While storms raged, while at high tide waves hit the sea wall with such force that the house shook, I have been spent the dark evenings re-reading 'The Moonstone', secure in the knowledge that out house was built not long after the publication of Wilkie Collins' wonderful book and so it has survived many storms and was so solidly built that it should survive many more. I think that 'The Moonstone' is pitched at the perfect point between crime fiction and sensation fiction, and it makes me wish that I could have been a Victorian reader, so that I could have read it when it was new, original and innovative, and so that I could read it with my mind uncluttered by more than a century of books that have come since then, and a few that I can think of that clearly have been influenced by this wonderful tale. I am sure that Conan-Doyle read this book; I suspect that Victoria Holt had it in mind when she named her novel 'The Shivering Sands'; and I am quite certain that Hercule Poirot's retirement to the country to grow vegetable marrows was a tribute to Seargeant Cuff and his wish to see out his days growing roses ..... but I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm not sure that 'The Moonstone' has stood the test of time as well as some of Wilkie Collins' other work, but it is still a fine entertainment, and among the most readable of classics. The moonstone - a fabulous Hindu diamond - is seized - some would say stolen - during the storming of Seringapatam. The taker of the diamond believes it to be cursed, and takes serious steps to ensure his own safety and the safety of his jewel. In his will he leaves it to his niece, the daughter of his estranged sister. And so the moonstone is given to Rachel Verinder on her 18th birthday. That night the moonstone disappears. The case is investigated by Seargeant Cuff, of the new detective force, and an extraordinary sequence of events will unfold before the truth of what happened that night, and the fate of the jewel, is made clear. The tale is told by a series of narrators, because this is an account of the moonstone compiled some time after the events it describes by an interested party. He brought together family papers and accounts of events that he asked those who were best placed to report, to create a continuous narrative. That device works wonderfully well, controlling what the reader knew without the reader having to feel manipulated, and adding depth to the characters by viewing them through different eyes. Fortunately the narrators are nicely differentiated. I loved Gabriel Betteredge, the indispensable steward to the Verinder family, a man of firm opinions who was nonetheless a model servant, who believed that all of the answers to life's problems lay in the pages Robinson Crusoe. But I heartily disliked Miss Clack, a pious, sanctimonious cousin, blind to the feelings and concerns of others, but insistent that they must read her tracts. And I was fascinated by Ezra Jennings, a doctor who had been dragged down by his addiction to opium, but who was grateful for the chances he had been given and ready to play his part in uncovering the truth. And there were others; every voice, every character, was utterly believable. Even more interesting than the narrators though were two women, at opposite ends of the social spectrum, who both chose not to speak out. Rosanna Spearman was a servant, and though I had reasons to doubt her, I could see that she was troubled and I feared for her. I nearly dismissed Rachel Verinder, as a spoilt madam, but in time I came to see that I had misjudged and underestimated with her. The atmosphere was everything I could have hoped for, and the settings were wonderfully created. I especially loved the scenes set out on the treacherous 'Shivering Sands'. And the story twisted and turned, and sprang surprises, very effectively. I remembered that broad sweep of the story from the first time I read 'The Moonstone', many years ago, but I had forgotten just how events played out, but even when I remembered it didn't matter. Wilkie Collins was such a wonderful, clever storyteller that I was captivated, from the first page to an afterword that was absolutely perfect. I loved almost everything, but I do have to say that the story is a little uneven, and that no character is as memorable as Marion Halcombe and Count Fosco in 'The Women and White.' But then, few characters are. This is a very different pleasure. maybe a more subtle pleasure. And definitely a rattling good yarn!
La Pietra di Luna - eBook
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Comparso a puntate sulla rivista «The Year Round», diretta da Charles Dickens, La Pietra di Luna è stato definito dal poeta Thomas S. Eliot «il primo, il più lungo e il più bello dei romanzi polizieschi inglesi». Capolavoro di complessità e sottigliezza psicologica, grandioso affresco della società vittoriana, galleria di personaggi accidiosi e idiosincratici, l’opera di Collins ha fatto scuola: il sergente Cuff, un personaggio che a buon diritto figura tra i capostipiti del genere, sarà fonte d’ispirazione sia per lo Sherlock Holmes di Conan Doyle, sia per il Nero Wolfe di Rex Stout.La Pietra di Luna - eBook
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I seem to be going thr...
