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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Book Review - The Hound of the Baskervilles

Dear readers,

As I will be studying Victorian Gothic as an MA module beginning next month, I have a lot of texts to read and most of them will be well known classics.  I thought it would be useful to post a book review each Tuesday of the book I have read and this will also help to keep me motivated, as it means that I have to read a book each week.

One of the books on my list was The Hound of the Baskervilles, and although I had heard of this novel and I knew that Arthur Conan Doyle had written it, I didn't actually click on for some reason that this was in fact a Sherlock Holmes crime novel.

I have never read any of the Sherlock Holmes series, but I was pleased that I was getting round to reading one as I love the TV shows and films.  The book is from Dr Watson's point of view and I don't know if the other Sherlock Holmes novels are, but I did find this useful as it helped to build the suspense and mystery alive as the reader cannot be certain of what Holmes is up to, or doing to solve the Baskerville curse mystery, following the sudden and strange death of Sir Charles.

Spoiler Alert!
OK, so if you haven't read the book and you plan on it, you might not want to read the next part...

My favourite part of the book was the twist of the non-criminal man living on the moor, which is in fact Holmes himself.  I didn't know what to expect of the man on the moor but this was an unexpected twist.  I did, however, guess that Stapleton was the murderer and was somewhat of a Baskerville relative.  I kept telling myself I was incorrect because I felt it was obvious, and maybe the murdered was Mrs Laura Lyons' husband a person we had never met.  That theory was incorrect but even though I had suspected the murderer, the chase at the end of the novel to catch the killer was still exciting - I couldn't put the book down!

The part of the book that was least favourite was in fact the beginning.  I found the first chapter difficult.  Doyle was trying to introduce the mystery by showing the skills of Sherlock Holmes, but the guessing-game of Watson was quite a painful read and I struggled to get through the first chapter and feel it had little significance.  Anyone who watches Sherlock Holmes already knows he his clever and I think this long, drawn-out method was unnecessary, and in fact a little boring.

The story itself was great and followed a who-dunit type of Crime plot.  The introduction of the Barrymore's and their criminal relation are effective red-herrings.  The story of the Stapleton's posing as brother and sister, rather than man and wife is very clever.  As is the way that Laura Lyons is tricked as you certainly get the impression that this meeting she arranged with Sir Charles is of huge significance but as she is not willing to disclose much information it is difficult to assess her involvement.

I thought Doyle's choice of narrative interesting.  Some critics might suggest that the switch to diary entry is confusing but I thought he did this well, although I didn't really understand why some of Watson's diary entries were missing.  I liked the use of the diary, and the dialogue as I really felt like I was able to get into Watson's head.

This is obviously just a brief review of the book and not an essay looking into it, however as I am studying Victorian Gothic as a genre I found myself questioning why this is a Gothic novel.  I think Doyle sets a very Gothic atmosphere in Devon - a spooky old manor house, a curse, sitings of a hell-hound that breathes fire, the gloom of the moor, and not forgetting the fog.  The darkness and gloom in a dangerous area due to the bogs, the woods, the ancient ruins all contribute to the Gothic atmosphere portrayed in the novel.  I think the crime itself of an inexplicable death, and impending warnings of death and danger again all fit into the Gothic theme and the hell-hound adds a supernatural twist even though it is explained logically, how the hound appeared in such a way.  I personally think that there is something very Gothic about killing people to gain their inheritance too! The Victorian era of horse and traps also gives a very Erie impression and all of these are contributing factors, and there is certainly an uncanny theme running through the novel as a whole.

I hope you found my review and observations interesting, and I would lik
e to thank you, my readers, as being able to post a review on texts from Uni each week will certainly help to keep me motivated.  If you have read the book yourself, then please comment with any observations or thoughts you have on this novel - come on inspire me!

Laters, Janet :)

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