Welcome to my January 2020 Book Wrap-Up!
For this month, I managed to read 2 books, which is less than I would usually aim for, but they were both excellent, well-written stories that I loved spending the extra time being engrossed in. In fact, both authors have been on my TBR list for decades. Finally, I have caught up with myself and experienced two very wonderful masters of fiction at work.
Me all Winter:
Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express”
Agatha Christie remains as a huge influence in our pop culture, even today. From Dr. Who to Drunk History, Christie remains a figure of brilliance shrouded in mystery. Her books have sold more copies than almost anyone else, estimated to coming up only behind The Bible and Shakespeare.
Finally, for January 2020, I read Murder on the Orient Express, and it was simply delightful! There is a joy in knowing your hero is quirky and maybe even off-putting, but forever will get down to the truth no matter what circumstances he finds himself in. Poirot is that hero, and I would follow his stories wherever they take me next (which will be the Nile river, I believe).
“As you yourself have said, what other explanation can there be?’
Poirot stared straight ahead of him. ‘That is what I ask myself,’ he said. ‘That is what I never cease to ask myself.”Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
For my introduction to Agatha Christie I decided to try out the audiobook version read by Dan Stephens (Downton Abbey, Beauty and the Beast) and let me just say- it was amazing! Dan Stephen’s performance for the audiobook was unparalleled. He brought each character to life, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to his rendition of this book.
Lauren Bacall being amazing:
On a side note, I also decided to watch the 1974 movie adaptation starring Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot and Sean Connery as the Colonel. I thought Finney was an amazing Poirot! Yet I had a hard time with their portrayal of Ms. Debenham, the Governess. She may as well have been Miss Scarlet from Clue as she spent the whole time smiling flirtatiously at everyone or kissing Sean Connery. Honestly, I feel like the role Vanessa Redgrave had to play was reduced to simply being the romantic interest of Sean Connery, and I couldn’t understand why her character and motivations were so undermined.
Of course, I also had to (re)watch the 2017 version with Kenneth Branagh, and while he looked less the part of Poirot, I thought his and the other actors’ performances were phenomenal, and stayed much more true to their original characters’ profiles, while still managing to include some fun spins without compromising the heart of the story.
I find this story to be delightful regardless of how it is told- by written word, spoken word, or dramatized, and to me- that is a sign of a true classic.
Stephen King’s “The Institute”
Thanks to my Book Club ladies I have finally read my first Stephen King novel! Somehow, I’ve managed to make it this far in my life without reading a Stephen King novel.
Yet, I’m a huge fan of the It movie adaptations and loved The Shining, both the movie and the mini-series (the mini-series was better, but the exterior of the movie version’s hotel was shot at a lodge I can actually visit, plus hedge maze). I’ve long enjoyed all things spooky, and it seemed long overdue for me to experience Stephen King straight from the page.
Enter, The Institute! And let me say, you can’t read Stephen King lightly- you can’t just dip your toe into the water to gauge the temperature.
No, with Stephen King, it’s all or nothing!
It’s not just because of the chilling and gruesome content, either, but because you can see the author has weaved his stories together so well that after finishing this one I was left eager to read others. As robust as this story was, I feel like I only saw the tip of the iceberg.
In addition to directly mentioning his other books like The Outsiders and Salem’s Lot, there are also quite a few allusions to other aspects within his universe that let you know this is just one corner of his mind, one snapshot in this timeline, and that the plot and the pain and the horror that you see is comprised of so much more.
I’m very intrigued by this book and the author, and am really interested to see his evolution of writing and style over the last few decades.
The Institute was a marvelously well-written take on how easy it can be for people to dehumanize each other, even (and in this case) children. It was chilling, exciting, devastating, and such an fluid read that I flew through it’s 500+ pages surprisingly quickly.
A great, wonderfully woven story best enjoyed with a dram of whiskey and candy cigarettes.