I seem to be going through a phase of re-reading books, and this is certainly one of my favourites - indeed, probably my favourite "classic". First published in 1868, it is certainly notable for its innovative approach to story telling. Nowadays we are familiar with novels written from more than one character's perspective, but I imagine that such an approach was probably very daring back in the 1860s. Collins handles this device, which could so easily have backfired, with great deftness, and the reader gleans a deep insight into the various characters as the successive narratives unfold. The "Moonstone" of the title is a diamond stolen from the head of a revered statue in a Hindu temple by John Herncastle, a British Officer serving in India. Over the following years stories about the lost jewel abounded, along with a growing belief that the stone might be cursed. Having subsided into illness Herncastle bequeathed the jewel to his niece Rachel Verinder, to be given to her on her eighteenth birthday. The Moonstone is to be delivered to Rachel by her cousin Franklin Blake, formerly a great favourite of the Verinder family, who has been travelling the world for the last few years. He arranges to visit the Verinder household in Yorkshire, arriving a few days ahead of Rachel's birthday. On the day that he is expected three itinerant Indian "jugglers" turn up and perform some odd tricks in the neighbourhood, and seem to be "casing" the Verinder house. Franklin Blake arrives a little earlier and, after consulting with Betteredge (the butler and wryly sage narrator of the opening section of the story), departs to the nearby town in order to lodge the jewel in its strongroom. Before he goes he bumps in to Rosanna Spearman, one of the domestic servants in the Verinder household. We subsequently learn that she had previously been in prison after having turned to crime to escape a life of deep deprivation down in London. Mr Verinder, aware of this background but also swayed by good reports of Rosanna's reform, had employed her some months previously. In that chance encounter with Franklin Blake Rosanna immediately falls madly in love with him. The day of the birthday arrives, and various other friends and relatives attend a special dinner. Rachel, who had known nothing about the Moonstone, is delighted by her special birthday present, and cannot be dissuaded from wearing it at the dinner table. Almost inevitably, the jewel is stolen from Rachel's room that night. Rachel herself is clearly disturbed by its loss and starts to behave in an uncharacteristically aggressive and bad-tempered manner. It soon becomes evident that she is particularly angry towards Franklin Blake. The local Superintendent of police is called in but achieves little. Meanwhile, Franklin Blake has communicated by telegraph with his father, an MP in London, who commissions the lugubrious Sergeant Cuff to travel up to take over the investigation. Cuff is generally credited as the first great detective in English literature and he certainly comes across as an awesome character. Like so many of his modern day successors, he has his oddities and his querulous side. In Cuff's case it is gardening, and particularly the rearing of roses, that dominates his thoughts away from his job. Cuff becomes convinced that Rachel Verinder herself is involved in the loss of the diamond, and speculates that she might somehow have incurred extensive debts, and then recruited Rosanna to help conceal the diamond and then smuggle it out of the house and down to London where it could be pawned or otherwise converted into much needed cash. Various other misadventures befall the characters, and one year on the mystery has not yet been resolved. It is at this point that, in what was to became a tradition in whodunnit stories, the scene is recreated, and a startling yet also convincing denouement is achieved. Collins was a close friend of Charles Dickens, and they collaborated on various publications. In The Moonstone, however, Collins displayed a fluidity and clarity of prose that Dickens never achieves. His satirical touch is light but more telling because of that. Nearly one hundred and fifty years on this novel remains fresh, accessible and immensely enjoyable.
The Moonstone is a wel...
The Moonstone is a well-written, suspenseful mystery that kept my attention throughout the entire story. I loved the characters, especially Gabriel Betteredge, the cantankerous but lovable butler who refers to Robinson Crusoe for insight about life the way some refer to the Bible.
Whether this or The Wo...
Whether this or The Woman in White is the better novel is probably a matter of choice. I found Woman more compelling, I think because I'm moved more by the mystery surrounding a person than a stone. Cold as the light of the moon, you might argue. Miss Clack has to be one of the most foul creatures in literature, though I loved her proto-bookcrossing :) I particularly liked Collins' sly and heartfelt anti-racism. Not something you often see in an English novel of this period. If Jennings isn't a self portrait then I'll eat my hat.
Diamonds may be a girl...
Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but don't ask Rachel Verinder to agree with that maxim. She only had twelve hours to bask in the glow of the rare yellow diamond that was given to her on her 18th birthday. This stolen diamond came complete with an Indian curse and three Indians in hot pursuit of it as it once again disappears and becomes the focal point of this Victorian detective novel. Collins uses multiple narratives to ascertain the events of that fateful night and the year following it. These eye-witness accounts from some colorful characters help move the story along, although having been originally written in serial form, the book tends to be wordy with many needless cliffhangers. My limits of credulity were stretched by the reenactment of the night of the crime, and I became impatient with too many sealed letters that mostly revealed "secrets" that weren't relevant to the main story. Overall, I enjoyed the characters and dry humor more than I liked the story. If you like Victorian melodrama, you will most certainly like this book.
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