Sherlock Holmes. Hercule Poirot.
Two legendary detectives, created by two great authors. I am more fully acquainted with the latter, having read all of his adventures, so may obviously be biased, but I honestly think Agatha Christie’s writing is better than Arthur Conan Doyle’s. The stories are more interesting to me, and the protagonist easier to like.
The two are very similar however, both with a great respect for logic, and both with a talent for spotting clues that elude others, using their powers of observation and deduction to perform great mental feats.
Both are very odd, and not easy to get along with due to to their eccentric lifestyles, and distinction from the rest of society due to their intellect. Both are also very much aware of their talents, leading to a certain arrogance. Although this can be understood as an honest appraisal, it also alienates them from other people, who they can often see as beneath them.
Yet Poirot is also kind. While both detectives obviously care for, and are extremely loyal to their respective companions, Poirot is also kind to strangers he encounters during his cases, something I have found no evidence of yet with Holmes.
They are very different in a number of ways, including most obviously, their nationality. Poirot represents the quirky oddity found in foreigners, and the understanding that although people may differ superficially, fundamentally we are driven by the same motives, and humanity can be evaluated in the same way. Sherlock Holmes instead is the essence of Englishness, and of a certain time where men were gentlemen, and criminals were villains.
Which is your favourite?
A good beginning is obviously vital in any book, as it can grab your attention, draw the reader in and encourage them to keep on reading. However, some books just start really slowly, or can seem uninteresting and prove a real challenge to continue. Is it worth continuing? Sometimes it can be difficult to tell, and usually I want to perservere, because I am generally optimistic about books.
One notable series I found very difficult to get into was His Dark Materials. Looking back, I can’t really understand it, but the start of the Northern Lights took me forever to read. I wasn’t interested and would have happily stopped right there if my family hadn’t assured me they were brilliant. I’m so glad they did, as they’re are now some of my favourite books, with wodnerful characters and epic storytelling.
Sometimes, books that are difficult to get into are that way for a reason. They’re just plain bad. A recent example of this was the Wasp Factory, which I had heard was really good, and by a great author whose work I hadn’t yet tried. So I started reading. The book had a horrible subject matter, disturbing in a way which wasn’t even profound, wasn’t used for some different level of understanding, just nastiness. None of the characters were likeable, or even ones you could connect to in any way. I kept reading, holding out hope that it would improve. It didn’t. I read almost the entire book before I gave up, finally admitting that it was just not a book I would enjoy in any capacity.
All books should be given a chance, just don’t let that chance drag on to long and leave you struggling through a story you hate.
One of my favourite authors; writes fairytale-esque, beautiful stories within stories that never fail to make you think. It’s all very philosophical, but in a completely readable, easily understood context. This is the way we learn best of all, when we don’t even realise we are learning. Gaarder turns the study of meaning into a game, and rather than answering the big questions, he invites us to consider our own answers.
Apart from the general tone of his books, there are also some reoccurring features; scandanavian father and son relationships, their love for beautiful yet elusive women, and journeys of understanding. The plot never strays too far from the realm of realistic to be discounted as pure fantasy, the events described are so wonderful, the reader believes in their possibility.
The stories are often tinged with sadness, which only makes them more believable. It is very easy to empathise with the characters, as they experience feelings with are fundamental to every human being.
It’s not all seriousness either; Gaarder likes to envoke the playfulness of life, and some of his books (especially the Orange Girl) are laugh out loud funny, something that may at first seem unexpected. The humour comes from a very raw portrayal of how people actually think and behave; they are often ridiculous and embarrassing and just plain bizarre. It’s the kind of writing that makes you laugh with the characters, laughing with an understanding of having lived in similar situations, or simply the ability to percieve yourself acting the same way.
Some books use quirky stylistics to grab attention, showcase dialect or…well I’m not sure what other reasons could justify it to be honest.
Excess use of capitals, non-standard spellings, badly formed sentences- I personally find them uncessary and distracting. It’s the literary equivalent of turning up to an interview in a Hawaiian shirt.
I know some authors feel they can represent certain characteristics (such as madness, I suppose), or obviously ANGER. Nobody likes to read page upon page of capitals, it just feels like you are constantly being shouted at.
Purposeful misspellings are even worse. It takes too long to understand them, meaning you spend more time on decyphering the text than on enjoying the story and forgetting reality. A good book should make you feel like you’re not even reading, and, at least for me, messy stylistics decidedly hamper this.