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“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”Graham Greene, The End of the Affair

It’s been a while, give or take a couple of years since I last posted. At present, I have branded myself as a workaholic, which greatly exists in our family genes. Indeed, I have worked continuously for the past two years with no regrets…I lie, my only regret is not writing enough. I have read plenty of literature throughout these two years, but I have never had the chance to put them into writing. Consequently, I have missed this blog very much.

What’s new? As you can see, we have a new website layout. I am using the Zuki WordPress theme. It’s a minimalistic, magazine theme, which I think will fit this site very well. Not only does it display large featured posts, but I also get to add my favourite quotes anywhere I like.

Additionally, I am thinking of expanding my blog to accommodate stationery reviews. When it comes to work, I like to be very organised, keep a good track of all my daily tasks and events. Hence, I may bring onto this site my daily bullet journal and a little snippet of what goes on in my life.

In terms of literature reviews, I will try my best to get it up and running again. Preferably, I would like to be posting a critique once a week. There are a lot of ideas in my head. Hopefully, I can present these all to you in the future.

Thank you for being very patient. Stay tuned for more.

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Red-Headed League

The Red-Headed League

SYNOPSIS:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are called on to investigate the bizarre proceedings of The Red-Headed League, a philanthropic society which promotes the interests of men with red hair by paying them handsomely to perform small tasks. Holmes soon realises that The League is not as charitable as it appears but rather part of an ingenious criminal plot involving the fourth smartest man in London.

We continue with our journey through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by reviewing Doyle’s next short story, The Red-Headed League. Narrated by Dr. John Watson, The Red-Headed League is a fun yet bizarre mystery; or as Mr. Sherlock Holmes states “refreshingly unusual”. Even with the unusual case, it is a rather clever scheme, which I believe would have worked out if Mr. Holmes wasn’t investigating it.

“As a rule,” said Holmes, the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be.”

Our first character we are introduced to is Mr. Jabez Wilson and his ‘blazing red head’. A pawnbroker from London and a client to Mr Holmes, Mr. Wilson is a slow and somewhat gullible man. Only himself will have the patience to copy out an entire Encyclopaedia Britannica without questioning for eight weeks. Unknown to Mr. Wilson, his assistant Vincent Spaulding aka John Clay is the criminal who uses him in his scheme to rob a bank. You do start to feel sorry for Mr. Wilson in his current situation. However, his character is rather comical and makes the novel very entertaining.

Dr. John Watson, the sidekick to Mr. Holmes is a lovable character. His observation skills is relatively lacking, but that’s what makes him more likeable to the readers. I do love his initial criticism of Mr. Wilson, describing him as an ‘average commonplace British tradesman, obese, pompous, and slow’, only to have Holmes shaking his head afterwards. It’s as if, Sherlock Holmes can read minds. As Watson narrates the entire story, you find that he is very fond of Holmes. There is a beautiful paragraph in ‘The Red-Headed League’ where Watson describes Holmes as his friend and his ‘perfect happiness’ for music (see Quotes section). He clearly admires him, which I find truly sweet and touching.

“I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routine of everyday life. You have shown your relish for it by the enthusiasm which has prompted you to chronicle, and, if you will excuse my saying so, somewhat to embellish so many of my own little adventures.”

Whilst watching the television series of Sherlock Holmes, I came across ‘The Red-Headed League’ episode, starring Jeremy Brett and David Burke. I was fascinated by Brett’s performance of Holmes. He brings a lot of wit and liveliness to the character, as it should be portrayed. It was the little touches that I liked about the episode. For example, Holmes jumping on the sofa, his busy contemplative mind when Watson was falling asleep; the little things is what made Jeremy Brett, Sherlock Holmes.

As the protagonist, Holmes has a quick-thinking, brilliant mind. I suppose it’s what makes Sherlock Holmes very popular. Doyle created a bizarre, but genius character. The ultimate detective story about good vs bad. There must have been a rise in detective stories during the late 1800s. What makes Holmes brilliant? It’s the way he observes, he sees what others and readers can’t see. Towards the end, all Holmes could say was, “L’homme c’est rien — l’oeuvre c’est tout,” meaning simply: The man is nothing – his work is everything; which fits Holmes’s character perfectly.

Here I had heard what he had heard, I had seen what he had seen, and yet from his words it was evident that he saw clearly not only what had happened but what was about to happen, while to me the whole business was still confused and grotesque.

