"The Moonstone"

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

I've overlooked this book for a while because I thought (blush) it was sci-fi. It's called The Moonstone so it had to be sci-fi. Obviously I haven't read much Wilkie Collins or I would have known better. Well, when I'm wrong, I do it big and I now find myself more than a little embarrassed.

This, of course, is a Victorian era mystery as was the only other Collins I have read, The Woman In White . It has the lovely language that I so love to read and is full of propriety and manners and all things English. Needless to say, and yet I will anyway, I loved it.

In both of the mentioned novels, Collins hands the narrative duties from one character to another to tell the story from their particular point of view, or at least whatever small part they may have experienced in the bigger story. I find this a very effective way of retaining reader interest, though I confess it can get irritating in sections narrated by the more unlikable characters. Fortunately they seem to be the shorter sections and if nothing else they serve to confirm your misgivings.

There is a paragraph early in the book that I found very entertaining and I'm going to quote the whole thing to give you an idea just how delightful Collins' writing is:

"Here follows the substance of what I said, written out entirely for your benefit. Pay attention to it, or you will be all abroad when we get deeper into the story. Clear you mind of the children, or the dinner, or the new bonnet, or what not. Try if you can't forget politics, horses, prices in the City, and grievances at the club. I hope you won't take this freedom on my part amiss; it's only a way I have of appealing to the gentle reader. Lord! haven't I seen you with the greatest authors in your hands and don't I know how ready your attention is to wander when it's a book that asks for it, instead of a person?" 

That puts a smile on my face that isn't easily removed. It's fresh and imaginative and just a little bit cheeky; I keep reading it and getting the same charge out of it I got the first time. But enough about me; I really should tell you what the book is about.

The "moonstone" is a yellow diamond (and not a piece of space rock...), taken from it's home in India where for centuries it had "been set in the forehead of the four-handed Indian god that typifies the moon". The jewel, long kept hidden in England, is bequeathed to a young woman and presented to her on her birthday. That night the jewel goes missing and the fun begins. Scotland Yard gets involved, the servants are all suspect, tragic deaths occur and "three mahogany-coloured Indians in white linen frocks and trousers" are spotted in places where they shouldn't be. The story gets complicated, as a mystery should, and comes to a satisfying conclusion at the very end.

I'm so glad I discovered Wilkie Collins. My usual response to discovering an author I like is to find and read all his novels as fast as I can. I don't know if I'm finally growing up or just getting old, but this time I'm going to space them out and enjoy looking forward to them. I heartily recommend them; they are one hundred percent enjoyable. 


Michele at Reader's Respite said...

You've just convinced me to read my first Wilkie Collins book!

Ordinary Reader said...

Michele - I think my work here is done for today! Enjoy!

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