Monday, 6 October 2014

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Vol II by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle / The New Life by Orhan Pamuk / Extreme Measures by Martin Brookes

The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, Vol. II by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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The second of the four volumes of Sherlock Holmes stories was one of the downloads in this summer's AudioSYNC programme and Volume II has the stories The Scandal in Bohemia, The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb, The Five Orange Pips, and Silver Blaze.

As the stories are short and we are already meant to be acquainted with Holmes and Watson, there is very little in the way of description about them. Unfortunately, as I am not a particular fan, this made our heroes rather flat. Their clients and foes were also not fleshed out in any great detail.

However the plot lines which were main focus of each tale were generally cleverly thought through and it was fun to try to guess the conclusion ahead of Holmes. David Timson does a great job of the narration and his style complements the writing perfectly. I don't think I will search out the other three volumes though because I can see too many of such tales together quickly becoming overly formulaic and, dare I say, a tad dull.

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Books by Arthur Conan Doyle / Crime fiction / Books from England

The New Life by Orhan Pamuk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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I was lucky enough to win a copy of Snow a couple of years ago and absolutely loved Orhan Pamuk's writing. His poetic descriptions are beautiful and I managed to completely lose myself in the book. So when I saw a copy of The New Life on a second-hand stall in Bristol, I snapped it up.

The New Life is a mix of books in one. There is the stunning writing in which to lose yourself, a road journey through a Turkey which is being lost even as our narrator discovers it, and a splash of mysticism to aid and baffle the reader in equal measure! The seemingly unending bus journeys are brilliantly portrayed, both their tedium and the mortal risk of boarding. I did not completely understand everything as I read it, although much later became clear with further chapters and, as with Snow, I need to learn more about Turkish culture in order to appreciate all the cultural references.

However this was definitely a full five-star read for me. The characters of Osman, Janan and Mehmet are driven and compulsive, and I felt for their quest to discover the truth behind the book they had read. I would so love to read 'that book' too! My favourite character was Doctor Fine and I certainly sympathised with and understood his battle to slow the oncoming tide of globalisation, or Westernisation as it was to him, and his sadness at it destroying the small lifestyle details that made his Turkey his country. The New Life was originally published twenty years ago and I guess the onslaught has increased since then there as it also has in many other countries. If nothing else, I will take away from this book a renewed desire to Buy Local and support regional producers.

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Books by Orhan Pamuk / Contemporary fiction / Books from Turkey

Extreme Measures by Martin Brookes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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I enjoyed reading this biography of the Victorian polymath Francis Galton. A lesser known cousin of Charles Darwin, he flitted between scientific obsessions after a period of African exploration, discovering and pioneering many things we still use today, such as some forms of statistical analysis and the symbols on weather maps, while at the same time being generally unpleasant to anyone he considered beneath him - that's anyone who wasn't rich, white and male - and getting into tiffs with several other scientists.

Martin Brookes writing style perfectly suits his subject as he is able to smooth over with humour the areas of Galton's life which are particularly anachronistic to 21st century readers while at the same time creating admiration for his genuine achievements. Perhaps Galton's primary obsession with eugenics is why he is not better remembered. The future horrors that were carried out in its name are always apparent in the parts of the book discussing it. However as someone who was very much a man of his time, Galton's life story makes for a fascinating read.

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Books by Martin Brookes / Biography and memoir / Books from England

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