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Wilkie Collins

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Books : Wilkie Collins (Paperback)

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Books : Wilkie Collins (Paperback) Ackroyd at his best -- gripping short life of the extraordinary Wilkie Collins, author of The Moonstone and The Woman in White.
Short and oddly built, with a head too big for his body, extremely short-sighted, unable to stay still, dressed in colourful clothes, 'as if playing a certain part in the great general drama of life' Wilkie Collins looked distinctily strange. But he was none the less a charmer, befriended by the great, loved by children, irresistibly attractive to women -- and avidly read by generations of readers.
Ackroyd follows his hero, 'the sweetest-tempered of all the Victorian novelists', from his childhood as the son of a well-known artist to his struggling beginnings as writer, his years of fame and his life-long friendship with the other great London chronicler, Charles Dickens. A true Londoner, Collins, like Dickens, was fascinated by the secrets and crimes -- the fraud, blackmail and poisonings -- that lay hidden behind the city's respectable facade. He was a fighter, never afraid to point out injustices and shams, or to tackle the establishment head on. As well as his enduring masterpieces, The Moonstone -- often called the first true detective novel -- and the sensational Women in White, he produced an intriguing array of lesser known works. But Collins had his own secrets: he never married, but lived for thirty years with the widowed Caroline Graves, and also had a second liaison, as 'Mr and Mrs Dawson', with a younger mistress, Martha Rudd, with whom he had three children. Both women remained devoted as illness and opium-taking took their toll: he died in 1889, in the middle of writing his last novel -- Blind Love.
Told with Peter Ackroyd's inimitable verve this is a ravishingly entertaining life of a great story-teller, full of surprises, rich in humour and sympathetic understanding.


Random House UK
Book Format
Number of Pages
Peter Ackroyd
Publication Date
April, 2013
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
7.78 x 5.10 x 0.54 Inches

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This very short biogra...

This very short biography of Victorian author Wilkie Collins is breezy in style and it skims the surface of his colorful life. Readers are given facts about his childhood, oddly shaped body, dislike of marriage, two mistresses, friendship with Charles Dickens, travels abroad, and illnesses, but with only 233 small size pages of text there isn't room to go into much depth about them all. I would have liked to learn more about how the two mistresses managed--their relationships with Collins overlapped, and though he provided for them and their children as best he could his refusal to marry put them both in a difficult situation. I also would have enjoyed a larger sense of history from the book, and deeper insights into life in Victorian England, but as the subtitle indicates this is "A Brief Life" and I did come away from the book with new perspectives on Wilkie Collins. I was most fascinated by the ongoing overview of the books and plays Collins wrote that's integrated into his personal history, with the plots and characters of those works put into the context of his life and time. This quick introduction to Wilkie Collins is like an intriguing appetizer that whets the appetite for more. I read an ebook advanced review copy of this book provided to me at no cost by the publisher through NetGalley. Review opinions are mine.

A very good short bio ...

A very good short bio of Wilkie Collins, though there is an element of repetition (travel, write, get ill, lather, rinse repeat) about the whole thing. References at a few points would have been useful.

A brief and satisfying...

A brief and satisfying overview of Wilkie's life and body of work. I've only read the big two titles, "Moonstone" and the "Woman in White", but after reading this I've downloaded several other titles from google books.

Wilkie Collins: A Brie...

Wilkie Collins: A Brief Life, a book I was luck enough to win in return for an honest review posted on Goodreads through that site's giveaway program, provided my introduction to Wilkie Collins as a concept. I'd never read any of his fiction. I enjoyed learning about him; Peter Ackroyd's prose was as usual engaging. I didn't always feel an affinity with his perspective on the events and characters depicted, however. One thing I learned is that Charles Dickens was an even big jerk than I thought before, and I was already in on that little old secret. It is a very brief biography, be advised, and thus I think great fans of Collins would be better served by a fuller treatment. Thanks for reading my ideas; I hope they may be of some service to you, my fellow readers.

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