Friday, November 13, 2009
Posted by JaneGS
I was inspired to select The Moonstone (Oxford World's Classics) from the tottering TBR pile so that I could get a more out of the Wilkie Collins tour sponsered by the Classics Circuit. It was a great choice--I'm glad I finally got around to reading it and can put a tick mark next to it on the list of classics read--but it wasn't necessarily a great book. A good book, yes, by all means, but not great.
More than anything else, The Moonstone is a mystery story. Told from the point-of-view of several characters, some quite minor to the plot actually, the narrative is a series of recollections that sometimes sound as if they were legal statements for a trial. While I can appreciate the air of authenticity this gives to the fiction, it does tend to get a bit tedious, especially if the characters are long-winded. I did think that Collins did a superb job in staying in character, with each of the narrators having their own distinct voice.
Also, considering that the novel first was published serially, Collins did an incredible job in keeping his details straight as he unfolded the mystery. It's hard enough to keep a story bounded from beginning to end anyway, but to do so without being able to revise the beginning to suit how the end evolves is simply staggering.
There are a fair number of interesting characters--Cuff and Bruff, the detective and the lawyer, the trio of cousins (Rachel, Godfrey, and Franklin), the Robinson Crusoe-reading steward Betteridge and his lady's maid daughter, and my favorite, Ezra Jennings, an opium addict who solves the mystery, at least 90% of it. I see a lot of Dickensian characterization particularly in the latter part of the book--for example, Octavius Guy (aka 'Gooseberry'), the little boy who works for Mr. Bruff, is afflicted with eyes that "projected so far, and they rolled about so loosely, that you wondered uneasily why they remained in their sockets."
Although in my last post on The Moonstone, I did include a couple of passages, I found the book remarkably thin when it came to passages that stirred my soul, challenged my intellect, or left me breathless with admiration. In other words, Collins told a good, interesting story but I didn't come away from reading it thinking that it had changed me in any way.
A good book, but not a great one. Now I need to get the movie on order!