Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Ruby in the Smoke

I love a good story. Always have. When I was young, I used to lock myself in the bathroom so I could read undisturbed, or smuggle a torch to bed with me to read under the covers. I love the classics of Bronte, Austen and Hardy. I love the fantastical world of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I love books that are just a little bit quirky or off the wall. The literary world represents true escapism for me
But these days I want to spend my free time doing something creative. I have little enough spare time as it is, so I often feel like time spent simply reading is wasted time. This is why I am a massive audiobook fan. Don't get me wrong, I still think that actually reading a book is not only quicker, but a far more immersive experience that really lets your imagination fly. But listening also requires you to fill in the visual blanks, and often gives a different spin on a story as the narrator puts their unique stamp on a reading.
I have been a member of Audible for several years now. I get a book a month; and that, along with a few extra purchases, have built up to a library of some fifty audiobooks, all of which can be downloaded and listened to on my iPhone. I have discovered some real gems through this subscription.
The latest series to garner my attention is Phillip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series. I bought The Ruby in the Smoke, the first novel, some time ago but only recently got around to listening. They are aimed at young adults, but I never let that put me off a good read - hasn't half the world read Harry Potter after all?
I really enjoyed this novel. Set in Victorian England and ranging from opium dens to a shipping merchant's offices to dockside dosshouses, the book really built up a picture of imperial adventure, burgeoning industry and thriving criminality, as Sally Lockhart tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her father's death, the eponymous ruby and the Seven Blessings, as well as evade the deadly clutches of the evil crone Mrs Holland. I promptly set up the next novel to download, then discovered that back in 2006 the BBC had made an adaptation of The Ruby in the Smoke that had somehow totally passed me by! How had this happened? I'm normally first in line to watch anything with a hint of period drama about it.
So I downloaded the TV programme on iTunes and watched it - quite entertaining it was too. Although Billy Piper was not exactly the best choice in the lead role, I thought that J.J.Feild was the perfect Fred Garland - I had only ever seen him in an Agatha Christie's Marple adaptation before, and I confess in a slightly fangirlish way I headed off to watch Northanger Abbey in which he also stars. Go watch them, if you have an hour or two free and no energy to actually get up and leave the house!

I've now nearly finished listening to The Shadow in the North (why, Phillip Pullman, why?! How could you? So sad!), and have The Tiger in the Well ready and waiting on my Audible app. Plenty more hours of entertainment to come.
In craft related news, I am currently short row shaping the border of J's little stripy jacket, so after a lot of weaving in of ends I should be ready to share that very soon. I'll be back with a review of the latest issue of The Knitter in the next few days.

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