A divine actress, a golden age and a fake Mycroft Holmes: Books read (#SFWApro)

THE DIVINE SARAH: A Life of Sarah Bernhardt by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale looks at how the daughter of a 19th-century Paris courtesan, instead of following Mom into that line of work turned to theater, eventually rising to stardom and fame (as the authors note, lots of other actors once considered in Bernhardt’s league are now complete obscurities). Like a lot of actor bios, this comes off gossipy, with accounts of her affairs alongside her career, and with plenty of name-dropping: Bernhardt took sculpture lessons from Gustav Doré, was friends with Alexander Dumas (and his son and namesake) and good friends with artist Alphonse Mucha. The image is Mucha’s poster for Sarah in her signature role in Dumas’ (the son) play, which later became the Garbo film Camille. As someone who knows Bernhardt’s name but not much about her, this was absorbing.

THE GOLDEN AGE is a collection of Naomi Novik short stories that unfortunately read more like footnotes to the Temeraire series: a look at dragon politics after the final volume in the series, a look at the mercantile dragons of North America, an alt.version (at least I think it is) of Laurence’s first meeting with Temaraire, Captain Jane Roland dealing with sexist underlings — none of them real stories as much as brief sketches (the flyleaf says they were inspired by actual fan art, which may be part of the problem). The exception is “Dragons and Decorum,” a Jane Austen riff in which Elizabeth Bennett becomes a dragon captain, thereby giving up any hope of marriage or family, and anyway that Mr. Darcy obviously doesn’t care for her so no big. The book is also way light on text, with more than a third consisting of “drabbles” or 100-word stories, one to a page and blank pages between. I’m glad I read a library copy.

Generally speaking I’m open to Holmes stories that play fast and loose with the canon, but MYCROFT HOLMES AND THE APOCALYPSE HANDBOOK by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse went beyond what I could endure. The authors simply take the Mycroft name and stick it on a generic bad-boy protagonist who’s cynical, snarky to authority figures, banging a hot professor’s wife and only reluctantly stepping up to the hero plate. I gave up midway through and I was able to finish Snotgirl.

All rights to poster image remain with current holder.

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