Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Moonstone By Wilkie Collins

First published 149 years ago this compelling novel has the all of the ingredients of a serious and fascinating mystery. I did not know anything about Wilkie Collins until Dan Simmons wrote a novel based on the Charles Dicken’s novel about Edward Drood. Simmons used Wilkie Collins, a friend and companion of Dickens as the narrator of his story (“Drood”). Apparently Dickens and Collins collaborated on a few novels but Wilkie Collins, in spite of a heavy opium habit (due to poor health) was an able and strong writer himself. He is said to have created the first literary mystery detective as a major character in a novel when the detective appeared in “The Moonstone” as Sergeant Cuff of Scotland Yard. He also was among the first to use the device of having each of the major characters in the story start and narrate each chapter by telling the story, only, from what they actually saw and did and know.
It worked very well for this mystery about a diamond that was stolen from a temple in India by one of Her Majesties Officers and brought back to Britain along with the curse that was supposed to be attached to it.

Collins created wonderful characters and the dialogue and descriptions are very interesting and exciting. Like Dickens, Wilkie Collins toured America and gave readings; his writing was influenced by Dickens, I am sure and I would guess that Dickens may have profited from his association with Collins. This was an amazing read and a first rate mystery from an important writer of the time.


Doodler said...

Good review. Interesting timing, too. I'm actually reading The Moonstone right now. I think the story could have benefited from some editing, but Collins did create some fascinating characters.

Madame X said...

I read The Moonstone a few months ago as part of my own 'Filling in the Gaps' type project. I thoroughly enjoyed the section featuring the detective elements but felt the second half of the book lost focus slightly without Cuff and was too long coming to a conclusion. I definitely agree with the editing comment, but I do still rate it highly and as genre defining!

Jane Steen said...

I was happy to read your review as I love The Moonstone. Like most Victorian fiction it does tend to overflow somewhat, but it was very popular at the time and did a lot to spark a genre which has given endless pleasure.

The more fiction you read from this era, the more you tend to understand the wordiness, the tangents, and some underlying assumptions that can seem strange, even offensive, to our minds. Those were days when authors were allowed to write WHAT THEY WANTED and not pander nearly so much to the market. There's a certain relief in that, and it made for more exciting (if more eccentric) writing in my opinion.