Wilkie, Wilkie, Wilkie...I am speechless (it happens). Where do I even start singing the praises of this jaw-droppingly excellent piece of detective fiction? I guess the first thing to say is 'Wilkie, you've only gone and hit the spot once again'.
I think we've all talked about the basic premise enough now for it to be quite clear but, in a nutshell, The Moonstone is about a jolly big diamond taken (nicked) from India by a slightly dodgy character who then bequeaths said ginormous diamond to his niece (potentially as punishment). Said stonking diamond is then stolen and the novel becomes a whodunit of the best kind with some exceptional characters, numerous red herrings and a denouement that utterly shocked me. THE SKILL.
The Moonstone was serialised in All the Year Round over eight months (Victorians must have been in a constant tizz at the suspense). During this time Wilkie's mum was really poorly, he himself was struck prostrate and had to dictate a few pages, and he spent most of the time in an opium daze (parallels much?).
I flicked through my notebook to write this review and I have discovered that the majority of things I wrote down are related to women. Wilkie's treatment of women, Betteredge's delightful chauvinisms, and the odd bit of twisted feminism. What can I say, I love the ladies.
'[Mrs Betteredge] was more like a fly than a woman: she couldn't settle on anything.'
'But it is a maxim of mine that men (being superior creatures) are bound to improve women - if they can.'
It's fair to say that Betteredge completely makes the novel. He is hilarious (tube chuckles happened). I love his style of narration and the tangents he takes. I love it when he starts to feel the 'detective fever' and gets all excitable. I definitely love it when he gets all cheeky at the end during the experiment and gives his 'imperfectly pointed pencil a preliminary lick with his tongue' before continuing to thoroughly disapprove of Ezra. Poor Ezra, he had it rough. I also loved his general distaste of people who have failed to live by the good word - the good word of Robinson Crusoe, that is.
'The man who doesn't believe in Robinson Crusoe, after that, is a man with a screw loose in his understanding, or a man lost in the midst of his own self conceit.'
Harsh words, Gabriel. Harsh words indeed.
I really enjoyed Ezra Jennings's narrative (coming in at a close second to Betteredge). He is a stronger man than most for just taking all the hatred and distrust aimed at him on the chin. Just because he has dodgy hair (and a dodgy appearance in general) and did something way back when, it doesn't make him a bad person. But, I find it kinda weird that he is pretty much the town doctor whilst Candy is, um, indisposed. He does seem to have a bit of the genius about him though. I actually browsed back through the novel upon finishing it and I came across a mention of Ezra early on in Betteredge's narration that eludes to the general dislike of the poor fellow. That made me wonder what the experience of re-reading would be like. I've re-read The Woman in White several times and every time I discovered something new so I'm guessing it would be much the same here. I wonder if the perpetrator will become obvious earlier if I know what to look for.
Speaking of perpetrators - did anyone guess that ending? I so did not. I found the opium element brilliantly outlandish and it explained away all of Rachel's general spoilt brat-ness. But the person who actually did the deed? I totally didn't think he had the stones for it. Although, again when I was flicking back through my notebook, I wrote down this quote: '[he was] ogling Miss Rachel'. 'He' is the perp. I clearly knew subconsciously from the start that he was a little less than a gentleman. Ogling is so ungentlemanly.
To sum up my meandering and rambling thoughts: basically, it's love. I knew it would be but to have it so brilliantly confirmed has been wonderful. It is not quite as sensational as The Woman in White but completely on par with it. Wilkie Collins has officially made his way into the top spot as my favourite author. I have nothing left to say now except, read it. Just go ahead and read it, enjoy it, laugh at it and love it (with any luck).
Fun fact: Sergeant Cuff, aside from being an eccentric-rose-loving-babe, was also one of the first fictional characters to use a magnifying glass. Cool, huh?
Previous #readWilkie posts (including those with participant links):
#readWilkie: The Start
5 Reasons to Love Wilkie Collins
#readWilkie: The Half-Way Point
A big virtual hug and pat on the back to all you lovelies who read Wilkie with me and made November a top notch month.