Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Narrative of John Smith – Arthur Conan Doyle

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I stumbled across this book when I was on a book pilgrimage in Hay-on-Wye. I genuinely couldn’t believe my eyes. An unpublished Conan Doyle book that I knew nothing about? I fell in love with Doyle’s writing after reading/sleeping/dreaming the Sherlock Holmes novels at university. I (potentially rather stupidly) expected my same passionate reaction for Holmes to seep through into this book, making it impossible for me to put down. Rather high expectations I must admit! So I had to buy it.

What is rather beautiful albeit slightly sad about this book is the story behind the manuscript. In brief, the original manuscript was written and sent for publishing by Doyle in 1883 but sadly got lost in the mail. Doyle agonised over this lost script and tried to piece it together again but he gave up and never completed it. Fast forward to 2004 and The British Library bought the unnamed, unfinished manuscript at an auction. 7 years later they published it under the title of The Narrative of John Smith.

This work is rather short, spanning over 6 chapters, with each chapter representing a day. It begins with the protagonist, John Smith, being confined to bed for a week with rheumatic gout. After trying to get out of it, the doctor persuades him to use this time to write a book. Various topics are discussed such as: what may drive talent out of a man, what service a doctor brings, as well as other thoughts that don’t seem to link to each other. The image that stays in my mind as well as JS is Mrs Rundle’s three children arguing over a penny.

Chapter two begins with the doctor visiting and a discussion regarding medicine. He meets his neighbours, admits his love of art and then decides to debate ideal conditions for life and more importantly how to achieve eternal life. Another key aspect to the short novel is war and political standings for men and women.

The final chapter opens with the doctor discussing disease as a battle, claiming that JS has won. Then the manuscript ends. It left me thinking what would come next? What train of thought would Doyle have his protagonist have next? It appears to be random so predicting would be futile. To be honest, it left me with more questions than answers! I love the little snippets and the snapshot of different thoughts when one is almost a recluse at home, but I felt a sense of loss. Loss of this story meant that some of the young Doyle genius was lost, and sadly never replaced.

A mixed reaction from me for this book really. It wasn’t as compelling as the Holmes series (I genuinely don’t know if I will find anything to compete with it!) it was much more personal showing snippets of how Doyle really thought as a young twenty something year old man. One little touch which is quite special is the original lines crossed out and reworking of sections. It’s always a treat to see how a novel is developed. I would recommend this book, but it didn’t blow my socks off.

BL x

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Filed under Book review, Victorian Lit

60 Postcards РRachael Chadwick. 

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I saw this book in the centre of a bookshelf at an independent bookseller in Moreton. It immediately caught my attention for two reasons. Firstly, the Parisian style postbox on the cover. Secondly, the fact that postcards are central to the development of the text. Paris is a deep love of mine and I did think I was one of the few people left that sent postcards. Naturally it appealed. I was incredibly curious!

I don’t want to ruin this hidden gem for anyone who hasn’t read it, but an outline of the plot will surely tempt you in. The story starts with a trip to Paris. Shortly after we find out that Rachael’s mother has cancer and sadly passes away 16 days after diagnosis. The last birthday present she received were these Eurostar tickets to Paris. So with a group of friends she set off with a mission in mind – to spread the love and message of her irreplaceable mother, leaving hand written postcards all around the city asking those who found them to get in touch.

Then she receives emails and the projects grows. A delightful touch is the selection of photographs in the centre. For someone to include photographs and the story of their family is incredibly brave and inspirational. It is becoming increasingly apparent in our every day lives that we all know someone who has suffered from cancer. A credit of this book is how it deals with it, and more importantly the focus on the legacy that is left behind.

I read this book in 18 hours. Yes I know it’s sad to count! But this rarely happens. Every now and then you find a book that grips you, that takes you in and makes you a part of the plot. I wanted to hug Rachael and all the people mentioned in the book. I laughed with her, cried with her, lived every moment in that book with her and I felt the love for Paris resurface within me. I’ve not felt so compelled to continue reading for a while.

An incredibly honest book, full of love. As someone who has also lost somebody close to me I related to this book in so many ways. What an inspirational way to make a tribute to someone. I almost wish I thought of this myself!

So for anyone who hasn’t read this book yet make sure you do. Be armed with tissues and a postcard (instructions on the front page). I couldn’t recommend it enough. Like the gap it left in the book shelf after I bought it, it will leave a gap in your heart if you do not experience this text.

Big love X

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Filed under 60 Postcards, Book review, Non Fiction

Hello out there!

This is quite strange for me. Never before have I felt the urge to blog because I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be very good at it or I wouldn’t have anything to say. But, I’ve had a change of heart. Why? Because of a book of course!

So whilst I get used to this and plan a better next post on the book that has inspired me to blog, be patient – not that I expect anyone to read this!

Big love x

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