All things considered, ‘The Red-Headed League’ is a very entertaining novel. Even though it is a short story, Sherlock Holmes’s wittiness makes the story enjoyable. An additional bonus to Dr. Watson’s narration through his observations of Mr. Holmes; there were some fabulous quotes. I do love a fun and unusual mystery novel. It would have been even better, if there were more adventures from the ‘Red-Headed League’.

 

Life of Pi: Part One

Life Of Pi

SYNOPSIS:

After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, one solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan…and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.

At a young age, I remember walking through my school library and picking Life of Pi to read. The title intrigued me. I have always chosen new novels by browsing through titles that instantly catches my eye. Life of Pi was one of them. Right away, I knew the novel was about someone called Pi. I thought to myself that Pi was a very strange name and I wanted to know more about the person. So I checked out the book.

Many years later, all I could recall about the novel was that it had a tiger, a boat and a boy named Pi. The rest of the plot was rather blurry. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I’m beginning to lose details of books that I’ve read in the past. Then again I’ve read many books. But I always remember the lasting impressions of all the books that I have read; the good, the bad and especially the ones that’ve made me cry. Hence, when the Life of Pi movie came out, a lot of memories came flooding back in. I instantly knew that I should reread the book.

The Fall ThumbnailThe movie was positively beautiful. The visual effects were stunning. Above all, the CGI masters captured the Bengal tiger perfectly. The scenic locations in India even reminded me of Tarsem Singh’s 2006 movie: The Fall; one of my all time favourites that I highly recommend. It’s very rare for me to fall in love with both the movie and the novel of Life of Pi. Of course, the book is better and provides a lot more detail. Nevertheless, the director, Ang Lee managed to produce a marvellous film.

As expected, I’m here to critique to you about the novel rather than the film itself. The last thing I want is a comparison between the novel and movie. It’s not needed, but I might add a few photographs from the movie. Similar to the layout of the book, the Life of Pi critique will be written in three parts. Will there be spoilers? Like many of my critiques, there will be a great deal of it. You have been warned.

“I have a story that will make you believe in God.”

The novel starts from the very beginning in the author’s note. Most author’s note are based on the truth. But I suppose it’s up to the writer to decide on how much truth is written. In the Life of Pi, the reader will have to question themselves whether the novel is based on fact or fiction. As well as how far are the readers willing to believe in the truth. Henceforth, one of the major themes throughout this novel is storytelling. Pi is telling the story to the writer, Yann Martel, who occasionally can be rather intrusive by switching the story back and forth to the present. This gives the readers enough time to breath and recollect their thoughts.

The main protagonist and narrator, Piscine Molitor Patel, also known as Pi, was named after a famous french swimming pool in Paris. With his heart in the right place, Patel lives his life with great curiosity and belief. He’s just one of those characters in which you can’t help but fall in love with. Occasionally, Martel shares touches of comedy. The way he describes characters through the eyes of Pi is rather amusing. We can all agree that his childhood brings much laughter to myself and the readers.

The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity–it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud.

Pondicherry Zoo

This novel contains many excellent quotes, too many in fact. The quote above is one of my personal favourites, Pi’s constant battle with death, which we will certainly see more later on. Part one of the Life of Pi tells the story about Pi’s childhood upbringing in Pondicherry, India. His awareness and love of nature started in Pondicherry Zoo, which was owned by his father. In chapter four, Pi paints a beautiful, descriptive picture, overflowing with plants and animals, calling it his ‘paradise on earth’ and that he ‘lived the life of a prince.’ I admire how people see the world differently. Some people see the negative aspects. Whereas others, like Pi, see the beauty of the world.

I spent more hours than I can count a quiet witness to the highly mannered, manifold expressions of life that grace our planet. It is something so bright, loud, weird and delicate as to stupefy the senses.

Finding and believing in God is a fundamental theme throughout this novel. It starts within the author’s note when an elderly man approaches Martel and says, “I have a story that will make you believe in God.” In a rather humorous approach, Pi finds faith in not one but three separate religions: Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Why? For the simplest of reasons he replies, “All religions are true. I just want to love God”. From that sweet quote alone, we’re beginning to understand why Pi chose to believe in three religions. He naturally wants to appreciate and understand God. By believing in God, he sees the living world through kindness.

Things didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to, but what can you do? You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it.

The Tiny Wife

The Tiny Wife - Rating

SYNOPSIS:

A robber charges into a bank with a loaded gun, but instead of taking any money he steals an item of sentimental value from each person. Once he has made his escape, strange things start to happen to the victims.

A tattoo comes to life, a husband turns into a snowman, a baby starts to shit money. And Stacey Hinterland discovers that she’s shrinking, a little every day, and there is seemingly nothing that she or her husband can do to reverse the process.

