Saturday, December 31, 2011
Book Review of The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Author: Wilkie Collins
Publisher: Woodsworth Classics
Type of book: Mystery, detective, missing jewel, 1799, 1848-1850, England, Indians
Year it was published: 1868
The Moonstone, a priceless Indian diamond which had been brought to England as spoils of war, is given to Rachel Verrinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night, the stone is stolen. Suspicion then falls on a hunchbacked housemaid, on Rachel's cousin Franklin Blake, on a troupe of mysterious Indian jugglers, and on Rachel herself.
The phlegmatic Sergeant Cuff is called in, and with the help of Betteredge, the Robinson Crusoe-reading loquacious steward, the mystery of the missing stone is ingeniously solved.
This is written in first person, a type of an epistolary story novel. Franklin Blake wants the prominent members to write the stories of how they dealt with the Moonstone mystery. The only drawn out characters in the novel are Betteredge and Miss Clack. Other characters simply provided narration without including their personalities in it. If you have almost 200 pages of sparkling and witty dialogue, which is followed by 200+ pages of dullness, then there seems to be a problem in my view.
I'm not sure what to learn from the novel, except that be prepared for the unexpected and things aren't always what they seem.
The narration lacks confusion and is full of twists and turns throughout the novel. The author even warns on who will take up the next narrative which means that one can be prepared for the character switch. I do admit that some parts are boring and that I didn't understand a lot of things or how some things are solved in the novel. What is also a relief is that none of the female characters faint but instead they are shown as strong intelligent and capable women: Rose Spearman and Rachel Verrinder try their best-and for a while succeed-in doing something, and one also learns the fascination of opium from Ezra Jennings.
A close friend of Charles Dickens from their meeting in March 1851 until Dickens' death in June 1870, William "Wilkie" Collins was one of the best known, best loved, and, for a time, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. But after his death, his reputation declined as Dickens's bloomed. Now, Collins is being given more critical and popular attention than he has for fifty years. Most of his books are in print - and all are now in e-text - he is studied widely, and new film, television and radio versions of some of his books have been made. All his letters have been published. However, there is still much to be discovered about this superstar of Victorian fiction.
While in the past I have praised the book, and I will continue to praise the first two narratives; that of Betteredge and Miss Clack, the others really fell flat as if the author seemed to get bored and they simply told the narrative without going into personalities. I really wanted to see Franklin's personality throughout his personal narrative, how he would be like when portrayed in the first narrative by Betteredge but instead of the vividness, he is boring and dull. Other narratives are like that as well. I do pity the Jennings narrative, how much he had to suffer just because his mother is from another country and whatnot. The beginning was interesting, but once we get past the Betteredge narrative into the Clack one, although Clack is interesting and really reminds me of a certain someone, at least the old personality, a slight boredom creeps in. Then the rest of the book, up until the Jennings narrative lacks the oomph factor that the author wrote in previous narrations. Then after the experiment it again falls flat and most of it I didn't understand.
2 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)