I usually spend the first few weeks of summer wrapped in the warm familiarity of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. It’s an annual tradition born out of my desire to escape the drudgery of months entrenched in academic reading, and in an effort to recharge my wilted brain with something frivolous. What could be more frivolous than hanging out poolside, the scent of chlorinated water and sunscreen wafting through the air, a margarita in one hand and a tattered copy of Pride & Prejudice in the other?
Not much, right?
The prospect of frolicking through Georgian England with the Bennett clan should make me feel all warm and gooey inside. Yet, this year, it doesn’t appeal to me at all. It seems my rebellious self is protesting our journey down that well-worn literary path and is intent on lobbying for something new. I suppose it’s to be expected. Eventually, even the staunchest chocolate lovers crave a little lemon meringue.
Of course, this leads to a troubling dilemma:
What am I going to read poolside this summer?
I toiled with the answer to this question for quite some time. My reading list usually consists of a gentle mix of historical non-fiction, contemporary (and/or Cold War era) spy novels, and familiar classics. Occasionally, I will throw in a current commercial bestseller or a traditional whodunit to keep things interesting.
Of late, I have spent a great deal of time enveloped within worlds created by a few of my favorite authors: Daniel Silva, John le Carre, and Agatha Christie. And to be completely honest, I’m a little burned out. Sure, Silva has a new Allon novel dropping next week, and I pre-ordered a signed copy months ago, but I doubt I will dive into this latest installment anytime soon.
After barely surviving Dan Brown’s Inferno, and given my disinterest in Pride & Prejudice, I was beginning to fear that summer would come and go, leaving me wanting. Then on a recent lazy Saturday, the answer to my reading dilemma came to me in a burst of unfettered brilliance. It was one of those scorching days, too hot to venture outdoors before sunset. My daughter and I were doing what we usually do to beat the heat – watching a Netflix marathon, camped out on the couch, noshing junk food.
Our poison of choice – Sherlock Holmes.
We started with the BBC’s Sherlock, meandered through CBS’s alternative take, and ended with Guy Ritchie’s quirky blockbusters. As I watched, I was struck by the complexity of these two characters (Holmes and Watson) portrayed in vastly different settings and time periods, yet seemingly interchangeable. I wondered what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have thought of our modern take on his iconic hero and sidekick; how would they stack up to their literary counterparts; would I even like Conan Doyle’s Holmes and Watson after growing accustomed to the contemporary screen – big and small – versions?
I decided to find out.
Summer reading dilemma solved.