The Three Musketeers

D’Artagnan, a young Gascon youth, sets out from his village with the hope of joining the regiment of the King’s Musketeers. As soon as he arrives in Paris he gets into trouble, first entangling himself in one, then two and finally three duels, all in one day! And with men from the very regiment of Musketeers he had hoped to join! But his adventures don’t stop there; before long, he becomes involved with the affairs of the Queen, Anne of Austria, herself and must enlist the help of his fellow Musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Together, the four friends journey through France escaping from the nets of the Cardinal and his dangerous spy, Milady, while all the time fighting duels at the slightest provocation.

I love the summary given at the back of the Wordsworth edition. It describes the book perfectly,

“One of the most celebrated and popular historical romances ever written. The Three Musketeers tells the story of the early adventures of the young Gascon gentleman. D’Artagnan, and his three friends from the regiment of the King’s Musketeers – Athos, Porthos and Aramis.

Under the watchful eye of their patron M. de Treville, the four defend the honor of the regiment against the guards of the Cardinal Richelieu, and the honor of the queen against the machinations of the Cardinal himself as the power struggles of seventeenth-century France are vividly played out in the background.

But their most dangerous encounter is with the Cardinal’s spy, Milady, one of literature’s most memorable female villains, and Alexandre Dumas employs all his fast-paced narrative skills to bring this enthralling novel to a breathtakingly gripping and dramatic conclusion.”

The characterization in this novel – especially of Milady and Athos – was so good that I actually wanted to meet the characters! The movie on The Three Musketeers does not do justice to either character. Milady reaches depths of evil and horror which aren’t shown in the film. All we see is an ambitious young woman who despite what she does, loved someone once and wasn’t truly evil. But in the novel, the description of Milady and the suppressed animal within, how she is able to ensnare anyone while putting on an act, her ability to sense every weakness in man – all are so wonderfully drawn. As for Athos, he is shown as the true nobleman that he is, and his quiet way of handling even the most alarming of situations makes him particularly attractive while at the same time remaining mysteriously charming. Though not the hero of the novel, he is the most important character and the leader of the Musketeers; Keith Wren, in his introduction to The Three Musketeers sums it up when he writes,

“For Dumas – and for us – it is the three musketeers – Athos, Porthos, Aramis – who represent the fantasy of eternal youth, a refusal to compromise with the greyness of the modern world, the glorification of the undying spirit of adventure.”

I keep forgetting that The Three Musketeers is historical fiction. The Cardinal Richelieu, King Louis XIII and Queen Anne were actual historical figures, as was the Duke of Buckingham and his murderer, Felton. Alexandre Dumas has fashioned a unique story with these real live characters. It was rumored that the Duke was in love with the Queen of France (this is also mentioned in The King’s General), and in this novel the flirtation was embellished, with Queen Anne and the Duke having many secret meetings. The various love triangles in this novel make for a lot of intrigues, a lot of duels, and most of all, a lot of jealousy!


The Moving Finger

Rating: ****

Jerry Burton, a pilot, and his sister Joanna move to the small village of Lymstock. The visit, which is to last some months, is undertaken for Jerry’s health. Recovering from a severe back injury, a result of his plane crash, he is advised by his doctor to take a break from stress and enjoy the relaxations of a small gossiping community. But Lymstock is hardly the place for a recovery when a few days after their move, the siblings receive a malicious anonymous letter; the letters have been going around the village for some time.

I loved the ironic humor with which Jerry and Joanna carried out their conversations. The inhabitants of Lymstock are gentle, simple people, and the humor with which Jerry and Joanna receive their comments made me laugh!

It’s the letters, sir. Wicked letters – indecent, too, using such words and all. Worse than I’ve ever seen in the Bible, even.’ says Mrs. Baker

Passing over an interesting side-line here, I said desperately…….

The ironic comedy ends the moment that the first anonymous letter hits home – a suicide occurs and all of a sudden the letters have taken on a more serious aspect. The first half of the book is occupied with finding out the identity of the letter-writer and in that search we become acquainted with an interesting assortment of characters. I especially liked Megan Hunter, Mrs. Symmington’s unwanted daughter, who had trouble fitting in and finding herself. She seems an awkward, overgrown child and the make-over scene is something to look forward too!

When the murder does come, it doesn’t hold center stage interest for me. Not because it wasn’t well written, but because I was more interested in the developing relations of Jerry and Joanna with the people in the village and how they settled in with life in a small village. I was also surprised to find Miss Marple coming in at the end to solve the crime. I had practically forgotten that she was in this novel because of the small role she plays. I would have liked it better if Jerry Burton had been the one to solve it (which he comes close to doing).

