The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It took me about seven months to finish this book. I listened to it at night on Kindle via text-to-speech. "The Moonstone" is a mystery involving the theft of an enormous Indian diamond called The Moonstone which is fated to be cursed. The mystery is who stole it the night of Miss Rachel Verinder's birthday. She had shortly received the diamond as a bequest from a deceased uncle, carried by the dashing young Mr. Franklin Blake on his travel to England.
According to Wikipedia, this is the first English detective novel. It's also an interesting use of the Epistolary format, including varied narratives, most interestingly that of the Gabriel Betteridge, the trusted house steward of Lady Verinder, Rachel's mother. I don't know if Collins intended for Betteridge's point of view to be so hilarious but it was. Most hilarious is his obsession with the novel Robinson Crusoe. He takes the same amount of inspiration and guidance from this book that people might take from The Bible. He's also really opinionated and not afraid to express his opinion. Miss Clack's narrative is more ironicly humorous. She is a very puritanical woman who is constantly trying to foist off her Christian pamphlets on others, but demonstrates few Christian virtues in other ways.
Interestingly enough, the true detective, Sergeant Cuff, seems to have the smallest narrative. I can't help but think this was done on purpose. If he was around to solve the mystery for most of the book, I think it would have ended a lot sooner. I liked his appreciation for roses, not quite what you would expect from a gruff police investigator.
What is sad is the narrative of Rosanna Spearman, a misunderstood and unfortunate young woman who was unlucky enough to fall in love with a man who was completely unattainable in every way, despite her efforts to protect him from what she viewed as his own crime. This part made me feel deeply for Rosanna, merely a victim of chance and circumstance.
Franklin Blake is a character that one is automatically predisposed to believe the worst about. He's the definition of 'amiable rogue' and 'dilettante.'. However, he is revealed to have a depth of character that one wouldn't expect at first glance.
Miss Rachel Verinder herself has no narrative, but she is seen through the eyes of other characters. I felt that she was probably the least interesting of the major characters. She reads as quite typical of a young woman of her class, but she is clearly a decent and kind woman.
There is a bit of a romance in the story that I found sweet and appealing, not distracting. It ties into the story and it reveals much about two of the characters.
To be honest, I probably could have gleaned a lot more from this book if my reading had not been so episodic. However, I do appreciate Collins' skill with writing a clever detective story, and his use of so many narratives, having done so cohesively. While each narrator has a different voice, it all comes together very pleasingly. He seemed to take a lot of time develop the characters, even the less important ones.
Social issues I felt that this novel touches on (My opinion, mind you, since I made an effort not to read up on The Moonstone before writing my review.):
*Social Strata--Boundaries between the social classes and where they intersect intimately in some ways, but most doors are largely closed between the classes. You do see that the middle class seems to be absorbing the upper class as society changes.
*The roles of women in society
*The change in society in which the landed gentry's way of life is dying in favor or the middle class development.
*Imperialism and appropriation of treasured objects from colonized lands
Readers who want a more thorough and expert analysis of this book can look to these resources:
The Moonstone Wikipedia page
SparkNotes The Moonstone page
View all my reviews