Saturday, August 29, 2009

12. Hannibal by Thomas Harris

Hannibal was recommended by The Grammarphile. I can safely say that I would not have read this book if not for this project. I've never really been interested in the tales of Hannibal Lecter, less so after my freshman year roommates forced me to watch The Silence of the Lambs -- with the lights off! It was mean. It's really the horror aspect that puts me off; otherwise, this sort of thing is right up my alley. I like mysteries, psychology was one of my majors in college, and there's a strong female protaganist to root for.

Hannibal takes place seven years after the events of The Silence of the Lambs. Clarice Starling's FBI career has been somewhat stalled after her successful capture of the serial killer Jame Gumb, and she's poised to take the fall after a drug raid gone bad. Her mentor manages to save her job with an important assignment connected to the infamous Dr. Lecter. One of his earliest victims survived Lecter's brutal attack, and has managed to track down a clue that he needs the FBI to verify. Mason Verger has tracked Lecter to Italy, using the immense resources that his wealth affords him. His source, disgraced Italian detective Rinaldo Pazzi, plans to "sell" Lecter to Verger rather than turn him in. Verger's men arrive in Florence to kidnap Lecter, but he manages to escape after killing Pazzi and another conspirator. Lecter makes his way back to the United States to settle his score with Verger and reacquaint himself with Starling.

When I first started the book, something about the rhythm threw me off for the first few chapters. I quickly became immersed in the story, and I'm sure what felt different at first. This is the kind of book that you put down for awhile and try to do something else, but you can't stay away for long. Un-put-down-able, I think they call it.

My favorite part was Pazzi's pursuit of Lecter. I liked reading about his fall from grace and how he pieced together the true identity of the man known in Florence as Dr. Fell. It wasn't hard to understand (and maybe empathize with) him and his decision to "sell" Dr. Lecter rather than turn him in to the authorities. He was definitely someone that I rooted for, and even though his demise wasn't difficult to see coming, it still made me a bit sad.

The parts that I didn't like? Anything having to do with Mason Verger. From his family's history in the meat packing industry, to his own sadistic childhood and adult behavior, to his plans for Dr. Lecter. There's no sympathy to be had for this son of a bitch. Everything he says and does makes me uncomfortable in some fundamental way. I can't stand reading about people being hurt the way that Verger delights in hurting them. Skin, commence crawling. It's almost to the point where I don't get anything out of the reading except feeling disgusted.

I didn't love the parts about Clarice Starling, but that may be because I haven't read The Silence of the Lambs. While you don't need to be familiar with the story before reading Hannibal, I think it would have been helpful in feeling more toward Starling. You can't help but admire her resourcefulness in pursuing Dr. Lecter and her composure in the face of being screwed by the good ole boys politicking in Washington. But the ending really threw me for a loop. I don't feel like I knew Starling well enough to understand where she ended up.

Hannibal is pretty dark and twisty, so don't pick it up unless you're prepared for it to haunt you for awhile after you put it down. It's a good read, though, and I recommend it to you.

1 comment:


Never, ever, EVER watch the movie version of Hannibal. I'm pretty much unshockable, but there a parts of that that I cannot watch...too gross! (Also, they really screw with parts of the plot--for instance, Margot isn't even in the movie at all!)

Hannibal is the one book that, when I need serious inspiration for my own novel, I pick it up and read it again. I must have read it a hundred times by now. I have a feeling my own novel, when it's eventually done, will turn out to be quite twisted as a result of this.