Sunday, August 15, 2010

The African Queen by C.S. Forester


This novel by C.S. Forester, famed creator of the Hornblower saga, is the basis for one of my favorite films, "The African Queen" starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, an unlikely tale of adventure and romance between opposites in German occupied Central Africa after the outbreak of World War I.


In both the pages of the novel, and the movie it inspired, Miss Rose Sayer, a prim, willful, and determined missionary spinster and Charlie Allnutt, a crude but kind Cockney engineer who pilots a rickety old steam launch bearing the grandiose name of "The African Queen" find love as they plot to blow up a German battleship with homemade torpedoes fashioned from blasting gelatin and oxygen cylinders. This audacious act is dreamed up by Miss Rose to avenge her brother's death, and also as a patriotic gesture, to strike a blow for England.


Along the way down the winding and perilous Ulanga River they brave sweltering heat, insects, leeches, malaria, bullets, mechanical problems that test their ingenuity, and rapids that threaten to dash them to death and to pieces as they aim for their target, the ship known as the "Konigin Luise," or "The Louisa."


Honesty compels me to admit that I prefer the movie to the book, but that is not intended as a slight against the book, perhaps it is just that the visual medium as well as the talented actors cast in these roles better and more vividly convey this story than the printed page can, at least for me. The movie does adhere very closely to the book except for the ending.
The book will also, I think, appeal to those who like their romance depicted more discreetly rather than explicitly. Sex is implied, but not shown.

One thing I feel I should mention for readers regarding dialect is that Mr. Allnutt's cockney accent endures consistently throughout the book in a way that might prove annoying, difficult, or distracting for some readers. It is not a mild, occasional case of dropped aitches but phonetic spellings to replicate his speech, for example: fink (think), agine (again), yerss (yes), mike (make), awye (away), wot (what), abart (about). Since for most of the book there are only two characters speaking, and Mr. Allnutt is one of them, I felt I should make note of this as I know some readers dislike extensive use of dialect whilst others think it adds authenticity and colour and helps the reader "hear" the character's voice better.


1 comment:

librarypat said...

This is also one of my favorite movies. I was not aware it was based on a book. This week I found a copy of DANCES WITH WOLVES, the book. Another movie I wasn't aware was based on a book.

It is hard when such a good job is done on the movie, to read the book without comparing them closely. If you like the actors and really enjoyed the movie, the movie usually wins.