Mrs. Dane Calthrop also appears in this novel. I don’t know why, but her character always intrigues me. See my Agatha Christie page to read more on her and her husband.

The Mysterious Mr. Quin

A collection of short stories featuring the connoisseur of art and drama Mr. Satterthwaite and his friend, the mysterious Mr. Quin.

Rating: *****

Life has passed Mr. Satterthwaite by, something he regrets every day. But being just an observer has given him a certain skill – the skill to feel when a human drama is at hand. His experience has enabled him to sense the tension in the air, the unique commingling of events that forebodes some crisis. In all these short stories, Mr. Satterthwaite enters at the important moment. But although he can see it, it is the appearance of Mr. Quin that focuses his judgement. Adroitely yet subtly, Mr. Quin just comes and goes; he has the magical touch of drawing out what we all know – the facts – and guides those present, in each of these stories, towards solving the mystery.

A unique collection of detective stories. We never know who Mr. Quin is. An enigma, perhaps the hand of fate, or the spokesman of the dead, the role he plays is crucial. While reading, I eagerly waited for his appearance, for his guiding hand, and his effect on Mr. Satterthwaite. Besides being the force behind his friend, he was also the force driving us to read on. The stories are mysterious, intoxicating and eerily interesting. Mr. Quin permeates throughout the novel.

Description of Mr. Satterthwaite in The Coming of Mr Quin, the opening short story,

Mr Satterthwaite was sixty-two – a little bent, dried-up man with a peering face oddly elflike, and an intense and inordinate interest in other people’s lives. All his life, so to speak, he had sat in the front row of the stalls watching various dramas of human nature unfold before him. His role had always been that of the onlooker. Only now, with old age holding him in its clutch, he found himself increasingly critical of the drama submitted to him. He demanded something a little out of the common.

There was no doubt he had a flair for these things. He knew instinctively when the elements of drama were at hand. Like a war horse, he sniffed the scent.

and Mr Quin,

This was Mr Quin’s doing. It was he who was staging the play – was giving the actors their cues. He was at the heart of the mystery, pulling the strings, making the puppets work. He knew everything…

Besides the mysterious main character, I love this book for the various insights Agatha shows into characters through Mr. Satterthwaite. He has the gift of reading character and I find the medley of human being in her novels rather interesting.

I finished this book so fast because I couldn’t put it down and on the other hand, I wanted to savour each and every case, every word so I often went back to re-read a page. Torn between two opposites, I sat up until after midnight finishing the book!

The Emily Series

Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily’s Quest are a three part series covering the life of Emily Byrd Starr for over a span of 15 years. When Emily is orphaned, she comes to live with her mother’s family – a family from whom her parents had been estranged after they married each other against their wishes. Now, she has nowhere else to go and must live at New Moon with her mother’s two unmarried sisters, Aunt Elizabeth and Aunt Laura, and Cousin Jimmy, a distant cousin.

Enigmatic, mysterious, charming, intense, and sensitive to love and beauty, Emily changes the lives of those who live at New Moon forever. She comes to them with her heart ready to give love and receive it. But life at New Moon isn’t easy. She has to go to school and make new acquaintances, suffer many heartbreaks and learn not a few rules. In short, she must adapt to the changing conditions around her.

Along the way Emily makes some unique friends: Ilse Burnley, a hot-headed, impulsive and wild young girl. She is a distant cousin of Emily’s (all people in Blair Water are remotely related to eachother), and gives her the companionship she craves; Frederick “Teddy” Kent, a young boy who is a newcomer in Blair Water. He befriends the two girls during his recovery from an illness. Emily and Teddy, both artistic and dreamers, find happiness in each other’s company; Perry Miller, a young boy from Stovepipe Town who comes as a helper to New Moon after he meets Emily. Charming, but careless and crude, he and Ilse get into a lot of energetic fights; Dean Priest, an old acquaintance of her father and a distant relation, whom she meets one day under precarious circumstances. He motivates and brings out another side to Emily and she finds his friendship invigorating. With him, her imagination opens up and she explores a different world.

Emily Climbs follow Emily to her life at High School, away from New Moon, her developing relationship with the “Murrays”, her mother’s family, and her own artistic development as a writer. She finds she herself has many of the qualities of the proud Murrays and at many points must make a decision that will shape the future of her writing career.

In Emily’s Quest, Montgomery focuses more on Emily’s writing and how it shapes her personal life causing her some heartbreak. Like all of Montgomery’s heroines, love comes late into Emily’s life and she must force herself to grasp it before it goes out of her reach.

