Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Books 19 & 20 of 2016: Noble Savage A Novel by Nicholas Sheppard & On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts by Thomas De Quincey

I've been making a serious effort to try and read lots of the ebooks currently clogging up my Kindle, many of which have been hanging out on my device since I got it (and some have been residing in the cloud since before I got my current Kindle, way back in 2012). I hate the thought of any book going unloved and unread, even if it's a digital copy, and so it was with this in mind that I selected Noble Savage by Nicolas Sheppard to read at the beginning of May.

This cover image is actually a different cover to the edition on my Kindle, though the book itself seems to be the same; mine has a photo of a Maori man with Ta moko and the title of the book.

Dr John Savage returns from a voyage to the islands of New Zealand with one of the men who lived there, Mohanga. He brings him back to London and the pair develop an unusual friendship in the ever changing city. Until one day Mohanga is lost and Dr Savage must try to find him.

This book feels like it's a text written at the time of the events taking place. The language used it kind of archaic which helps add to this and it reminded me of some of the books I read during my literature course, except those were obviously written at the time of the events they were describing.

As I was reading it, I couldn't help but wonder whether this was an actual true story. Having read to the end I would have liked to know more about Savage and Mohanga. The book ends with Mohanga's journey back to New Zealand but I'd have liked for it to go with him to see how his experiences of London changed him, and how Savage felt after he had left.

I know relatively little about Maori/New Zealand history and culture but this book seemed really well researched. I notice that the author has written two other books and I'd be tempted to try reading them at some point in the future as well.

I followed up Noble Savage with a quick little Penguin Little Black Classics book, On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts by Thomas De Quincey.

This is book number 4 in the set and is an essay which treats murder based on its aesthetic qualities, enumerating on the deaths of a number of philosophers as he goes. This is followed by a second essay which discusses the English Mail Coach.

I picked up this book because I read Confessions of an English Opium Eater during my Open University Literature course and I recognised the name. Kind of ironic really considering the first book of his that I read did absolutely nothing for me. In the end to get through my first attempt at reading Thomas De Quincey I had to shut myself in the bath with the book and wouldn't let myself out until I'd finished reading it, despite the water temperature dropping! Thankfully this was an easier read than that.

I found this one a little tricky to follow, but I did kind of like the premise. I'd like to know more about the group of people who would meet as sort of murder groupies, I suppose they'd be the forerunners to the people who join in internet forums discussing real life crimes or episodes of CSI.

It kind of reminded me of the satire of Jonathan Swift (A Modest Proposal, which I also read in a Penguin Little Black Classics book). I preferred Swift's take on things to De Quincey's though. I'm pleased to have read this, I feel like I've moved on from the trauma of studying Confessions of an English Opium Eater now, but I can't say that I'm a fan of the author.

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