Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes- the name we all associate with 221 Baker Street, blockbuster films and, more recently, the BBC series staring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. If we're honest I don't think any of us think of the books by Arthur Conyan Doyle first, if you do I give you a round of applause.

I am a great fan of all things Sherlocky, as most of my friends and family would probably tell you. Not so much that I am constantly talking about Sherlock Holmes, but enough that, when in London, I convinced my friends to walk up to 221 Baker Street. Let me tell you now, it is a very very long street. Something I probably should have realized from the address. Needless to say my friends were not very impressed, some even wanted to turn around when we got to 21 Baker Street and realized we had a couple hundred more houses to go. I was determined however and we eventually arrived at our destination, to find, much to my disappointment, that it really wasn't that impressive - I have no idea what I'd been expecting - I did get a photo though and pretended, mainly for the benefit of my friends, to be very excited.

There are nine books in the Sherlock Holmes series, they are as follows;

A study in Scarlet
The sign of four
The adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
The Hound of Baskervilles
The Return of Sherlock Holmes
The Valley of Fear
His Last Bow
The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes

The first Sherlock Holmes adventure I read was The Speckled Band, and that is when my love for the Sherlock stories began. Of course I'd heard about Sherlock Holmes before but I had never really wanted to read it or had any particular interest in it. Then, after watching The Study in Pink on TV I decided to start reading 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,' Even though it wasn't the first in the series I found that it didn't matter because the mysteries were almost completely stand alone and not in chronological order.

I can't say much about the book series as a whole as I have only read one book and only a half of it at that, but the one thing that caught me about Arthur Conan Doyle's style is how cleverly he manages to confuse the readers and disable us from making conclusions before Sherlock presents his, extremely logical and apparently 'obvious' observations. Most mysteries present the reader with clues unknown to the characters in the book, with Sherlock Holmes its different, he knows everything whilst the reader is still in the dark waiting his explanation. This role is shared by John Watson and it is his train of thought we follow and not Sherlock's. This technique might differ in other books but as I haven't yet read them I cannot say. 

As a closing note let me strongly encourage you to read the Sherlock Holmes series for yourself, don't rely on the magic of television to accurately portray the genius behind Arthur Conyan Doyle's famous characters. 

The Youngest Girl in The Fifth by Angela Brazil

If you like Malory Towers, Chalet School or any of those sorts of books then you'll like this. Full of pranks, punishments and grades, this shows both Gwen's home and school life, which is something that neither Malory Towers or Chalet School dwells on.

I remember one of the first times I was talking to someone who had been to boarding school. Of course, having read Malory Towers, Chalet School and The Youngest Girl in The Fifth, I thought I knew all about it. Midnight feasts, picnics, swimming by the sea, lessons outdoors, head girls and of course plenty of real-life mysteries just outside the door. But in reality, boarding school is no where near as 'perfect' as in the novels. I must admit I have had no personal experience but from what I have heard midnight feasts certainly don't take place as regularly as one might think.

Despite the slight differences between truth and fiction, I cannot help but enjoy these novels about growing up. The Youngest Girl in The Fifth particularly focuses on themes and issues that can be relevant in 'normal' life. For example, Gwen struggles with feeling left out because she is pushed into the year above. This means that her friends from the year below become jealous and stop speaking to her, and no one in the year above wants to befriend her either because they feel she is too stuck up. This leaves Gwen feeling isolated and alone, especially since her only friend seems to be her worst enemy.

The other interesting aspect of this book is that Gwen doesn't board at school, instead returning home at the end of every school day. This adds another dimension to the story as we get to see Gwen's interaction with her family and friends outside, as well as inside, school. We get to see how Gwen is encouraged to persevere no matter how hard things may seem, and how her family are always there for her to turn to in times of difficulty.

Angela Brazil manages to create a unique book that, although similar to Malory Towers and Chalet school still manages to hold its own and adds a different colour to the classic school story genre. Even though I wouldn't read this book again or necessarily advise reading it, I would say that if you enjoy this type of book it is well worth reading.