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If you ask any Portuguese kid of the 80s about their favorite cartoons, there’s a high probability many will say either Dartacão or D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers (manga version). Chances are they might also start singing the songs.
Because of them my hopes for the canon were really up. I was expecting an adventure tale to rival Scaramouche and Count of Monte Cristo, with fun, heroic, lovable characters and wicked villains. What I got was one the biggest literary disappointments of my life and the destruction of my childhood ideals.
In the book, the Musketeers turn out to be selfish irresponsible dandies of limited intelligence who take advantage of women, hit their servants, and kill and maim at the slightest provocation to their precious honor. They’re more concerned about buying gear and horses than fighting injustice and helping the oppressed.
In the midst of all these disappointments, the biggest one was Athos. He was my favorite, my Musketeer crush. He was the leader and yet very discreet, the most mysterious, with hints of a secret past with Milady. Even in the live-action movies he was always one of the most developed characters (also: Keith Sutherland and Matthew Macfadyen). In the book he surrenders his leadership 5 minutes after meeting 18-year-old D’Artagnan, he wants Milady dead at all costs without any grey areas, and there’s this chapter about one day in his life that goes more or less like this: “woke up early, was bored, played dice. Lost my horse, lost D’Artagnan’s horse, lost D’Artagnan’s diamond ring, lost my saddle, won saddled back, lost all my equipment, divided my servant into 10 parts and played with that. Won servant back, and the ring, and D’Artagnan’s horse. Lost my horse. Shall I bet D’Artagnan’s horse again?”
This, my friends, was a big blow for the 8-year-old in me! Where are my heros?!
Then there’s a strange unbalance in the way Dumas arranges the plot. The famous adventure to get back the Queen’s diamonds takes a few chapters, but then there’s endless descriptions of what the boys do to get money for their armors.
Let’s just talk a bit more about Milady (some spoilers). For Dumas she’s the She Devil, the Temptress. She was put in
prison the convent and had the audacity to escape by seducing a priest! How is that different from the way D’Artagnan used Kitty or Porthos the lawyer’s wife? They all used other (innocent?) people for their gains. About her marriage to Athos: in his own words, she always behaved in a dignified way and never betrayed him. She didn’t tell him about the convent and the branding, but considering what he did when he found out (not even a question before wanting to kill her), I’d probably hide it as well. After that episode Athos is presumed dead, so technically she’s not a bigamist! There’s also no proof that she murdered her second husband. She manipulated Felton to get out of jail. Also, for such a cunning survivor her obsession with revenge at the cost of her freedom and life felt really out of character. When they finally capture Milady she doesn’t even get a fair trial but is judged by “her peers”, meaning, the musketeers and Lord de Winter. They only need the word of her first husband’s brother that just… shows up?, but everyone ignores that his version contradicts Athos’ account.
Excuse Milady for being smart and resourceful. At least she killed for France and to survive, not because someone insulted her horse or whatever, as someone else I know…
Anywhoo, I’m persuaded that the reason we love the Musketeer so much is because no one really cares about the book and just enjoys the great (if not faithful) adaptations out there.
Also, in the manga version, Aramis was a woman in disguise, and I’ll never forgive Dumas for not including that.
This was a such a fun and vibrant reading, exactly my cup of tea.
The author Marguerite Abouet spent her childhood in Ivory Coast in the 70s before moving to Paris, and Aya is based on her memories of those happy days. It was a time when Ivory Coast was going through a peaceful economic boom and this book is meant to portray an Africa that’s not about war, disease or poverty. I does exactly that, but I just couldn’t completely escape the knowledge that it won’t last.
But anywhoo. I loved Aya. It’s one of the best comics of the year so far and I can wait to read the second one. There’s nothing mind-blowing about the story, it’s just a snapshot of the lives of a group of middle-class teenagers: they study, date, are acutely aware of social norms, follow the fads and rebel against strict parents. And yet, Yopougon in the 70s is a fascinating place to read about, full of colour, hope and energy. It’s at the same time familiar (heavily influence by their former French colonizers) and completely foreign.
