THE MOONSTONE

SONY DSC

Author: Wilkie Collins (1824 – 1889)
Publisher: Wordsworth Classics (1999 edition)
Bought from: NoQ Store

Introduction

Wilkie Collins was an English author. He was friends and collaborated with Charles Dickens.

Collins was a prolific writer but is remembered today for The Woman in White (serialised Nov 1859 – Aug 1860) and The Moonstone (serialised Jan – Aug 1868). The Moonstone was first serialised in Dickens’ periodical All The Year Round, which had also published The Woman in White.

The Moonstone is similar to The Woman in White in several aspects. They are both examples of the literary genre known as sensation fiction, in which evil deeds take place under the veneer of Victorian middle class respectability.  They both utilise the device of multiple first person narrators recounting events using letters, journal entries and other documents. The Moonstone is considered one of the first novels in the English language to feature a professional detective and there is a locked-room mystery at the heart of the story. Across the Atlantic, Edgar Allan Poe had written short stories containing a gentleman detective, C. Dupin Auguste, The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841), The Mystery of Marie Rogêt (1842) and The Purloined Letter (1844), all published before The Moonstone. These works of Collins and Poe would pave the way for Sherlock Holmes, the greatest literary detective of all.

What is the story about?

The Moonstone will have its vengeance yet on you and yours.
(p 10)

With that curse, the story unfolds of the havoc wreaked by the stolen diamond on the Verinder, Herncastle and Ablewhite families. The story contains manyelements associated with sensation fiction: unrequited love, class difference, menacing foreigners, aristocrats on the brink of bankruptcy, a heroine in peril, drugs and poison, disguises, a young heiress with a substantial inheritance and middle-class villainy.

Themes

The name of Collins’ professional detective, Sergeant Cuff, is an aptronym, ie a name that matches the profession of its owner. Although it is noted that Sergeant Cuff did not actually handcuff anyone in the story.

How is the book?

This is a complete and unabridged edition from Wordsworth Classics. It comes with an introduction and brief notes written by David Blair of University of Kent at Canterbury. Wilkie Collins’ works are available online for free. But this Wordsworth Classics edition, costing only S$3.85 net bought during a free-delivery promotion, is attractively priced.

Finally …

The use of 11 different narrators allowed Collins to vary the tone in different parts of the novel. The accounts of Gabriel Betteredge, the Verinders’ loyal house-steward, and Drusilla Clack, an evangelical busybody, are pretty humourous compared to the non-nonsense narratives of Franklin Blake, Sergeant Cuff and Mathew Bruff.

The experiment conducted by Ezra Jennings, which helped clear some aspects of the mystery, is a little far-fetched.

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