Title: The Moonstone
Author: Wilkie Collins
Genre: Classics, historical fiction, mystery
Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from the public library
Number of pages: 494
First line: I address these lines – written in India – to my relatives in England.
Goodreads blurb: Rachel Verinder mysteriously opposes an investigation of the theft of a sacred Hindu diamond which she inherited from her uncle.
This confirms it: I love Wilkie Collins more than Charles Dickens. It’s okay, really, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I adored The Moonstone in so many ways. Typically, when reading a “classic,” it takes more effort to sit down and read. Usually a classic is not the kind of book that tempts me away from other things, that compels me to pick it up and read long past the time I should be doing something else, but that’s exactly the kind of book The Moonstone is.
First of all, you have the format. I love multiple-narrator stories when they are done well. I wonder if Collins was the first one to use this plot device? The mystery of The Moonstone unfolds as each character writes down his portion of the story. Each section gets the reader a little closer to the truth, doling out clues and hints that kept me guessing. I was certain I knew what had happened to the diamond, then realized I was wrong, then had another inkling, which also turned out to be wrong, then finally had it figured out slightly before the big reveal.
Secondly, the characters are so fantastic. I think one of the things that bugs me a bit when I read Dickens is that his characters tend to come off a bit like caricatures. And while Collins does go a bit for comedy in one particular character, she wasn’t drawn too broadly to seem real. Each character had his or her unique voice and style while telling their part of the story, and their prejudices colored how they presented their testimony. This made them seem all the more real.
Then you have the wonderful twisted-ness of the mystery itself. Each character tries to lead the reader closer to the the truth, but has his or her own reasons for continuing to suspect – or refusing to suspect – a particular person. As a result, the relationships between the characters are entertainingly revealed, and gives the reader the thrill of inside knowledge. Plus, you have a fantastic, seemingly doomed love story. Really, what more could you want?
I loved this book so much that I’m tempted to host a Wilkie Collins reading challenge next year. Anyone interested?
If you read The Moonstone in May – or ever – please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments section, or else post a link to your review.