Aya, the title character, is a steady-fast teen that seems to be the moral compass of her friends and neighborhood – not in a holier-than-thou way, she’s just reliable and principled. Her father’s reaction when Aya told him about wanting to become a doctor is a great example of how this apparently mild book is in fact about more serious social topics.
Clement Oubrerie’s illustrations perfectly complement Abouet’s writing, with their vibrancy, warm and creative angles.
At the end of each book there’s a section about Ivory Cost, where different characters give us recipes, teach us how to tie a skirt the Ivorian way, etc. It’s a cute detail that helps us connect even more with this small community.
I think this is the one comic book I’ve ever read not only written by an African author, but actually set in Africa – can you recommend any others?
The story has been adapted for the big screen, here’s the trailer in French. It gives you a good feeling for the book.
This is the story of Marstal, a tiny town on the island of Ærø in the Danish archipelago, between 1848 to 1945. It’s the story of its sailors, the women who wait their return and the children who grown up with intermittent dads.
Marstal really exists and the author was inspired by many of the tales its people had to tell, the type of stories that are passed down from father to son until they become the stuff of legend. This is probably why there’s something mythical in the way We, the Drowned is told.
The story begins with Laurids Madsen, who went up to Heaven and came down again, thanks to his boots, then there’s Albert who journeyed to the far side of the world looking for his father and came back with the shrunken head of James Cook. Also, there’s the time when a swarm of butterflies was blown across the ocean and clung to a ship, and the miraculous story of the woman who was giving birth on a ship when it was hit by German bombers.
Such great stories, told so vividly. And I loved the balance between darkness and light, between stories that broke my heart (the juggler chef, Kato… sniff) and those that make my day for their joy.
It’s a character-driven book and, fittingly, the sea is one of the most dominant. It’s otherworldly, worthy of a good fantasy novel – something I can easily recognized, coming from a country of seafarers. My respect to Jensen: it takes a good writer to capture the mix of fear and attraction while still amusing and educating the reader.
It’s not a perfect book: its female characters are not as interesting as the males ones, even though there was great potential (for those who’ve read it, wouldn’t you like to know more about the painter’s widow, Sophie’s adventures as a sailor or Klara’s life during the German occupation?). Also, pet
hate peeve: Portugal is NOT Spain. The town of Setúbal (Mr. Jensen, as a Dane you should have an appreciation for accents) does NOT speak Spanish. *sigh*
All the same, a great start of the year and a reminder of the rewards of reading in translation. Also, look at the pretty cover!
Perfect book to read on a winter night by the fireplace when everybody has gone to bed. It helped there was no snow in Lisbon, so I was just agreeably scared and not freaked out by the possibility of someone building a snowman in my yard. I’ll never look at snowmen in the same way again.
This was my first Jo Nesbø and I was hooked by the twists and turns, red herrings and shocking revelations. The scenes made from the killer or victims’ POV were ridiculously vivid and suspenseful and that last scene – I was holding my breath (looking forward to Scorsese’s take on it).
Also, it was refreshing to read a crime novel that’s not set in London or a major US city. Nesbø’s Oslo in the winter was dark, silent, isolated and oh-so creepy, perfect for a book like this.
Although the author didn’t bothered too much with hiding who the real killer was, some creative details made this book stand out from other thrillers, like (no spoilers) the first chapter revelation, or the end scene about the mold (didn’t you think it was like an end-of-credits trailer?)
That being said, I wish Harry Hole was a more original character and didn’t fit so well into the embittered, drunk, loose-cannon, Neil Young-loving detective trope.
I don’t think I will religiously follow the series, but I know at some point I’ll crave for a read just like The Snowman.
Other thoughts (yes, I was the last person in the world to read this): Rhapsody in Books, Leeswammes, Reading on a Rainy Day, Beth’s Book Nook, Walk with a Book, A Book Sanctuary, Crime Scraps, Farm Lane Books, Literary Housewife, Winston’s Dad, Book Chatter, Book Chase, RA for All, Dot Scribbles, You’ve GOTTA Read This, Stargazerpuj’s Book Blog, Page 247, Mysteries Paradise, On My Bookshelf, Back to Books (yours?)
Read for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge:
“A book that was originally published in another language“