Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thoughts On "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Perhaps I have been rather ignorant for the past few years, but lately it has seemed to me that more and more movies based on books (and to be specific, classic books) in recent time.  Specifically, I refer to the Sherlock Holmes movies; however, there have also been numerous movies made about best selling books that are too modern to yet be considered classics, but undoubtedly will be considered as such as time goes by (Harry Potter comes to mind as a example).  As I have begun to notice how many blockbuster movies have come from classical literature, I have decided that I should read many of these novels and see what they are like in their original form.  I decided to start with "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, one cannot fairly compare the characters in the book with the characters in the movie.  While they are the same characters their personalities and various quirks are of significant difference.  While such inability to adhere to literary originals is usually enough to deter me from liking a movie, it was not the case for Sherlock Holmes.  I found both the book and the movies to be equally entertaining.  Here though, I will try to maintain my focus on the book.  I mention this quick bit about the movie so that you can understand where my view is coming from; there is no doubt in my mind that if I had read the book before seeing the movie, my view would be quite different.  But be it as it may, the movie undoubtedly has influenced by view of the book more so than the book influenced me on the movie.

The book itself is not necessarily a novel, but rather a collection of short stories.  Each "chapter" in the book is a different adventure and none of them have anything to do with each other.  They are merely the "most singular" cases that the narrator (Dr. Watson) feels are of the most interest.  Due to this format, it was easy for me to move through the book at a good steady pace.  There was not much character development since the only two recurring characters were Holmes and Watson.  While there were a few personal habits that were revealed throughout the book, they did nothing to change the reader's view of the character in any way at all.  That being said, the character of Sherlock Holmes was always enjoyable and I found him always to be entertaining and genius in all of his adventures.  Dr. Watson, on the other hand, as narrator does not focus very much on himself at all; therefore, his character is sometimes flat at times though it would be awkward for him to be any other way since his main purpose in writing the book (this is the illusion Doyle created) is to show the public how brilliant Sherlock Holmes is.

The adventures themselves were enjoyable.  The last one, a case dealing with a woman who discovers that her employer is keeping his own daughter prisoner in his house, was especially riveting.  There were no "page-turner" stories, but their were no overly dull ones either.  My main criticism of them would be that there is a great deal of time spent by Holmes's clients at the beginnings of the adventures telling of their woeful trials and imploring on him to help.  Holmes would then agree to take their case and solve it in a time frame that ranged from several hours to a couple of days.  The format was always the same and it did become a bit redundant by the end of the book.

Regardless of these failings, it was a very enjoyable read.  Through reading it myself, I was able to see why it has stood for so long as a classic.  The cases were so brilliantly thought out and the observations made by Holmes so minute that one has to admire the intelligence of the author, who wrote several other Sherlock Holmes novels and adventures.  I definitely recommend reading this book, especially if you have seen the movies.  I will say that it would be a good idea to read it with a dictionary close by as many of the words and phrases have fallen out of use (I was fortunate to read it on my Kindle which has a dictionary built in so it was convenient for me to look up words I did not know).  If for any reason, one must read this book to understand Sherlock Holmes as he is portrayed in the movies, as Dr. Watson as narrator describes him as an observant, genius, crack addict.

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