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Friday, December 6, 2013

Sherlock Holmes -- In love?

Naslund, Sena Jeter (1995) Sherlock in Love.  Boston:  David R. Godine.

Out of any high school class of thirty or so, a handful of students will be rabid fans of the BBC Masterpiece Theater show Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character (Cumberbatch is also the voice of Smaug the Dragon in the Peter Jackson Hobbit movies) and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson (Freeman plays Bilbo in the same movies).  Another handful of your students will be familiar with Sherlock Holmes through the movies starring Robert Downey Jr (who also plays, of course, Iron Man in the Marvel movies).  So if there was ever a time to get your students interested in reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original Sherlock stories, this is it (you can get an electronic copy of the stories for free on Kindle and other e-readers.)

But what do you do when your eager readers devour the two volume set of Doyle's work and still want more.  Well, happily there is a long tradition of pastiches, with excellent Holmes novels written by the likes of Nicholas Meyer (director of Star Trek Wrath of Kahn) and many famous and obscure writers (there is also a graphic novel adaptation of some of the original stories).

A good representative novel in that line is Sena Jeter Naslund's Sherlock in Love.  It isn't written as an adolescent or even a young adult novel, but it is wholly within the grasp of high school readers.  In this novel, Sherlock meets a violinist in a London orchestra and deduces that he is in fact a woman, cross-dressing to be able to play in the all-male ensemble.  Holmes falls in love with Victor/Violet's violin playing, intelligence, playfulness and then falls in love with what she looks like.  Soon he is pursuing her all the way to Austria, where he finds her in the clutches of Mad King Ludwig. 

It is a good and satisfying read for Sherlock enthusiasts, though there are some subtle references to King Ludwig's homosexuality (so subtle I missed them on my first read through) and some mention of Holmes use of cocaine (which at the time the stories were written, was not an illegal drug).  These are both very minor parts of the story, though.

Not a bad choice for high school and up. 

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