WEIDENFELD £12.99 £11.99 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897
Pelagia and the White Bulldog by Boris Akunin, trs Andrew Bromfield
Beware nuns with knitting needles
Sunday 07 May 2006
Sister Pelagia is a frumpy, ginger-haired, bespectacled nun who spends her entire time tripping over, bumping into things and losing her glasses: "and so it was with her - she was not a nun but a walking disaster with freckles." It's not a particularly original idea, and here it gets very tiresome, with Pelagia spilling tea on a man's crotch, sending a bowl of apples flying, and so on.
She is sent to investigate the attempted murder of a wealthy widow: someone is killing the widow's prize bulldogs, so the widow is dying from grief. It's clearly not a challenging plotline, although it does develop into something a bit more gripping, thank goodness. I can't reveal how without spoiling it, but I will point out that you have to endure some pretty unconvincing wailing from the widow in the meantime: "'Oh, I can't bear it... Oh God...' and she gave a heartrending shriek ... large, hysterical tears welled up ... [she] attempted to stand up, but she could not manage it and slumped back helplessly."
And so it goes on. I'm not sure the translation does the narration any favours, with plenty of clunky sentences. The most amusing examples include: "As for the month omitted from our story, one could not say that nothing at all happened during its course - on the contrary, things had happened, a great many things, but these events had no direct connection with the main line of our narrative and so we shall therefore skip through them briefly, 'with a light step' as the ancients used to say"; or "And would you believe it, she had merely taken a jump out of the frying pan into the fire." Lengthy stuff. We are even given the option of missing out one hefty section as "no damage will be caused to the elegant line of the narrative as a result." Elegant? Hmmm...
Another problem with the story is that many of the key episodes are, at best, weakly devised and, at worst, throw-your-hands-in-the-air predictable. Why, for example, should a secret conversation happen to take place just inches from Pelagia's window? Or on the other side of the hedge by which Pelagia is standing? And no prizes for guessing that Pelagia gets a sexy makeover, or that her knitting needles, which she carries with her at all times, become semi-deadly weapons in times of crisis.
It's a shame, but I really found very few redeeming qualities about this book, with the sole exception of a rather exciting chase towards the end - although even that is tarnished with some laboured "oh wasn't that lucky" moments.
I do hope Pelagia bucks up her ideas in time for the next book in the series; after all, even scatty Maria pulled herself to gether enough to marry Captain von Trapp.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michael Douglas regrets 'embarrassing' Catherine Zeta-Jones with oral sex comments
- 2 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 3 Tunisian builder has been hailed a hero after knocking gunman to the ground with roof tiles
- 4 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 5 Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L James's Twitter Q&A didn't go exactly as planned
Amy Winehouse film director: 'I wanted to show the fun, bright-eyed girl we didn't know'
Orange Is The New Black season 3 episode 1, review: The Ross and Rachel-ness of Piper and Alex is starting to grate
The picture of a man crowd surfing in a wheelchair at Glastonbury is brilliant, but it wasn't taken at Glastonbury
Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L James's Twitter Q&A didn't go exactly as planned
Guillaume Tell, Royal Opera House, review: Gang rape and stripping naked of female actor met with boos
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Extend Right To Buy to tenants of private landlords, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn says
David Cameron struck double blow in his hopes to win Britain a new EU deal
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato