Tony's Reviews > Farewell, My Lovely

Farewell, My Lovely by Derek Strange
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did not like it
bookshelves: fiction, 2013, reviewed

“Penguin Readers” editions are rewritten in simplified language for learners of English, with restrictions on both vocabulary and grammatical structures depending on the level.

Sometimes this works well. Here, it doesn't work at all. The original is pretty much entirely about the language and writing, but this "translation" loses almost everything, sometimes even to the extent of making the meaning quite confused.

For comparison — the original has an elaborate multi-page section of him arriving at the Grayle residence:

It was close to the ocean and you could feel the ocean in the air but you couldn’t see water from the front of the place. Aster Drive had a long smooth curve there and the houses on the inland side were just nice houses, but on the canyon side they were great silent estates, with twelve foot walls and wrought-iron gates and ornamental hedges; and inside, if you could get inside, a special brand of sunshine, very quiet, put up in noise-proof containers just for the upper classes.

[long argument with gatekeeper snipped]

He waved his hand and I went in through the half open gate. The drive curved and tall molded hedges of dark green completely screened it from the street and from the house. Through a green gate I saw a Jap gardener at work weeding a huge lawn. He was pulling a piece of weed out of the vast velvet expanse and sneering at it the way Jap gardeners do. Then the tall hedge closed in again and I didn’t see anything more for a hundred feet. Then the hedge ended in a wide circle in which half a dozen cars were parked.

One of them was a small coupe. There were a couple of very nice two-tone Buicks of the latest model, good enough to go for the mail in. There was a black limousine, with dull nickel louvres and hubcaps the size of bicycle wheels. There was a long sport phaeton with the top down. A short very wide all-weather concrete driveway led from these to the side entrance of the house.

Off to the left, beyond the parking space there was a sunken garden with a fountain at each of the four corners. The entrance was barred by a wrought-iron gate with a flying Cupid in the middle. There were busts on light pillars and a stone seat with crouching griffins at each end. There was an oblong pool with stone, waterlilies in it and a big stone bullfrog sitting on one of the leaves. Still farther a rose colonnade led to a thing like an altar, hedged in at both sides, yet not so completely but that the sun lay in an arabesque along the steps of the altar. And far over to the left there was a wild garden, not very large, with a sun-dial in the corner near an angle of wall that was built to look like a ruin. And there were flowers. There were a million flowers.

The house itself was not so much. It was smaller than Buckingham Palace, rather gray for California, and probably had fewer windows than the Chrysler Building.

I sneaked over to the side entrance and pressed a bell and somewhere a set of chimes made a deep mellow sound like church bells.

Here, this entire thing becomes:

Aster Drive was full of nice big houses near the ocean. The man at the gate of the Grayle's place was ugly and unfriendly, but he let me in eventually and I parked next to the five or six cars in the driveway. The house itself wasn't much. Smaller than Buckingham Palace. I rang the doorbell.

This would be bad enough on its own, but this approach also makes the plot (which is complex enough anyway) almost impossible to follow. I frequently found myself completely lost until I flipped back a couple of pages, and re-read a key plot point that had been shrunk down to an almost throwaway half sentence.


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Reading Progress

November 27, 2013 – Started Reading
November 27, 2013 – Shelved
November 27, 2013 – Shelved as: fiction
November 27, 2013 – Finished Reading
January 5, 2014 – Shelved as: 2013
September 9, 2014 – Shelved as: reviewed

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