“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
So this week we’re taking a break from talking about writing and publishing to talk about reading. Conveniently, I’ve spent the last two weeks doing little else besides reading and talking about books. Since I’m currently studying Victorian sensation and detective fiction, my reading selections have had a distinct “blast from the past” flavour.
So, here are the last three books I read:
A new author
First up was Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Have you ever heard of it? I certainly hadn’t, but it was the bestselling novel of the 1860s and the author was referred to as the “Queen of the Circulating Library” because of the book’s popularity with the book-borrowing public. Considered a “sensation” novel because of elements like intrigue, murder, bigamy, and a few other things, it is really the story of a woman who does whatever she needs to do in order to survive and the man who tries to uncover her secrets. It is set against the backdrop of Victorian society with its anxieties about the domestic sphere, gender, and social class. It’s a little slower moving than the contemporary stories that we’re used to, but it was an enjoyable read and I’ll be reading more by this author.
A New Book by a Favourite Author
Next up was The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. A few years back I read Collins’ The Woman in White and enjoyed it quite a bit, so I had high expectations for this story. It is a detective tale that deals with the theft of a priceless diamond known as The Moonstone. Presented by a series of narrators all telling / showing us what happened in the parts of the story where they were involved, it’s almost like testimony in a court case, if testimony was presented in a meandering conversational way. Some of the narrators are trustworthy, some are unreliable, and no one knows the entire story. The only annoyance I had with the book is that as a reader, there is no way I could have figured out the ending. I find detective stories far more enjoyable when clues are woven throughout so that there is a chance of solving it. Written almost 150 years ago, the story includes elements that are still very applicable today, like concerns about immigrants and people with unfamiliar religious beliefs.
Something I can’t believe I never read before
The last book on the list was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve never read any Doyle before. Though I’ve enjoyed many a Sherlock Holmes television show and movie (the 2009 movie with Robert Downey Jr. is my favourite), I’d never read any of the books they’re based on. Fortunately, I was able to remedy that situation fairly easily. Set largely in Dartmoor in Devon, The Hound of the Baskervilles tells the story of an attempted murder inspired by the “legend of a fearsome, diabolical hound of supernatural origin.” Though this is the third novel featuring Sherlock Holmes, it is apparently considered the top Holmes novel by Sherlockian scholars (really, there is such a thing?). I actually picked this particular story because it was the first title I saw when I queried books by Doyle. It is both a short book and a quick read, though the story differed widely from television episodes of the same name that I’ve seen. Interestingly enough, I ran across an actual interview with Doyle on YouTube, believed to be his only filmed interview. If you’re a fan, give it a look.
So, what have you been reading (or starting to read) recently? Any recommendations to add to my queue (classics or not)?