Fiction: A Study in Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle

Re-read. Our January challenge book.

Having both seen the movie and, while agreeing that it is a decent action flick, both agreeing that it really wasn’t our Sherlock Holmes, it seemed like a good time to go back for a re-read, this being the very first SH book (and ACD wasn’t even sure he was going to continue with Holmes–this could have been the only one!!).

Interesting to go back and read — we all come to it knowing the character already, whether through RDJ or Basil Rathbone, or memories of other stories… Fun watching Holmes and Watson bond on the page in front of you. Always think back on these as “Holmes stories” but in re-reading, really realize how much of the OTHER story you get here: the Westward expansion story, the spooky cult aspect of the Mormon setting, the hero who becomes an anti-hero–he becomes such a different person, an unstoppable avenger, and his heartbreak defines the rest of his life. You’re almost sad when Holmes catches him; the people he murdered deserved it!!

Full of dark sharp bitter elements, this is not a POP book. The hero goes down. In memory, you often soften Holmes a bit; you meet him here again as acerbic, rougher, dismissive (of Watson, among others), boxing. Watson always comes off a bit of a bumbler in the Rathbone films–really he’s “normal” right? He’s the “us” or “you” in these stories.

As with other Holmes’ stories, the everpresent suggestion of a ghost / pushed aside by Holmes who is always the one pointing out the physical evidence. Thought this was a weakness of the RDJ film as well–seemed like Holmes was falling for the mystical a bit too much.

According to an article in the Smithsonian (awhile back), Holmes was partly based on a doctor ACD knew and the bohemian / nonconformist aspect was based on Oscar Wilde (note that Dorian Gray and Study in Scarlet were put out by the same publisher). Holyroyd thinks the actor Henry Irving was one of influences for the illustrations of Holmes (haunted police courts, played lurid characters on stage).

Favorite new (to me) expression I had to ask Dad to define: “sere and yellow” = late autumn (here, of life).

Verdict: thumbs up from both Girl and Dad.

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