Was Irene Adler really ‘The woman’ or could there have been someone else? What sort of a woman would it take to capture such a closed heart as the one belonging to Sherlock Holmes? writes Charlotte Anne Walters.
For me, Irene has never been quite good enough to be the one to make Holmes feel genuine love. I think it was exactly as Watson describes – ‘It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler.’
Personally I don’t really see that she did anything particularly exceptional. Ok, so she rumbled Holmes when he gained entry into her house pretending to be an injured clergyman and realised that she had inadvertently shown him where the incriminating photograph was stashed, but it’s hardly a surprise that she then removes the photo and takes flight. Is this really outwitting Holmes or just common sense?
And for Holmes to fall in love, the woman needs to be very exceptional. But what kind of woman would it take?
This is one of the questions about Holmes which I wanted to address in Barefoot on Baker Street and I was sure that Irene Adler wasn’t the answer.
I have never imagined Holmes with a ‘lady’, however clever and adventurous she was. For me he is too bohemian, too unconventional and generally unfettered by the conventions of society to connect himself with someone unless they also exist on the peripheries.
The protagonist of Barefoot couldn’t be more different to a conventional Victorian lady. Red is born in the Whitechapel and Spitalfields Union workhouse and grows up through the harsh workhouse and orphanage system. She is not taught the conventional ways for a young girl to behave and is a raw, feral, almost androgynous being; honed by physical labour and hardened by circumstance. By the time she meets Holmes she is a streetwise and sassy teenager full of attitude.
Red matures into a fiery, highly intelligent woman; extraordinary but damaged. Her knowledge of crime and the London underworld (gained through personal experience) makes her a perfect match for Holmes, along with her deep personal complexities and unconventional nature. But to find out whether this meeting of two such strong personalities is a recipe for disaster or dynamism, I’m afraid you will just have to read the novel.