thing, they're cool (had I mentioned that yet?), and for another, they all have a clearly defined quest. They don't necessarily have the same quest, but hey, that only serves to increase the tension.

In some regards the book is better than the film. Remember those stupid anagrams from the movie? They're not in the book (except for the bilirubin one, which I actually quite like). The book makes its connections in a much more logical, less what-the-fuck?-ish way. It also has a more realistic romance, though not necessarily a better one. On the down side, I think Thomas Harris must have kicked himself for not having come up with the closing line of the film ('I'm having an old friend for dinner') himself. In my opinion, it's the best closing line in cinematic history, unmatched by the ending of the book. Still, it's a satisfying read. Very satisfying. As satisfying as the movie, and that's saying a fair bit.


* Yes, that's what he says in the book. Not 'a nice Chianti'. I've been reliably informed by those in the know (I myself do not actually drink wine) that Amarone and Chianti are not in fact the same thing. 'Chianti' does sound better than 'Amarone' in this line, doesn't it?

** In the book, Dr Lecter tells Clarice in one of their first interviews that Billy has kidnapped large-chested Catherine Martin because 'he wants a vest with tits on it'. He then goes on to say in their next meeting that 'Billy is making a girl suit out of real girls'. And despite these incredibly obvious clues (which cannot be rude jokes on Lecter's part as he's far too sophisticated to make such rude jokes) it takes Clarice, who is supposed to be really intelligent, the entire rest of the book to figure out what it is that Billy wants from his victims. They wisely changed that in the movie, where Clarice doesn't have her entire quest spelled out for her right at the beginning.

*** I've never met any women who speak to each other the way Clarice and Ardelia do. Then again, I've never met any brilliant FBI trainees, so what do I know? Perhaps they do speak to each other like that at Quantico. I guess I'll never find out. (Anyone out there have FBI-trained friends? Anyone? Bueller?)
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02/09/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-28 of 28) (28 new)

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Martine Thank you, Sherri. Unfortunately, no matter how inventive I try to be, I will never be as brilliant as Dr Lecter, or Thomas Harris for that matter. One of the great tragedies of my life.

I'll bet those CIA people had a secret language of their own when they were still in function. Sort of like Pig Latin, only with 'cia' instead of 'ay'. Eahycia, Icia anccia eescia ohwcia hattcia ightmcia orkwcia.

Ouch. I think I just hurt my eyes.

message 2: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Hannibal Lector!?!! Is he your most wayward crush? *afraid*
I have a thing for Christopher Walken. So, sometimes, scary men... But I don't like 'em cannibal. :p

Martine I find the threat of cannibalism adds spice to a relationship, Rebecca. It's very exciting. You should try it. :-)

(Remember, Hannibal Lecter is a total gentleman. He might be a cannibal and a serial killer, but he treats Clarice with the utmost respect and courtesy, and has a seriously sexy brain, even if it's a little violent. I like that sort of thing.)

I'm with you on Christopher Walken, though. Great guy. I love the way he talks.

message 4: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Yes. His voice. :D
*aurally fixated*

message 5: by Rebecca (last edited Jul 31, 2008 11:09PM) (new)

Rebecca How do Clarice and Ardelia talk?
*aeons since seeing film*

message 6: by Martine (last edited Aug 01, 2008 12:52AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Martine It's hard to come up with specific examples, Rebecca, but I just get a general feeling of masculinity when I read their dialogues. Clarice's immediate response to things tends to be quite masculine. I can live with that; she's a girl with a masculine brain. They exist, and I daresay there will be more of them at Quantico than anywhere else. Ardelia is... overwritten. I appreciate that Harris wanted to give her some personality (as if the book didn't have enough larger-than-life characters without her... ha!), but I think he overdid her. He has her saying things like, 'I was so in hopes you'd overcome that ghastly dialect. Books are available to help. I never use the colourful patois of my housing project any more. You come talking that mushmouth, people say you eat with the dumb-ass, girl.' Which is colourful stuff, but not very credible from a supposedly brilliant (female) law graduate, I think. She has a very masculine way of expressing herself, down to (I apologise in advance for what I'm about to say...) the fact that she's just not caring enough to be credible as a woman. To me, the way she supports Clarice in between and after ordeals reeks of male friendship rather than female friendship, although Harris obviously tried to give things a feminine slant here and there. Ardelia even addresses Clarice by her family name after her nearly lethal stand-off with Buffalo Bill. I don't know, but I don't find that very plausible.