The Emily Series is a lot like the other novels Montgomery wrote: the story of a young girl. But the writing is more enjoyable. Published in 1923 the book has a more mature writing which she hadn’t achieved while writing the Anne series. Although Anne is more famous, both as a heroine and the Anne series as a whole, many critics and Montgomery herself preferred the Emily books. I have read the book many times and still every time I open it I can’t put it down! As I’ve said before, Montgomery writes not only for children, but for people of ALL ages. Her novels are a MUST read.

For my previous discussion on Montgomery, go HERE

Books I read in October:

Murder on the Orient Express

The Lord of the Rings
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Mysterious Mr. Quin

This month hasn’t been really productive reading wise (although The Lord of the Rings does count for more than one novel!!), but I have added quite a few pages to my blog!

My trip to the bookshop for November was mostly about re-reading and reading books I’ve seen movies of. With that in mind I bought The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis (although I couldn’t find the first of the series.) and The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. After the South Pacific Book Chat on Gothic Literature, I was inspired to read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley so I bought that as well (Belle from Belle’s Bookshelf got me interested in it)! That’s going to be my reading for next month (along with a few others I’ll pick up next time).

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Recently, I’ve decided to start reading the books of all book based movies I’ve seen. I started off with The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien and decided to move on to a novel by his close friend, C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the first novel of the series, The Magician’s Nephew, so I had to start where Walt Disney begins the movie series, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are sent to live in a house in the country while the war lasts. The four children find themselves in a huge house with complete freedom and decide to explore. On a rainy day, they stumble upon a room with a huge wardrobe in it. Uninterested, Peter, Susan and Edmund leave, but Lucy decides to take a look inside the wardrobe. What she finds there leaves her amazed: a whole other world called Narnia.

She excitedly tells her siblings about Narnia. No one believes her, until one day they all step inside the wardrobe and find themselves in the woods of Narnia. According to a prophecy, the fate of Narnia lies with them and they must free it from the rule of the White Queen, an evil sorceress who has put a spell of eternal winter on Narnia. The children are led to Aslan, the true King of Narnia, a lion whom even the White Queen cannot withstand, and prepare for battle.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a nice, light read and I went through the 200 large print pages pretty quickly. This is my first venture into fantasy and I enjoyed the depiction of another world and its talking creatures. Lewis also managed to show the personalities of the four siblings in this short novel rather well (especially Lucy and Edmund). This is the type of book that I would enjoy reading out loud with children on a rainy day.

Why haven’t they made the movie: Child of Awe?!

Child of Awe

Set in the mystical highlands of Scotland, Child of Awe traces the life of Muriella Calder, a young girl with the power of second sight. The Roses and the Calders, two warring families, marry their children hoping for peace. But after her father’s premature death, Muriella inherits the vast fortune of the Calders while still a baby. With peace in the highlands never attained, Muriella’s life remains in danger.

The King of Scotland entrusts her guardianship to the strongest clan in the Highlands: the Campbells. At the age of 13 she is brutally uprooted from her home and taken to the Earl of Argyll – Archibald Campbell; she is to marry the Earl’s second son, John Campbell. Her inheritance is a way of ensuring the young man’s future who would have nothing as the second son. With so much wealth, Muriella remains the target of all in the Highlands. All know that an alliance – forced or otherwise – with her would bring them inconsiderable wealth.

Soon, John and Muriella get married, but that is only the beginning of their problems. Muriella’s second sight gives her visions of the future and what she sees is her own fall. This keeps her away from her husband never trusting or loving him. Knowing that the marriage was inevitable, they both bear a grudge against the other: John for the necessity of marrying for money, and Muriella from being taken from her home. Guarded within the walls of the castle, Muriella is no better than a prisoner. She must try to break free not only from these walls, but those of her own making, overcome her mistrust and open her heart to love.

The movie:

This novel would be a great period piece with all the props and wonderful costumes. The book is extremely detailed on the various clothing and the customs of the time blending them in with all the fantasy. Muriella and John Campbell were real people (although this story is fictional) which adds more romance to the story, for who wouldn’t wish to live the life of a Highland princess? Besides the main story, the side story of Elizabeth Campbell and her husband Hugh Mclean is also moving. It almost rivals the main plot and should be played up in a movie.

The only thing I would change for the movie is the ending which doesn’t do justice to the rest of the novel. It is almost like a let down after all the intensity and drama of the rest of the story.

Who to play the characters?? For John Campbell I imagine Chris Hemsworth. But since I recently saw The Lord of the Rings again, I can also imagine the actor who played Eomer, Karl Urban.


