Monday, May 31, 2010

Hearing Voices

I had the odd experience of having the experience of listening to one audiobook affect how I felt about another last week when I discovered Gourmet Rhapsody, by Muriel Barbery, at the library and found that the voice of the gourmet was performed by the same old man who had narrated The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. That voice predisposed me to dislike the gourmet.

But I would have disliked the character eventually, anyway. He's a man who was never pleasant to his wife or children and who spends the last two days of his life going through remembered experiences of eating to find an elusive taste that he wants again. Although I'm usually a sucker for descriptions of meals, the ones in this book left me cold, for the most part. It's Barbery's first novel, and I'd say her ability to create voices for her characters improved a lot between this one and The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

The voice of Mary Russell, in Laurie R. King's latest, The God of the Hive, is as good as ever, despite the addition of a small child to her adventures with (or in this novel, in parallel to) Sherlock Holmes. There are some different kinds of secrets in this one, which ties up the loose ends left at the cliffhanger ending of the previous one, The Language of Bees.

Although Sherlock and Mycroft act in ways that would seem foreign to anyone who had just finished reading the Conan Doyle stories, their characters continue to develop consistently in King's novels, and even though Mycroft, in particular, has left his traditional depiction very far behind, his voice is still believable; I particularly enjoy his wish
"that he had been gifted with his younger brother's knack of using hunger to stoke the mental processes. Under present circumstances, Sherlock's mental processes would be fired to a white-hot pitch that would melt the walls.
Personally, Mycroft found a growling stomach a distraction."

Boy, so do I. Do you, or are you more of a Sherlock Holmes type? Or a gourmet type, whose palate is so refined that ordinary foods don't excite much response anymore?

7 comments:

Jenny said...

Oh I can't think about anything when I'm hungry. Actually I can't think about anything when I'm uncomfortable in any way, because I'm too busy complaining about it. :p

Teresa said...

I've hardly read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but oh my yes, even I can see that Mycroft in particular departed from the usual depiction. But King pulls it off. The characters always seem to develop in ways that make perfect sense.

Cschu said...

I am reading "The Language of Bees." I wanted to wait until the sequel came out to get into it. I am soon going to need the sequel and will regret not going ahead and getting it when I got the first!

I am definitely distracted by hunger. Or even appetite. When I am trying to think, I often want some sort of snack to stoke the fires.

Valerie said...

These are some of my favorite books and I absolutely fall in the Mycroft camp. Hunger is definitely a distraction for me and I get very grumpy as well. My younger boys are the same way.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

I hate being hungry -- I'd be a Mycroft :)

Jodie said...

An unfilled stomach is always a distraction, but it takes a long time for my stomach to start making noises, while I've some friends who must eat every few hours. But then Holmes could eat and eat without gaining weight because he was always dashing about and taking all that cocaine ;)

Jeanne said...

I can't say I'm surprised that we're all more like Mycroft than Holmes!

Teresa, Mycroft is much more of a shadowy unknown in the Conan Doyle stories, which I can't imagine that you wouldn't enjoy.

And Jodie, yeah, those 19th-century fictional characters and their drugs!