So, yet again, my Christmas reading hasn’t gone to plan. It’s my own fault really because who has time for much reading at the moment? I just always seem to have something to do. Meaning all of the books that are over 200 or so pages just seem super long. To get something finished for today’s post, I decided to pick up another short one. I don’t think I’ve ever read the original version of The Nutcracker by German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. Although, I’ve had this gorgeous illustrated copy for years. I figured it was worth finally checking it out.
How could I not read this during my Agatha Christie month? After all, it’s 100 years since it was first published. 100 years and Agatha Christie is still an important part of the literary canon. The fact that this year sees the release of another adaptation of Death on the Nile only proves that. As a writer, she is so often dismissed as being a writer of cosy crime but she has continually shown her longevity. It’s ridiculous to think that people still underestimate her but that’s always been the problem with the literary canon. And I understand that there are more than a few unsavoury moments that haven’t aged particularly well over the years but she’s not alone there.
You know you’ve made a cultural impact if you inspire an episode of Doctor Who, right? Season 4 is one of my favourite seasons because I think Donna is the best companion in modern Who. It also has some fun episodes. Most importantly for this post is The Unicorn and the Wasp. An episode in which Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance is connected with an alien murder mystery involving a giant wasp. Death in the Clouds is referenced towards the end of the episode as evidence that the encounter stayed with her subconsciously. I do wonder how many Who fans picked up the book following the episode. Maybe hoping for something fantastical and extraterrestrial? The giant wasp on the cover of my copy might certainly suggest something rather more sinister to anyone who hasn’t already read it.
Agatha Christie and trains go together like Hercule Poirot and a well-groomed moustache. She bloody loved them. More importantly, she bloody loved to see them feature in her murder mysteries. Nowadays, train travel doesn’t have the same romantic appeal as it may once have done. Although, it’s been about 8 months since I was last on a train so there might actually be some romanticism there right now. My morning commute was nothing very interesting but, now that it’s been taken away from me, I do miss it a bit. So, I thought I’d indulge in some train travel during my Christie month. This has never been one of my favourite Christie stories so I’m never that keen to revisit it. It was definitely time for a reread.
October is over halfway through and I’ve just finished my third Agatha Christie book of the month. I was hoping to be a bit further ahead at this point but the last couple of weeks haven’t been good for reading. I’m on holiday now and I’m planning on getting as much done as possible. Even if I don’t get any other Christie books read before Halloween (even though I definitely will have to read And Then There Were None for my book club), I have achieved the one thing I wanted. I’ve reread Death on the Nile before Kenny B brings his film out. You can see why it was the second in this latest series of adaptations. It’s one of the first murder mysteries that most people think of when they think of the Queen of Crime. You can definitely see why. As murders go, this is pretty memorable.
Like most book people, Autumn is my favourite time of year. Knitwear weather is starting but we’re still not in the potentially icy period. The leaves are starting to change, the nights are getting darker and socially acceptable to stay inside all the time. It is also the perfect time to read a whole bunch of Agatha Christie. I know people like to use the term “cosy crime” as a pejorative but it’s nothing of the sort. It is, however, cosy. There’s nothing I love more than settling down with a cup of tea and a murder mystery. I have several books that I want to get through this year but I decided to start with this one. Some may think it’s the wrong time of year for a crime thriller set in a Summer holiday resort but why not?
Every now and then I get a sudden urge to go back and read one of the books of my childhood. There was a time when I used to read the Sophie books by Dick King-Smith to cheer myself up. If couldn’t sleep for any reason then I’d just whip one off the shelf. It’s that great mixture of an easy read, lovely story, and a huge wave of nostalgia that really makes it worth doing. Which is why I put off the many books on my TBR list so I could read this book this week. I don’t know why but I suddenly had a huge desire to go back to this one. I loved The Worst Witch when I was younger and I remember reading or listening to them all. I also loved the TV show.
I always worry when American actors take on roles in English period dramas. It just gives them free rein to use received pronunciation in that stereotype that they seem so keen on. The stuff of Downton Abbey. The kind of accent that doesn’t have a hint of geography or personal context. Add Gwyneth Paltrow to the mix and it makes everything even more uncomfortable. I’m still haunted by Sliding Doors where she tried to convince us she was British by saying the word “shagging” on repeat. It just didn’t do it for me, so the idea of her getting her Austen on did kind of fill me with dread. But I also felt like I should watch it. After all, I’d already reviewed Clueless back in 2015. As much as I wanted to rewatch that absolute gem of an adaptation, it felt like I was cheating a bit.
A few months back, I did Google search and was presented with a warning reminding me that child pornography is illegal. You might be asking what the hell I was searching for that brought me face-to-face with this. It was simple “Lolita as a love story”. I’d seen an article on Twitter a few days before but couldn’t find it when I went back to read it. I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it, who wrote it, or what the title was. So I used a vague search term in the hope of finding it. Clearly, Google thought I was up to no good. After all, Lolita isn’t a love story. It’s the story of a predator who uses romantic language to justify grooming of his stepdaughter. It’s part of the genius of the novel and the genius of Vladimir Nabokov. It’s also one of the main reasons that Lolita is one of my all-time favourite books. But I understand that saying this to certain people can bring about the same warning signs as my earlier search did with Google. Even after all this time, there is still such a mystique about the novel because it deals with such a distasteful subject. But I find all the arguments citing the story as immature. What is the point of literature if not to tackle some of the worst aspects of humanity? And anyway, I bet the majority of the people who whine about Lolita are the same people who buy countless psychological thrillers about serial killers.
What happens when you take a book written by Ian Fleming, add a script co-written by Roald Dahl, and finish it off with Dick van Dyke? One of the greatest children’s films of all time that’s what. The film version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is an absolute classic that everyone will remember from their youth. The very concept is an exciting one. A flying car will always be an exciting creation but add the ghoulish child catcher into the mix and you have a great story. I do enjoy the film but I’ve never read the book before. I can’t say I’m the biggest Ian Fleming fan. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Bond films but I’ve never got on with the books. I’ve got a bit of a fascination with them but it’s hard to forget how inherently sexist and troubling they are. Still, I was sure that his children’s book wouldn’t suffer from quite the same issues as his spy novels.