Saturday, 15 April 2017

Sofa Spotlight - The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy

I had no idea that so many people hadn’t heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel. You know that moment when someone asks you what are you reading and you tell them and then you are met with a blank stare and oh I’ve never heard of that comment. Yeah. Well that happened a lot when I was reading this. In fairness even though I had heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel I had no idea that there was a whole series of books written about him. He’s not a one off.

So who is the Scarlet Pimpernel? Well, it’s the French Revolution, or one of them anyway, and the aristocrats of France are finding their way to the guillotine. But there’s an English aristocrat who, with a band of about ten follows, is doing his best to save. No one knows who he is but he always leaves a note from the Scarlet Pimpernel.

This is no A Tale of Two Cities or Les Mis but I did enjoy it. Although I didn’t like Les Mis all that much. But back to the Scarlet Pimpernel. From what I can gather this is the first book in the series. So as readers we don’t know who the elusive Pimpernel is either. But you could probably hazard a good guess and get it right. It’s not massively obscure.

The big thing in this book is the drama. It’s like Baroness Orczy has thought about the most dramatic scenario that could possible happen, hyped it up a bit more and then written it into a novel. This is probably because the story first appeared as a play, so I guess you need the drama to be high for that.

At the start you hear of the legendary tales of the Pimpernel, which read not unlike Robin Hood legends. And then you meet some of the aristocrats that he has rescued. The two characters that are central to the book are Sir Percy Blakeney and his wife Marguerite. Marguerite is French and her brother is part of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s band. Chauvelin who is the most evil of evil villains knows that Marguerite’s brother has gone to France to work with the Pimpernel and he tries to use this knowledge to get Marguerite to find out and reveal the identity of the Pimpernel.

From the way it is written you can work out that things are going to end well, no matter how bad they may seem. It’s definitely a good read, fast paced and fun. Not something you should take too seriously. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Sofa Spotlight - The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

I was given this as a Christmas present and I was fairly intrigued because I’ve heard so much hype about it. It’s been on posters and then there was the film so I thought this would be a good time to see what all the fuss was about.

It’s one of those books that has got a lot of twists. It has you looking in one direction and then you realise you’re looking completely the wrong way. Sometimes I like that kind of thing, but I don’t massively like unreliable narrators.

So the story is told by three narrators, Rachel, Anna and Megan. They are all connected in some way. Anna married to Rachel’s ex-husband Tom, and Megan lives a few doors down from Tom and Anna. Rachel can see into the lives of Megan her husband Scott when she travels into London on the train each day.

Then Megan goes missing and Rachel thinks that her viewpoint from the train might be helpful for the investigation. And that’s when everything starts to unravel.

Part of the reason I didn’t like it more is that I don’t like books where there isn’t at least one character that I can hold onto as sane and reliable. This book didn’t have that and I find characters who are spiralling down quite stressful, hence my need for a sensible character to cling on to.

It is gripping and I got through it very quickly, mainly because I wanted to know what had happened. I had pretty much worked it out before it ended though, although there was one twist I didn’t see coming. EG read it after me and worked it all out by about half way through so I suppose you might be entirely different.

What was nice was knowing a few people who were reading it at roughly the same time. Interestingly none of them liked it. I even had to just tell one of them how it ended so as to put him out of his misery.

If, like me, you missed out on this when the hype was big then I would say have a read and see what you think. It’s been a bestseller so maybe all those people are right.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Sofa Spotlight - The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, Agatha Christie

I started to read this just after Christmas, and thankfully only the first of the stories is about Christmas. Otherwise I would still be feeling Christmassy. So yes it is a collection of six short stories featuring either Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple. A slight deviation from my Poirot fest, but a little interlude of Miss Marple isn’t going to upset me at all.

So on the menu are:
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
The Mystery of the Spanish Chest
The Under Dog
Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds
The Dream
Greenshaw’s Folly

Greenshaw’s Folly was the story featuring Miss Marple and potentially my favourite one of the bunch. It is only a short story and there aren’t that many characters, but the characters that are in this are brilliant. It’s murder but you end up laughing at who gets the last laugh. I saw a dramatization of this shortly after reading it. It was good, but they had made it into a full length film so had added loads of characters and story lines. Which is fine – it was enjoyable, but I think the lighter short story is better.

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding is one that you should read on Christmas Eve with a mug of hot chocolate in hand, curled up in front of a log fire. I love Poirot in this. It features characters that turn Poirot’s genius into kindness as well. Endearing is the word I would use for it.
Other picks are The Mystery of the Spanish Chest. Wasn’t concentrating enough at the start and thought I knew who the murder was pretty much from the start. Until I realised that the person I’d picked out as the murderer was in fact the victim. Fail.

The Dream was weird, a little bit spooky, but clever.

The rest you will just have to read for yourself. If you read the whole book I reckon you have a ten day read to go at.