Saturday, January 17, 2009

Adventures with Richard III

I can now add Richard III to my short but slowly growing list of Shakespeare plays that I am familiar with. (The list is Hamlet, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, King Lear, and Richard. It is a sad list, but it was much smaller before last summer so there is hope yet.) I can also add Richard III and his contemporaries to the list of bits of history that I am familiar with.

In the last week or so, I have read Shakespeare's play, watched the film with Sir Ian McKellen, watched the (really odd) film with Al Pacino, and read The Daughter of Time, which is Josephine Tey's mystery novel disproving of Richard's villainy.

There is probably nothing I can say about Shakespeare that has not already been said, so I shall talk about The Daughter of Time. I enjoyed it greatly. It is very short, at 208 pages, and once I got into it I positively raced through. It is not your usual mystery novel, since the detective is bedridden though the whole thing and is solving a mystery 400 years old. Alan Grant, our detective, is very bored lying in bed in the hospital, and his actress friend Marta brings him copies of a bunch of portraits of historical personages with mysteries connected to them. Richard III's portrait is added half by accident, since he doesn't have a famous mystery associated. Alan Grant, who is a student of faces, looks at Richard's and cannot imagine how this man can have murdered his nephews to get the throne. He then goes on to solve the mystery of who could have murdered the nephews instead.

Josephine Tey is a very good writer, though she has an interesting style--there are very large sections that are very nearly all dialogue, with no he said she saids at all. She's excellent at realistic dialogue, though, so this is almost never jarring. I only started to get confused as to who was speaking later in the book, but I think that was because I was so into the story that I stopped paying close attention.

I think I may have to read more mystery novels. This is the last book to be read for Senior Lit, and then the only other book I know I have to read for school is Mansfield Park, and after that I can read anything I want. I may have to make a foray into Agatha Christie, and also Dorothy Sayers.

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