Friday, 16 December 2011

Death Comes to Pemberley - P.D. James

I am a girl who studies English Literature. Obviously, I love me some Pride and Prejudice. The passion of Mr. Darcy, the wit of Elizabeth Bennet, hell, just the use of the word 'ardently' is enough to have me happily sighing all day. I have seen every movie adaptation and enjoy passionate debates about the relative merits of Darcy versus Bingley. 

I am a girl who grew up with Sherlock Holmes and has watched more detective television than I know what to do with. I have seen so many Japanese crime dramas that I know words like 'suspect', 'prosecuting attorney', 'suicide' and 'blood-splatter' in Japanese. There is absolutely nothing I love more than a puzzle coming together in an interesting and unexpected way. 

You would think with these two very different facets of my personality that I would love Death Comes to Pemberley. A detective story in the style of Jane Austen, Death Comes to Pemberley takes place six years after the end of Pride and Prejudice. Darcy and Elizabeth live at Pemberely with Georgiana and their two sons. Jane and Bingley live close by and come over often for visits. It's all quite idyllic and typical.

The beginning of the novel finds the Darcys on the eve of their annual ball, preparing everything and receiving guests. Late in the night, while a few of the family are remaining in the dining room, there is a frantic knock on the door. Lydia Wickham is hysterical, claiming that Wickham has been killed. And then she faints.

It's definitely a great start to a story, to be sure. The problem is that this tale reads less like a detective novel and more like a court procedural. Darcy and Elizabeth, of course being very proper in their manners due to the customs of the time, don't actually do any of the detective work themselves. Well, Darcy does a bit but only as far as his jurisdiction as the man of the house goes. Otherwise, there are new characters running around and doing police procedurals, Austen-style.

This might be actually interesting if there were any actual detecting going on. This is more of an open and shut case. Of course, there are some twists at the end but most of the novel is Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam and a new character trying to figure out what they're going to say on the witness stand. In a study of Austen-era courtroom drama, I suppose it's interesting. For a book marketed as Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes, however, it's a disappointment.

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it. There are definitely some fun moments and it's nice coming back to familiar characters that are written very much in Austen's style.The insight to what has happened in the six years between the novels is entertaining and if only for that, it's an interesting read. 

If you were coming to watch LIzzy Bennet solve a murder, though, you unfortunately have another thing coming.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

My Name is Molly and I Like Comics

As tomorrow is the third meeting of my beloved Comics Gosh!p, I think I should drop the bomb on all of you: I love comics. 

I always loved comics ever since I was a little girl. Admittedly, I wasn't huge into the superhero genre but I'm pretty sure I had a good ten years worth of Scooby Doo and Star Trek: TOS that are still up in my closet. Yes, I was an extremely dorky child. 

I grew out of the comics buying mentality around high school but little did I know that I'd be drawn right back in. I mean, yes, I went through that four year phase where manga is your life but that is not what I'm talking about. You see, my life was about to be overrun by comic book artists.

One of my best friends in high school was a girl named Tally Nourigat who has since gone on to become an up and coming graphic novelist. When I moved back to Portland after the earthquake this spring, Tally was one of my few friends who still lived in town. Clinging to her for company, I found myself in the midst of a large, close knit group of local comic artists and basically some of the nicest people I've ever met. 

Tally took it upon herself (at my okay) to begin educating me in comics. I would say I have a fairly good schooling in classic literature and pop lit but when it comes to comics, I was very far out of the loop. Since getting closer to my new friends and moving to London and seeking out (and finding!) more of them, I'm continuing my education on my own. And I think you guys should join me as well. This week, I'm going to share with you a few of my favorite books. Feel free to suggest more.

Mysterius the Unfathomable by Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler

This may be my favorite comic book of all time and high up there in my books in general list, as well. As a fan of Sherlock Holmes since my childhood, I easily fell in love with this story of a psychic/magician and his new assistant. The wonder of this story is that there is so much and it seems to be unrelated but it all comes back in a cohesive story. Our stand in of Delfi is relatable and fun but the most compelling character is obviously Mysterius himself. I fell in love with this miserable louse the moment he first appeared. The plot is remarkable but it is the characters that drive this piece and there's not a thing I would change (except for perhaps adding more).

Batgirl Year One by Scott Beatty, Chuck Dixon, Alvaro Lopez and Marcos Martin

I love the Year One books because I can get into a mythos of a character without actually knowing a whole lot about them. Although I knew few things about Barbara Gordon before picking this up, I don't think it made a huge difference to my enjoyment. Once again, this is full of well developed characters and impassioned storytelling. It's easy to watch Barbara make her decisions and become the person she ends up. Not to mention the art is gorgeous. I keep trying to find a copy of this at my bookstore but I can't. :(

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

You can tell I like these for the characters, can't you? This is another amazingly crafted tale of a young girl trying to find herself. Anya just wants to be a normal girl at her school and all seems great when she meets a ghost that decides to help her become popular. When the ghost becomes a bit too determined, however, things start to go downhill. WIth amazing art and interesting pacing, this story is definitely a page-turner. 

Emitown by Emi Lenox

Okay, this is a bit of pandering because Emi is a friend of mine but still! This book is marvelous! It's a comic diary Emi's been keeping for ... forever, it seems. She uses her art in a very interesting way to capture her day to day life, including super heroes and cat armies. Emi is an amazing person and she makes her diary fun to read. Also, there's a second volume coming out in February. Although you can read Emitown for free on her website, she's a bit behind and the new volume will have something like 170 pages of new material. Awesome? Awesome.

Hemlock by Josceline Fenton

Also, I am all about the small press, if you didn't realize. I had the pleasure of meeting Josceline Fenton when she came to a Gosh!p meeting where we were talking about, what else?, Hemlock. I had only read through Hemlock due to that meeting but I'm so happy it was introduced to me. A Scandinavian fairytale, Hemlock follows a witch Lumi and her man-turned-frog familiar. The characters are engaging, the art is quite perfect for the storytelling and this fantastical world is slowly revealed with each new page. Even better, you can read Hemlock online here (it updates on Fridays) and the first three volumes are out in print. Josceline has the whole story planned out in six volumes, as well, and it's nice to know there's in end in sight. I can't wait to find out what happens!

Between Gears by Natalie Nourigat

Okay, you're going to have to wait a few months for this one because it doesn't come out until February but it's already my favorite graphic novel of all time, mainly because it's written by my beloved Tally. Her senior year of college, Tally kept a sketch diary on Between Gears and in February it will be collected in graphic novel format, with tons of bonuses (including a foreword by yours truly!). Tally realistically portrays her life's ups and downs throughout the year, not holding anything back and really creating a unique piece. I think you'll love it but that may just be the friendship talking. You can, of course, still read the original at Between Gears.

Well, that's all for today, I think. I'll definitely post some more graphic novels and comics up here. I've been meaning to do it for awhile but there's nothing like finishing your essays and just generally hanging in Humanities 1 of the British Library to get you motivated. Enjoy!