Reviewed by Angelica Galicinao
THE HOUSE AT BAKER STREET
368 pp. Harper Perennial.
(Best read on your period with a lot of pent up female angst and with a generous serving of curiosity for mysteries on the side)
If you think that this is yet another Sherlock Holmes book, I’m telling you now that it is not. For me, this book is a very brave attempt to further the importance of women by using a classic literary work that, let’s face it, reeks of misogyny and patriarchy. Let’s face it, as revered as he is, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a bit of a sexist because he depicted most if not all of his female characters in the Sherlock Holmes books as damsels in distress. He cannot be blamed, of course. It was how society perceived women in the Victorian era—they were meek and mild, helpless without men and always needed to be saved from the pettiest of problems. If you compare how society views women now, not much has changed, especially in patriarchal societies. However, it is important to note that there have been considerable changes since then and day by day, women are fighting from in front of their computer screens to taking it to the streets for the equality of men and women. How are you fighting for equality? More importantly, are you? As for the author, well, she wrote a Sherlock Holmes story and made it about a landlady and a housewife. If you think about it, it’s a bit doubtful that such a twist could work for a book but I am telling you, it was a pleasant surprise that the writer was able to make it work.
The best part about this book is that it wrote about the same story and the same characters but shifted the focus to characters which have always been ignored by everyone and regarded as dispensable. She created their life stories, carved out their personalities and turned them into lovable and unforgettable characters. In here you’ll see two women breaking the barriers of the oppression they faced just because of their gender. In here you’ll celebrate each victory they have in proving the cleverness, the cunning, and strength of character that women possess. I liked how the gender roles were slowly reversed and how, over time, you’ll see the protagonists slowly defying the societal impositions they’ve always believed in and upheld—that a woman must be meek, must be innocent, belonging at home tending to the house and her husband, in the kitchen preparing food patiently waiting for the men who had vital roles to play in society. It was a triumphant moment for me when they realized that they’re so much more than the people they thought they were. I especially liked how it was heavy on the details, so detailed that I could almost feel the fabric of their frocks against my skin or taste Mrs. Hudson’s pastries. It also had a solid character buildup for every character that came into the picture and it is a plus point for me how every character’s point of view was given and how the choice of words changed so smoothly you would think that every character written there had a different writer that created them. The plot twist was not also not entirely predictable. It was an immensely enjoyable read for me partly because I liked the cause it represented and for me, that cause is women empowerment. Overall, The House at Baker Street is a debut novel that could catapult one into fame and I hope it does exactly that for Ms. Birkby.
I think it’s about time for my own adventure to commence. Until the next review!
This edition of The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby will be available soon at Fully Booked. To reserve a copy in advance, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angelica is legally obligated to administer regulated drugs and touch various body parts (which is just an unconventional way of saying that she is a nurse). She considers herself an overly caffeinated bibliophile.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]