Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Listened: "The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins

Listened: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, 1868 (2010 audio), Overdrive download.

I started listening to this because Dan Simmons's Drood was so damn good.  I once looked at library circ' stats for Collins's books and was surprised they were still going out as much as they were.  I ran across a reprint of Moonstone that was done as a facsimile of the novel edition (rather than the serialization is first appeared).  I took the novel home but never got to it because of committee reading.

The language and writing stands up so very well.  Not florid or flowery. Much like Conan Doyle's Holmes stories.

Moonstone is told through the perspective of about six characters who detail the history of the fabled Moonstone diamond, it's theft in India, final transfer to a young woman, theft, investigation and aftermath, and final resolution. The mystery is without a murder.  A rare event nowadays for a mystery.  There is a killing at the very end but the goal is finding out what happened to the Moonstone.

The stone was stolen during the sacking of a Indian Rajah's city.  The military officer who took the stone was subsequently ostracized by his family.  The officer willed the stone to a niece, maybe as a revenge for treatment by his relatives.  The revenge is because the stone has significant religious significance to a Hindu sect and priests of that sect have been staking out the stone's owner for the past thirty years.

The stone is delivered to the niece for her birthday.  People come and visit for the birthday party.  The stone is presented.  Everyone ooh and ahhs.  The stone is put in the niece's room.  The stone disappears.  The investigation begins.

We go through the manners of the English upper middle class in 1848.  How cousins marry one another.  Travel is by foot, horse, carriage or train.  Servants are relied upon and often members of the household.  Cousins woo and marry.  Many people go in deep debt.  Reputation is paramount and easily damaged by action or rumour.

The first two narrators cause some laugh out loud moments.  They are so cocksure of themselves and their attitudes they do not recognize their own buffoonery.  I wonder if Collins stretched out the story as it's popularity grew.  Probably.

A story that keeps you wondering and remains enjoyable after 150 years.
1. Regarding Drood.  Simmons wrote Drood with Collins as narrator.  Collins covers several years of his tumultuous relationship Charles Dickens, his publication of Moonstone and Woman in White and the evil criminal Drood.
2. According to Drood, Moonstone's serialization was a massive success.  It'd be neat to read some of the contemporary knockoffs that must have jumped on the new popularity of detective or mystery stories. Not sure I'll take the time to research and locate and read those titles.
3.  Great job at narration with voices and accents and bringing out the self-important character of some of the book's narrators.
4.  As I listened I wondered if Simmons tried to mimic the style of Collins when Simmons wrote Drood.
5. Similarities of Drood that occur in Moonstone.  I assume Simmons employed these after researching the lives and literature of Collins and Dickens.
5.a. A man in debt is chosen as trustee of a young man's fortune.  The man steals the fortune.
5.b. Morphine addiction.
5.c. A boy with bugeyes is called Gooseberry.  Collins had bugeyes and the same nickname.
5.d. Mistress in a country house with her name on the house to hide the man's interest.  Similar to Dickens's young mistress.
5.e. A hard view on woman and their capabilities and intelligence.
5.f.  Famous London detective working a case.

1 comment:

Jerry House said...

I was surprised, when I finally read it, that THE MOONSTONE was such a good book. Later I read THE WOMAN IN WHITE, which remains one of my favorite books. I still return to Collins every once in a while for a fix.