Following on from reading All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman, The Literary Boutique book club continued to read another Kaufman novel: The Tiny Wife. Like his first novella, The Tiny Wife is short, quirkier and all-out bizarre. Throughout the hardback copy, the book also displays some delightful silhouette illustrations by Tom Percival.

I’m here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Your soul is a living, breathing, organic thing. No different than your heart or your legs. And just like your heart keeps your blood oxygenated and your legs keep you moving around, your soul gives you the ability to do amazing, beautiful things. …When I leave here, I will be taking 51 percent of your souls with me. This will have strange and bizarre consequences in your lives. But more importantly, and I mean this quite literally, learn how to grow them back, or you will die.”

Let’s be honest first, Andrew Kaufman’s novels are just plain weird. Is it too weird perhaps? With each character that’s introduced to us, they all eventually face an unusual circumstance. From a woman who discovers she’s made out of candy to a baby that excretes money. The Tiny Wife is a very peculiar short story. Yet somehow it works. It sort of makes sense.

Eight days after the robbery, Grace Gainsfield, who had given the thief a small pressed flower that she used as a bookmark, had woken up in cold wet sheets and discovered that her husband had turned into a snowman.

Most stories like to contain morals, in other words, lessons to be learned; something significant for the readers to gain about themselves. For example, children’s literature contains morals for them to understand and grow in life. In The Tiny Wife, characters are confronted with dilemmas, relationship problems and learning to face fears and accept struggles in life. All things that readers can relate to. Kaufman certainly likes to use moral lessons within his novels. In a way, that’s what makes him a great writer.

Perhaps one of the hardest things about having kids is realizing that you love someone more than your wife. That it’s possible to love someone more than you love your wife. What’s even worse is that it’s a love you don’t have to work at. It’s just there. It just sits there, indestructible, getting stronger and stronger. While the love for your wife, the one you do have to work at, and work so very hard at, gets nothing. Gets neglected, left to fend for itself. Like a houseplant forgotten on a windowsill.

However, the novel is just too short. Hence, the novel ended rather abruptly. In some ways, Kaufman introduced too many characters to this novella. Consequently, the readers were jumping from one character to the next. I would have liked a bit more depth and explanation, so that the characterisation didn’t feel rushed. Towards the end, the novel just left readers with too many unanswered questions.

The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman is a very quick read. It won’t take you long at all. It’s one of those books where you read it once and then brush it off to the side. The Tiny Wife is not as good as Kaufman’s first novel, All My Friends Are Superheroes. There’s simply not enough detail and depth to excite readers. Nonetheless, if you want a quick and quirky read; then why not pick up this novel today.

All My Friends Are Superheroes

SYNOPSIS:

All Tom’s friends really are superheroes. Tom even married a superhero, the Perfectionist. But at their wedding the Perfectionist is hypnotized by her ex, Hypno, to believe that Tom is invisible. Nothing he does can make her see him.

Six months later the Perfectionist is sure that Tom has abandoned her, so she’s moving to Vancouver. She’ll use her superpower to leave all her heartbreak behind. With no idea that Tom’s beside her, she boards the plane. Tom has until they touch down to convince her he’s there, or he loses her forever…

I begin my first book club session by choosing a short novella, All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman. Why the novel choice? I was instantly intrigued by the title. At first glance, it appeared to be a quick and enjoyable read. A great way to start a reading group with friends.

All My Friends Are Superheroes is a fun and quirky novella. It’s not everyday you find a little book that charms you from beginning to end. Furthermore, it makes the reader think about themselves; who they are as a person, and what their friends think of them.

Tom’s first superhero girlfriend was Someday. She had red hair, a compact frame and two superpowers: an amazing ability to think big and an unlimited capacity to procrastinate.

Andrew Kaufman creates a world where superheroes exist. They are not your usual superheroes that magnify human powers, such as strength and godlike abilities; but their powers are based on individual personality traits. For example, there is The Stress Bunny; she has the ability to absorb everyone’s stress, relaxing anyone in her path. This makes the superheroes more ordinary, realistic, and ultimately relatable to certain readers.

We then come to Tom, the protagonist. A normal human being without any superpowers that has to deal with the fact that he’s just ordinary, just like the rest of us; which makes us love him more. In more ways than one, I think Tom is somewhat glad that he doesn’t have a superpower. He clearly has to endure and suffer with all the “superheroes” around him. Undeniably though, he’s the only sane man in the novel.

