Friday, January 10, 2014

A Monstrous Regiment of Women: Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes Series # 2

In one week Mary Russell would be 21 years, when she would inherit property and a lot of money. She is preparing an essay for her study in Oxford, and in boring mood she goes to London in search of her intimate friend, partner and mentor: Sherlock Holmes. On top of a hansom cab—one of Holmes’ disguises—Holmes tells her that he knows why she has searched for him; it is because she wants him to marry her. Mary is offended by this, and she runs away. In her confusion, she meets her friend from Oxford, Lady Veronica ‘Ronnie’ Beaconsfield, whom introduces her to The New Temple of God and its charismatic preacher Margery Childe.

Margery turns out to be a feminist, who in her preaches criticizes male preachers for impeding women to study and discuss religion; she believes that God created men and women equal. Russell is interested in Margery, and agrees to teach her about her research in theology, that God was also referred in feminine (not only masculine) in original bible manuscript. Then some events take place; from a mysterious murder of a rich woman from the inner circle of The New Temple of God, to Ronnie’s accident. Is Margery involved in all that? What she is after if it’s true? Or is it something else?

The second installment of Mary Russell series saw Mary Russell growing up to be a woman. Out of the criminal mystery, it is about how Russell became a woman in particularly the 1920s era. The sparks of attraction between Russell and Holmes, which has started in Beekeeper’s Apprentice, now reaches its momentum. I can feel how restless Russell is when she is separated from Holmes, but it gets even more intense whenever she is with Holmes. And I see the same thing in Holmes, he seems to lose his coolness more than before everytime Russell is in danger.

Apart from the mystery—which I don’t find very special—and the romance, this book is still interesting because of the religious and historical feminism aspect in 1920s. Many men had died during World War 1 and left their wives widows, but they who survived came home as different men. They became more savage after witnessing the cruelness at war, and many of them could not get jobs. These problems increased women’s involvement in the society. There were many social organizations focusing in women education, health care, and shelter, just like what Margery Childe in this story does.

King framed the feminism issue with theological discussion on women involvement on the bible. This is revealed in Margery and Russell’s discussion based on Russell’s major in Theology she studied at Oxford, about how God has actually been referred in Old Testament.

While speaking of feminism, I could not but thinking about Russell-Holmes’ partnership, which I believe a good example of what women should practice. There is equality in it, in terms of making decision and job description; and I like how Russell emphasizes this to Holmes on many occasions, and Holmes—despite being reluctant or just isn’t yet familiar with the idea—fully respects Russell’s initiatives. However, in some circumstances, where Russell is helpless and in danger, she puts trust in Holmes to save her. I disagree with a feminism-essay writer who was disappointed with the ending because Russell needs Holmes to help her. I believe the focus of feminism should be to get the same rights as men, not to be superior. God has created us equal, men and women, to become partners, because they have their uniqueness and thus could fill what lack in the partner. From the first series it has been clear that Russell and Holmes are made for partners, because only with both qualities, they could beat their enemies.

This second book is less entertaining, but more intriguing, so I think three and a half stars would be fair enough.


*I read the translation edition from Qanita (part of Mizan Publishing group)*

*I read this for:*

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