Muriella Calder is a little more difficult. Delicate, ivory skin, red, curly hair, green eyes and petite with a frail physique, I can’t think of anyone that would fit. I leave that to the Hollywood producers! I don’t think any of the existing faces would do, someone new and fresh would look best.

I’m hoping for a movie, Hollywood!

The Old and the New: Book Shops in Islamabad

For an enthusiastic reader, the most important thing to know is the location of the best book stores. When you move, make sure you find all the best shops in the area – if their aren’t any, don’t move! Sometimes you don’t have the option (alas, no libraries here T_T )….Ahem – anyway, as far as book shops go, Islamabad is not the worst place. We have many in Jinnah Super, Super-Market etc… but the best is still the best. I have a few places I haunt regularly. The shop owners know me and always show me the latest books.

Book stores that sell new books are good for gifts and if you want to make a collection of books from the same edition, but in my opinion, old book are the best. They have a homey feel and are soft and old and familiar. You never know what you’ll find in an old book shop. The best in Islamabad are:

The “Old Book Shop” which is located at the back entrance of Jinnah Super. It’s not in plain view, you have to hunt it down, but trust me, it’s worth it. The prices are good and they have a lot of the classics. You will of course have to search through the piles of books for the one that you want, or you can just rifle through for an inspiration (and aren’t great books discovered that way?). I like this book shop because it’s prices are moderate and affordable for anyone.

Old Book Shop located at the back of Jinnah Super

Another great book shop is the “Old Books Collection” right in the front of Jinnah Super. You just turn in to Jinnah Super from the main entrance and there it is on the left!

The Old Books Collection on the left hand entrance of Jinnah Super

Inside the Old Books Collection: Criticism books

This book shop is a bit more expensive, but the books are in better condition and they do have more variety. It was here that I found most of the criticism books for my masters course in English Literature. They have a whole collection of very expensive Cambridge Companions from Aristotle to Eliot. I was tempted to buy the whole lot but my purse forbade me. The assistants at this shop are extremely helpful and if you tell them to look for a book, they hunt it down or order it for you!

Old books in the “Old Books Collection”

Finally, the last old book shop that I have discovered is in Super Market – also known as F-6 Markaz – the “Old Book Corner”. This shop doesn’t have a lot of variety in fiction books, but it has plenty of study books for A-level and O-level courses.

Old Book Corner in Super Market

Now, if you’re the type that hates second hand books, “Saeed Book Bank” is the place you’re looking for. New and pristine books in tons of book shelves all shiny and ready to be bought. I admit, a new book does have an appeal, and the best in Islamabad are available here.

Saeed Book Bank located in Jinnah Super

Look below for the locations of the bookstores in Islamabad. I’ve labelled them all on the map and I will update it whenever I discover another great store!

Map of Jinnah Super. I have marked the location of the book stores

Unfortunately, Pakistan doesn’t get the latest books. No matter how much reading has expanded over the past ten years, readers are still scarce here and the market is not booming for books. This causes unavoidable delays and book shop owners don’t tend to spend so much money on new books. Plus, only the well-off go for new books because the average man would not be able to afford a new, recently published book at its normal price. 

The Lord of the Rings

On a drive home from a wedding, my cousins and I began discussing the books we had read and our favourites. Imagine my consternation when I turned out to be the only one who hadn’t read The Lord of the Rings! I, who love classics, who love magic, who love anything fantasy! I hadn’t read it. I decided to remedy that the first opportunity I could get. Consequently in a weeks time, I marched myself to a book shop and bought the book!

That is the story of how I began reading the greatest fantasy/magical/epic adventure tale ever.

It took longer than I expected. The world of Tolkien has a whole new reality – not the reality of another world, but a new reality of the world we live in. He has sketched a whole history and made it plausible to assume that Middle-earth’s history naturally led to the realm of men – here and today.

I never really appreciated the movie until I read the book, and vice versa the book was enriched by the movie giving it an extra depth – especially The Return of the King. In today’s world, despite globalisation, stories of valour and courage are less heard and remembered. We may have become a global village but the stories pass out as quickly as they come, and courage and loyalty is not revered as it used to be. The Lord of the Rings is just that – a story of courage and freedom and the lives that went into the building of a new world. Nowadays, one could wish for such a story that linked the people across Earth and unified us in such a way.