There are 249 superheroes in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. None of them have secret identities. Very few wear costumes. Most have their powers don’t result in material gain.

The central theme in this novel undoubtedly is love. Tom, being invisible, does everything in his power to convince his wife, the Perfectionist, that he hasn’t abandoned her. A rather familiar situation that most of us have been through in life, i.e. unrequited love. What makes matter worse is the fact that they both love each other deeply, but cannot be together, which can be a torture. But as Barbara de Angelis once quoted: “Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible – it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.” This is what makes the novella engaging. It’s more or less a book about human life, relationships, jealousy and invisibility. One way or another, we’ve all lived through it.

‘Ahhhh,’ said Tom. A pain shot through his heart.
‘What is happening?’
‘Pain in my chest.’
‘Sharp and enduring?’
‘Yes.’
‘But recurring?’
‘Yes!’
‘In great frequency?’
‘Less then ten minutes now.’
‘I’m sending over a doctor.’
‘What is it?’
‘He’s the best there is.’
‘Tell me what it is!’
‘Your heart is breaking,’ the Amphibian said.

Overall, All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman is a highly imaginative and original book. It’s perhaps the shortest book I’ve read, yet it’s also the sweetest. It definitely will bring a smile to anyone who reads it. I would’ve loved the novel even more, if it was little longer. However, I still highly recommend you read it once. It won’t take you long at all, and maybe, you’ll find your own “superpower”.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia, Chapter III

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia, Chapter III

I remain, dear Mr Sherlock Holmes, very truly yours.

In the final chapter we see the cunning Irene Adler finally having the chance to outsmart Sherlock Holmes. She reveals her deductions in a written letter addressed to Mr. Holmes. Adler clearly admires him for almost fooling her. In recent adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, there has always been a love relationship between the two, but not in the novels. In the novels Adler marries a lawyer named Godfrey Norton; thus there was never any love relationship with Holmes. However, there has always been admiration between them both.

“What a woman – oh, what a woman!” cried the King of Bohemia, when we had all three read this epistle. “Did I not tell you how quick and resolute she was? Would she not have made an admirable queen? Is it not a pity that she was not on my level?”

“From what I have seen of the lady, she seems, indeed, to be on a very different level to your Majesty,” said Holmes coldly.

Subsequently, one of the main themes for A Scandal in Bohemia is admiration. Without a doubt there is a lot of admiration in Doyle’s novels; not only from Watson and Sherlock, but also from the King of Bohemia. At the beginning of the novel the King disliked Adler for blackmailing her, and now he simply applauds her, stating that she would ‘have made an admirable queen’. It is interesting to see the change of circumstances, even when the King did not receive back the blackmailed photograph. Yet he is amazed by the cunningness of Irene Adler.

Furthermore, Sherlock seems to value Adler higher than the King of Bohemia by stating that Adler is ‘on a very different level’, even though it is clear that her social class is lower. Therefore, this strengthens the theory of admiration. Holmes is secretly praising Adler for outwitting him.

Moreover, It is good to mention the similarities between Adler and Holmes. They both like to disguise themselves. Adler’s plan to fool Holmes was to disguise herself as a man and to follow him home. She even wished Holmes ‘a good night‘, to which he never noticed it was Irene Adler. By disguising herself, it can be said that Adler is intellectually equal to Sherlock Holmes.

I have been trained as an actress myself. Male costume is nothing new to me. I often take advantage of the freedom which it gives.

A Scandal in Bohemia not only has the best opening line, but also the best closing paragraph. It simply ends with Dr. Watson’s narrative. ‘Sherlock Holmes was beaten by a woman’s wit’. It’s not everyday you see that written in a Sherlock Holmes novel. It can only be said that Irene Adler has made an everlasting impression in Sherlock Holmes’s mind, he is human after all.

…the best plans of Sherlock Holmes was beaten by a woman’s wit. He used to make merry over the cleverness of women, but I have not heard him do it of late. And when he speaks of Irene Adler, or when he refers to her photograph, it is always under the honourable title of the woman.

In conclusion, A Scandal in Bohemia is one of Doyle’s finest work. He is able to create a woman who can outwit Sherlock Holmes, which is rare for a man during the 19th century. The novel even shows a slight human side to Holmes. Yet, I was left wanting more. The story is just too short. Surely a significant woman like Irene Adler would’ve had the chance to develop with a longer storyline. It’s a shame she only appeared in one novel. Nevertheless, A Scandal in Bohemia was a great and entertaining read. If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I would definitely suggest you read this novel. It’s a very different perspective to what you might find from watching the television and movie adaptations.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia, Chapter II

Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia, Chapter Two

I only caught a glimpse of her at the moment, but she was a lovely woman, with a face that a man might die for.

