Friday, February 18, 2011

Music Mix Friday...The Pipettes "ABC"

Full Dark House - Christopher Fowler

full dark house
christopher fowler
c. 2003
349 pages
completed 1/26/2011

read for: historical fiction challenge, peculiar crimes unit mysteries

*may contain spoilers*

It really was a hell of a blast.

After the death of Arthur Bryant, his partner for over fifty years, John May, detective of London's Peculiar Crimes Unit, is determined to find his friend's murderer. His investigation keeps bringing up references to the very first case he and Arthur ever took on together. John has to dig into his memory to a time of blackouts and bombs to remember a grisly series of murders at the Palace Theater in order to avenge his friend.

I am almost finished reading the Brother Cadfael books and so I'm looking for a new series of mysteries to take their place. I was a little wary going into this one, since my sister the librarian said it was boring, but I should have just remembered she's also told me "The Woman in White" was boring which has turned out to be one of my favorite books. I think this will do nicely as a replacement series (though don't worry, Hugh Berringar, no one will ever replace you in my heart). It's not nearly as long as Brother Cadfael, but I believe the author isn't finished writing them. Anyway, onto actually talking about the book...

Since it was the first of the series, this is the book where not only do we, the readers, get to meet Arthur and John and their band of peculiars, but they get to meet each other for the first time. I really liked the way the meeting was done. Instead of starting at the beginning, we meet them on the day of Arthur's death and then travel back 65 years or so to the London Blitz and John and Arthur's first case together. Seeing the parallel between the first case and Arthur's murder kept the two stories well connected.

I loved Arthur and John. They were a great odd couple and that's what you want in a somewhat comical detective duo, like Shawn and Gus from Psych or Booth and Brennan from Bones (though maybe without the latter's romantic tension - of course this is only book one so who knows). John's a perfect newbie straight man to Arthur's tragically comic eccentric. I also liked how young they are. John's nineteen and Arthur's barely into his twenties, yet here they are, forced by the war to grow up pretty quick. But they've still got quite a bit of youthful exuberance and naivete. 

Lastly, I love when a book makes constant reference to another work (in this case: the operetta Orpheus in the Underworld by Jacques Offenbach). I love getting introduced to something else through the book I'm reading.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Scaramouche Movie Review

starring: mel ferrer, stewart granger, janet leigh, and eleanor parker

watched for: page to screen challenge

*may contain spoilers*

I am usually a strong advocate for film versions of books. I think people sometimes can be extremely harsh in judging the transition from one medium to another and can be overly critical of every minute detail change. For this movie, however, I think I have to join the ranks of the overly critical. Now, there were certain changes I could understand and get on board with, such as condensing the story so that Andre's time in the theater troupe and his time learning to fence happened simultaneously. I understand changing the age of the Marquis to make it more believable to have him and Andre both vying for the affections of Aline. And I even understand changing Climene's name to the much less French Lenore (for a 1952 audience). But that's about as far as the understanding could go.

There was no point in making Lenore Andre's girlfriend from the get-go and Aline a girl he'd never met before. Aline went from being a strong-willed, spunky, and even sometimes arrogant young woman in the book to a demur child-like innocent in the film, just as Andre went from being a thoughtful and intelligent man to being basically a boor and a man-whore. I really couldn't understand the appeal of making Andre fall in love with Aline only to make him "discover" her to be his sister (he finds out later she's not). Who needs a gross incest subplot? Andre's whole family plot unfolds so interestingly in the book, and yet the way it was changed for the film honestly left me confused. I'm all for changes that make sense and/or enhance viewing pleasure, but these changes were pointless.

The thing I found the most ridiculous? In the book, Andre plays a pretty big role in the beginning of the French Revolution. French politics are the backbone of the story. The movie, however, reduced Andre's whole motivation to that of mere revenge, almost no politics in sight. The only reason the viewer would know this takes place during the French Revolution is the randomly added character of Marie Antoinette (not in the book) and Philippe's pamphlet blatantly subtly titled "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." In the movie, Andre makes no political speeches and his role as Scaramouche in the Commedia is reduced to nothing more than a slapstick clown. Scaramouche is not just a clown. He's supposed to be a satirist. Also, if we're really going to get picky, he's supposed to be Spanish and dressed all in black (hence Freddy Mercury referring to him as a silhouette and asking him to fandango). If I wanted to continue in this vein, I could also complain about Lenore being called Columbine (Columbine was a soubrette, a flirtatious and mischievous servant, whereas Climene was supposed to be an innamorati, one of the lovers), but I'll let it lie.

To be totally fair, had I not read the book I think I could have enjoyed it a lot. In fact, I did manage to enjoy the second half once I'd gotten over my initial abhorrence to all the seemingly ridiculous changes. And I will note that it does have some historical value in having (one of?) the longest continuous swashbuckling sword-fights ever filmed (clocking in at over six minutes), which was a great scene. But it wasn't quite enough for me.


Read my review of the original book here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

By the end of February...

Okay, so I'm not off to a great start. I'm already behind and we're only one month in, so February is going to be catch up month. Maybe...

To be Read by the End of February
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
The Fourth Bear - Jasper Fforde
An Artist of the Floating World - Kazuo Ishiguro
Against Nature - Jori-Karl Huysmans
Lady Chatterley's Lover - DH Lawrence
Love and Other Demons - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Hmmm. And February's the short month, too...

To be read...

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares - Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
A Tiny Bit Marvelous - Dawn French
The Convent - Panos Karnezis
Indiscretion - Jude Morgan
At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream - Wade Rouse
India Black - Carol K Carr
The Kitchen House - Kathleen Grissom
Of Bees and Mist - Erick Setiawan
The Ladies of Lyndon - Margaret Kennedy
The Queen of Last Hopes - Susan Higgenbotham
Rochester the Mad Earl - Kathleen Kellow
Day of Revenge - Deanna Proach
26a - Diana Evans
The Ice Princess - Camilla Lackberg
I Still Dream About You - Fannie Flagg
The Tea Rose - Jennifer Donnelly
How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack - Chuck Sambuchino

17 new books added to the list...