Sunday, January 22, 2012

"By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes": Two book reviews


That's a famous line from Shakespeare's Macbeth, first used by Ray Bradbury as the title for his famous horror-fantasy novel. Now I haven't read Macbeth, but after reading Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes last month, I thought it would be rather amusing to follow it up with Agatha Christie's By the Pricking of my Thumbs - making it a couple of really great reads!

1. By the Pricking of my Thumbs by Agatha Christie

‘I don’t suppose I shall ever see this house again. I’m looking at it very hard, so that I shall be able to remember it.’

‘Do you want to remember it?’

‘Yes, I do. Someone said to me that it was a house that had been put to the wrong use. I know what they meant now.’

This is unlike any Agatha Christie mystery I have read; mostly because it's more a thriller than a detective story. When Tommy and Tuppence (they are old now) go to a nursing home to meet Tommy's great aunt, Tuppence meets a suspicious old lady who talks about a mysterious dead child. The lady owns a painting of a house, which somehow looks familiar to Tuppence. Tuppence sets off to solve the mystery, like a "terrier on the trail", only to walk right into a trap...

I loved the scenery in this book. The descriptions are vivid, and more thrilling than I have read in any Christie book; not to mention very eerie. The plot, however, is not up to the mark, if you compare it to Christie's usual detective fiction. I did like the typically British humour and the characters, though older now, are just as lovable. It's a must read, especially if you're curious to find out what happened to ol' Tommy and Tuppence!
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2. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

"Death doesn't exist. It never did, it never will. But we've drawn so many pictures of it, so many years, trying to pin it down, comprehend it; we've got to thinking of it as an entity, strangely alive and greedy. All it is, however, is a stopped watch, a loss, an end, a darkness. Nothing."

A mysterious carnival arrives in town, in the middle of one night; bringing Halloween a week early, with its freaky creatures and intriguing mazes and carousels. Two little boys, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade feel drawn, like the rest of the townspeople, to this carnival; as if it were a way to fulfilling all their dreams.

By the end, the horror story turns more into a coming-of-age story. It's beautifully written, and almost poetic (in this case, I liked it.) The writing almost has a Lovecraftian air to it. The author talks about good and evil, and people and choices that they make. It is unlike any horror novel I have read; not scarier but definitely makes a lot more sense than most. It is one of the books Stephen King has discussed in Danse Macabre, calling it one of "one those books about childhood that adults should take down once in awhile... not just to give to their own children, but in order to touch base again themselves with childhood's brighter perspectives and darker dreams."

2 comments:

Vishy said...

Wonderful reviews, Priya! It is awesome that you took a sentence from Macbeth and found two books with titles which fit two parts of that sentence :) I need to read my first Tommy and Tuppence book now.

Priya said...

Well, I thought of it after I'd already read the book with the second part of the sentence! I am planning to read another of the Tommy and Tuppence books too; you should probably read an earlier one of theirs first, one where they are still young!

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