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'The Moonstone' by Wilkie Collins

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Posts: 107
Joined: June 2010

'The Moonstone' by Wilkie Collins

Post by writerinthenorth » Sat October 20th, 2012, 4:29 pm

I think this is generally recognized as English literature's first detective story. It certainly provides some useful patterns for others to follow, and like all great detective stories keeps the reader gripped and guessing from first till last.

Wilkie Collins was a contemporary and friend of Dickens, and there are similarities of style, though in general Collins is less given to authorial moralising or the use of the extended metaphor. Both employ the mini-climax technique to keep us turning the pages. Collins has other clever tricks up his sleeve. I particularly enjoy his multi-narrative structure, where the responsibility for telling different parts of the story is passed on from one character to another. Collins does a superb job with voice and characterisation of both male and female narrators - my favourites were the loyal servant Gabriel Betteredge with his passion for his pipe and 'Robinson Crusoe' (preferably together), and the prudish Miss Clack, a wonderful comic study in sanctimonious egotism. It is interesting also, for the modern reader who may have read Kate Summerscale's 'The Suspicions of Mr Whicher' to see the famous real-life Victorian detective portrayed in fictional form here as Sergeant Cuff.

Like most 19th Century novels 'The Moonstone' is quite long, but there is always something interesting going on and the denouement is more than satisfactory.

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Antoine Vanner
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Location: South-East England

Post by Antoine Vanner » Mon October 22nd, 2012, 9:16 pm

I read The Moonstone, or at least a version of it abridged for schools, under bizarre conditions. In 1972 I was on a job (the details don't matter) in an isolated "bush" area in Nigeria, a long way from any reasonably-sized town and likely to be isolated for several days in pretty basic living conditions. To my horror I found that I had forgotten to pack my reading material. I drove in my Land Rover over rough tracks to the nearest village in the hope - and not a very strong one - that I might find something to tide me over. The village consisted of maybe twenty houses, little better than huts, some just of wattle and daub, but it did have a school, and it did have an open-fronted store that sold very basic items - and also schoolbooks. There I found, as set texts for the secondary-level English examinations, abridged copies of Collins' "The Moonstone" and Hardy's "The Mayor of Casterbridge". I fell on them both with delight and they were much prized companions in the following evenings. Their presence in that remote area was a tribute to the excellent standards set by the Nigerian educational authorities. I wonder what the set texts are today?
Last edited by Antoine Vanner on Mon October 22nd, 2012, 9:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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