In chapter two of A Scandal in Bohemia, we are fully introduced to Irene Adler. Doyle is clearly focusing on the character’s beauty. As a result, Adler’s beauty is to her advantage. Without doubt, she is well aware of her attraction and that men are turning their heads; even Sherlock Holmes and Watson are commenting on her beauty.

She has turned all the men’s heads down in that part. She is the daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet.

One main theme we can look at in this novel is feminism. We need to consider the fact that A Scandal in Bohemia was published in 1891. During that time, male dominance was still an issue. Don’t forget, the late 19th century was the beginning of women’s rights, the suffrage movement. When researching about this case, it was said that Doyle was against the movement and did not support the suffragettes, which made a lot of sense. As an anti-suffragist, his opinions are clearly shown in his novels. Sherlock’s observations suggest that women are ‘secretive’ and have their own specific traits. Beyond any doubt, this came from Doyle’s concepts about women.

Women are naturally secretive, and they like to do their own secreting.

When a woman thinks that her house is on fire, her instinct is at once to rush to the thing which she values most. It is a perfectly overpowering impulse, and I have more than once taken advantage of it.

However, there can be another side to this story. Even though Doyle depicted specific women traits, he has created a unique woman who was ahead of her time. Not only is Adler described as a beautiful woman, but it was also written that she had the ‘mind of the most resolute of men.’ Having a mind of a man during the 19th century was rare and unacceptable. This meant that Adler was a determined, clever and independent woman, which is definitely shown in this novel.

When it comes to Sherlock Holmes, he is obviously very good at his job. He cleverly disguises himself to meet and trick Irene Adler into thinking that he was hurt, in order to gain access into her house. Hence, Dr. Watson admires Sherlock for his clever disguises and plans to fool the enemy. It can be said that throughout Doyle’s novels, Sherlock Holmes was the master of disguise.

His expression, his manner, his very soul seemed to vary with every fresh part that he assumed. The stage lost a fine actor, even as science lost an acute reasoner, when he became a specialist in crime.

Next Chapter

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia, Chapter I

Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia

SYNOPSIS:

Holmes is hired by the King of Bohemia to recover blackmail evidence, held by the woman whom the king once promised to marry, but who he abandoned for a woman of noble birth.

I shall start my critique by reviewing one of my favourite authors, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I have always treasured Sherlock Holmes novels. It is a classic that you should always read at some point in your life, regardless if you’re not a fan of the genre. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of short stories, twelve to be precise. I begin with A Scandal in Bohemia, chapter one.

To Sherlock Holmes, she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen…. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.

Perhaps one of the greatest opening lines in a novel. The readers are mysteriously introduced to ‘the woman’, known as the infamous Irene Adler. Oozing in beauty and seduction, she is also a rather cunning and intelligent lady. Yet by blackmailing the King of Bohemia, the readers are shown a ruthless side. Despite only appearing in A Scandal in Bohemia, Irene Adler has certainly remained a significant character in the series.

You do not know her, that she has a soul of steel. She has the face of the most beautiful of women, and the mind of the most resolute of men.

Aside from Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John Watson plays an important role. Dr. Watson is the deuteragonist, better-known as the ‘sidekick’. He is a foil for Holmes. Doyle has cleverly created two completely different minds, working together to solve a mystery. As a foil character, Dr. Watson makes Holmes a genius. By not observing, he enhances the brilliance of Holmes’s mind.

You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.

Dr. Watson is the main narrator of the Sherlock Holmes novels, to be exact he is a peripheral narrator. As a deuteragonist, He brings his own point of view to the books. At times it’s a rather biased view; some say he can be an unreliable narrator. Without doubt, he certainly admires Sherlock Holmes. He compliments Holmes multiple times by informing readers that he has ‘extraordinary powers’. In Watson’s mind, Holmes is ‘the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen’. Perhaps this is why Holmes and Watson work so well together; with compliments like that, you’ll never want to lose your companion.

Ultimately, I come to our protagonist, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. The character that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously created. Holmes’s process of deductions has always astonished Dr. Watson, and you can certainly tell that Holmes enjoys his deductions. Truth be told Holmes is a loner. Loathing society, he makes very little friends, and takes delight in the uses of cocaine. However, he greatly accepts the accompany of Dr. Watson by introducing him as a friend and colleague to his client, the King of Bohemia.

…Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature.

Next Chapter