Minor flaw, though. I like the book!

message 7: by zane (new) - added it

zane I have a thing for Buffalo Bill. Let's go on a double date.

Pipes When I saw your review I was amazed. I thought I was the only one with a bit a or crush on Hannibal. Now I know I'm not completely off my rocker :)

message 9: by ~M~ (new) - rated it 4 stars

~M~ I don't have a crush on Lecter, but I kinda wish I could live my life with his attitude of not-giving-a-crap about other peoples' opinions, and his pure enjoyment. Of course, I don't want to enjoy killing people and eating them, but there are other things he enjoys too.

suanhin Lecter's cool alright.

message 11: by Lori (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Anderson I totally understand the crush!

message 12: by Suna (new) - rated it 3 stars

Suna Nice to see there is a Team Lecter: Anyone who so uncompromisingly appreciates beauty, knowledge and cerebral sensuality like that deserves more than screeching tabloid jugdementalism (Is that a word? It is now.)

Also, if you have a bit of a crush after Silence, you will probably be genuinely swept off your feet by him in Hannibal, if you haven't already read that.

The movie of that latter book cops out in a major way, though. The ending stinks to high heaven and makes little sense for either Starling or Lecter's consistency of character.
But I suppose it wouldn't have been deemed morally fit for public viewing after being vetted...

message 13: by Lori (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Anderson I haven't liked anything else other than Silence of the Lambs. I'm happy to leave him as he was.

message 14: by Suna (new) - rated it 3 stars

Suna Truly? Different things for different people I suppose...^^

Fiona I actually found it quite intentional in the writing style that the reader should come to have at least some kind of good feeling towards Dr. Lecter. I noticed a bit into the novel that Dr. Lecter is, strangely, the only man who treats Clarice with respect. And because we experience everything through Clarice, we associate that feeling of being treated well with Dr. Lecter.
Very, very smart, Mr. Harris!

Alexis Mcmillen Ok we'll if you have a crush on Hannibal then you should read about Ed Gein the real serial killer that inspired Hannibal, Psycho, Leatherface, and Jame Gumb ....

David W. Having a crush on Hannibal Lecter is much much better than, say, crushing on Edward whatshisname. At least this monster would have an intelligent talk with you before he "deemed you rude" and murderized you.

message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Hannibal... He is quite charming, mesmerizing almost. Yes, I do imply I have a crush on Hannibal Lecter also.

message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Hannibal... He is quite charming, mesmerizing almost. Yes, I do imply I have a crush on Hannibal Lecter also.

message 20: by Mikael (new)

Mikael oliviera, exactly what I thought

Magrat I don't have a bit of a crush on Hannibal Lecter. I have a massive, mind blowing adoration of him. and Anthony Hopkins. So yea. I like the book lecter better, but Hopkins was hot.

Azalea Female characters with a "masculine" way of talking? Not "caring" enough to be a "credible woman"?

Wha...what... O_O??????

David W. Now that the third season of NBC's Hannibal has premiered, what do y'all think of Mads Mikkelsen's performance? Do you think he does the character justice?

message 24: by She' (new) - rated it 4 stars

She' M yeah I was also a little surprised at how slow Clarice was on the uptake... But I also hold my female leads to incredibly high standards...

Stephanie Don't feel bad. I have a huge crush on Hannibal, too. :)

message 26: by Lori (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lori Anderson I still do. I have the movie in my Netflix file right now! when he touches her finger and says, "Goodbye, Clarice", oh.

David W. Lori wrote: "I still do. I have the movie in my Netflix file right now! when he touches her finger and says, "Goodbye, Clarice", oh."

That part was from the book too, sth about "Lecter's eyes seem to crackle at their fingers touched", it's amazing how good a movie adaptation could be!

Itsyer I'm sorry but I need to ask you this stupid question.. how can I read it here I mean why I can't open it here? I wish you understood me :(

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