Saturday, May 05, 2012

Reading Classics: Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (1)

Dear Readers,

I know you expected issue #1218 of Edi's Weekend Wave. As a regularly reader you know that I'm on holiday together with my beloved wife.
I did not really make sense to me to prepare a in advance. But I did not want that you visit my blog in vain.
Therefore I decided to deliver a post which has been on my blog topic list for a while. I know, I know, one more list. It seems I can't survive without them.

Come with me on a virtual travel back in time. How many years? Just 125 years back to 1887 or MDCCCLXXXVII as lovers of Roman numerals would express it (yes, I like Roman numerals). I'm sure some of you know something happened in 1887 - if you want to know more click on 1887.
There is a reason behind why I wanted to go back to 1887. It was the year of the first appearance of a world-famous man: Sherlock Holmes.

It all began with A Study In Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Like many other people I know Sherlock Holmes from TV series and movies - From the 1939 film The Hounds of Baskervilles starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes over the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey jr. as Sherlock Holmes to the BBC TV series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes (of course there are many more Sherlock Holmes adaptions).

It may sound crazy but I love all of them I saw. They demonstrate with the different physical appearance of Holmes that there is much more behind this character as you think at first sight.

It sounds unbelievable but I never read an original Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I posted about the book which changed my mind in the way that reading the original stories would be a dream:
The House of Silk(pb, April 2012) [ISBN-13: 978-0316213127] by Anthony Horowitz

Finally it was RaveAir who convinced me to buy a digital copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes & Tales of Terror and Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle [a Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. authorized Kindle eBook edition].

All the Sherlock Holmes stories (56) and novels (4) in one volume!

I'm happy that I found time to read the first two novels:
A Study In Scarlet and
The Sign Of Four.

These novels have been reviewed how many times? Just google .... I don't  know how many hours or days or months or even years you would need to read them all.

I asked myself if I should add one more review and the answer was no.
Instead I decided to share my reading impressions with you.

Since I read A Study In Scarlet I know the full name of Dr. Watson:
"Part I:
Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, MD, Late of the Army Medical Department"
This is nice to know but not the most important reason why I liked the 125 years old story so much.
I have been surprised about the recognition value. The first episode of   the BBC TV series Sherlock showed a great adaption of the beginning of the story.In fact the mentioned series looks exactly what I would expect when you transfer the original Holmes from 1887 to modern times.

But let me return to A Study In Scarlet. I have been impressed how modern the story came along. It does not matter that the English is partial dated. But the style is still convinving and fresh. I know it is a prejudice with some truth in it that reading classics is like breathing dust. Arthur Conan Doyle found a very entertaining way to tell his mystery and to make his main characters come alive. Beside that Arthur Conan Doyle feeds his reader with knowledge available in 1887.
The story is narrated in three parts. The middle part is told in third person and delivers insight to a tragedy happened in the past.
Whereas it is from Dr. Watson's point of view we get told the beginning and the end. I liked this tripartition because it force the reader to read the book in one session.
When you read the story carefully you will detect that the fascinating character of would not work without the congenial character of Dr. Watson. Holmes, this intelligent but sometimes acting like antisocial indiviual would not appear as the intelectual fireworker without the sceptical philanthropist Dr. Watson. They belong together like two sides of a coin.

I'm more than happy that I read A Study In Scarlet because it exceeded my expectations: Two awesome characters, and intriguing mystery and and an excellent depiction of London, my favorite town.
Arthur Conan Doyle is an extraordinary storyteller who will remain immortal in his books.
is also an excellent impuls to use they grey mass in our skull more often.

It took not that long until I read The Sign Of Four. The second appearance of Holmes and Watson show the development in the characters. The reader get to know the melancholy and depressed side of Holmes. As soon as his brain runs out of food (mysteries) it falls sick with boredom. But Holmes is convinced that heroine and morphine is the right cure. Watson can't do anything against it. On the other hand Holmes mingles business and private live when young Miss Mary Morstan asked Holmes and Watson for help. And Watson fell for Miss Morstan without revealing his love to her for a long time.
Beside that Arthur Conan Doyle delivers again intriguing mystery with small savages with poisoned blowpipes, excaped convicts, murder, Sikhs, India and more. The action-paced boat race on river Thames is a real highlight.
In the meantime I'm used to the English used by Arthur Conan Doyle. Fortunately I read a digital copy on my reader with integrated dictioniaries which I have to take in consideration when archaic English words appear.

I really look forward to read the remaining two novels and 56 short stories.

If you really want to know where to find the roots of the classic detective story, then there is no way out to read the original Sherlock Holmes stories by  Arthur Conan Doyle.

Kudos to Arthur Conan Doyle who could still earn money with his stories today.



RaveAir said...

I'm currently reading the first book of "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle összes Sherlock Holmes története", which is maybe the Hungarian e-book version of your book.

I read the A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four last year, and I very enjoyed them. I read some of short stories of ACD as well. Basically his stories are good, intesting, but few of them were a little bit anoying or boring to me.

I have admit Sherlock has a character. It's strange to read from a selfish, egocentric 'hero' who loves the opium and other drugs. But his working method is awesome!

Yesterday my wife and me watched the 2nd Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey jr. It was strange to identify in it some hints and scenes from the Doyle's Holmes stories. The movie was good, but I wasn't content with it fully. In my view the new BBC series is far better than the movies, where Sherlock character were very similar to Indiana Jones...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I downloaded several of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books last year and have thoroughly enjoyed them.

Carole said...

I was wondering whether you would be happy to put up a link in my brand new monthly series called “Books You Love”. The idea is for people to link up posts about a book they loved – it doesn’t have to be one they just posted about. It could be an old fave. I am hoping we will end up with a nice collection of books that can go on our reading lists. Here is the link Books You Loved May Edition

ediFanoB said...


I like the Sherlock Holmes movies as entertaining movies. They have nearly nothing in common with the original stories.
The BBC series is excellent. Today German TV will air the first episode of the second season. Sherlock will face Irene Adler for the first time. Can't wait to see.

ediFanoB said...


it makes fun to read the original stories.

ediFanoB said...


thanks for stopping by. Will have a look at your link.

Anonymous said...

nice idea.. thanks for sharing..

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