While reading the book, I was amazed at the amount of detail Tolkien put into each and every character’s history, lineage and culture. We see how the legends of the Elves, their songs telling of a time long past, and Aragorn’s history as King converges naturally with his love for Arwen, and his journey to “The Path of the Dead”. All the little pieces of the puzzle slowly fall into place as we read along. Throughout the novel the role Gollum is to play is emphasized although none of us see it until his role is fulfilled. Nothing seems as if it were added on a whim, and the history flows so naturally that we can’t think of it as anything but that – history.

Frodo’s journey to Mordor, Aragorn’s and Gandalf’s journey to the Black Gate, the journey through The Paths of the Dead, the journey through Fangorn; that’s what the whole book is, a series of desperate, life-threatening yet necessary journeys all to destroy the ring and stop the rising power in Mordor. Every step of the way is excruciating because the fate of Middle-earth depends on it.

The story:
The ring. That is what lies at the center. Forged in the crevices of Mount Doom by Sauron, it heralds the power of evil. It beckons and calls out the worst in all and no man can command it but Sauron.

But that is the story of a time long ago. Since then Sauron has lost the ring. Defeated in battle he vanishes. But soon he returns again, and now he seeks the ring. It is rumoured that it has been found – by a Hobbit. Frodo Baggins becomes the “Ring-bearer” when he becomes the heir to his cousin, Bilbo Baggins. As of yet no one knows of its true power. Gandalf the Grey, a wizard, suspects and fears its true origin. Convincing Frodo they set out with a group of travellers that become known as “The Fellowship of the Ring” to destroy the ring in the place that it was forged. It is the only choice they have because no living man can resist its allure and yet none can wear and control its power.

The books follow the journey of the nine men of the fellowship: Gandalf the Grey their leader, Aragorn son of Arathorn a Ranger, Legolas an elf, Gimli a dwarf, Boromir the son of the steward of Gondor, and the four hobbits Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry. Frodo must travel into Mordor, the realm of the enemy, and under his very nose throw the ring into Mount Doom. The burden of the ring is heavy and no one knows whether his quest will succeed, yet the men of the West must fight Sauron and his allies if only to give Frodo the chance to do his task. At the brink of ruin will Man succeed? Whether he does or not, the time of the Elves is over, and they must give place to the Third Age and the rise of the dominion of Men.

Why haven’t they made the movie: The Emily Series?!

The Emily Series
Look for my reviews of the books soon.

I imagine a movie for almost every book I love. But the only reason I want this series to be turned into a two-part film is because I want to see how Hollywood would portray Emily. While not Montgomery’s most famous heroine (that honour goes to Anne from Anne of Green Gables), Emily Byrd Starr is based a lot on her creator. An aspiring writer, raised by relatives, and sensitive to beauty and love, the two women have much in common; Emily’s moods, her actions all mirror L. M. Montgomery’s. The Emily Series was actually preferred by the author to her other novels. Critically the series has a more mature writing style and plot structure.

The movie:
For the last two books of the Emily series, Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest, I have the Puffin Books edition; and the cover photographs drawn by Fiona Pragoff are how I have always imagined Emily. Last year, I began watching Downton Abbey, a British television period drama series, and saw Michelle Dockery – see any resemblance?

OK, so maybe it’s not a hundred percent, but it’s pretty close. Michelle could play the older version of Emily Starr perfectly. Frederick Kent or “Teddy” as he is called by his friends is tall, slim and handsome, but above all he has grace and elegance. I can’t think of ANYBODY so you guys choose for me.
I would say Kate Hudson as Ilse Burnley – who could be more vivacious? But it seems to me that someone younger and fresher would suit better. And I thought Ilse would be the easy one to cast!
Hayden Christensen as Perry Miller no doubt – the enthusiastic, impulsive, go-getter who claws his way up in the world! That clean cut jaw, those grey eyes and tawny curls – seems perfect to me.
And then we have Dean Priest. How I hated Dean in the book. I thought of who I had hated in a series, and came upon Robert Carlyle (from Stargate Universe). I don’t know whether he’s too old for the role or not, but what else is make-up for?!
It is important to split the series into at least two movies because the books chronicle Emily’s life from childhood to her late twenties; the same actress could not play both the roles and the story is too long to be made into one movie. The thing I would hate more than anything is if they cast “young” Emily wrong. To make her precocious, or overly mature would ruin the whole effect. Her innocence along with her intensity and her love of beauty are the qualities that make her so unique. Oh, why are books so hard to depict?! 
The books have a lot of entries as from a diary – this would mean that a lot of the script would have to be re-written. The most important thing is to catch that atmosphere – everything else falls into place as long as the director gets the gist of the story, what its people feel, who they are, and how they seal their fate. Check out my review to see my take on the novels.
So, can we hope for a movie soon, Hollywood?