The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

07Jan07

Synopsis:
The theft of a rare diamond from India throws an upper class family and their servants into disarray and suspicion.

Review:
Published in 1868 and taking place from 1847-48, The Moonstone is one of my selections for the Winter Classics Challenge and the Chunkster Challenge. I knew that it was the first novel to introduce the classic British detective character, but I was not prepared for how funny and satirical the book would be. Collins structures the book around a series of first-person narratives from various characters, and each one has a separate, distinct voice that shows them in all their idiosyncratic glory. They are so true to themselves that they are not aware that we could be laughing at their foolishness, particularly the odiously pious Miss Clack.

In terms of the mystery, well, modern readers will not find this to be a particularly satisfying or sophisticated story. A typical episode of “Law and Order” runs circles around this story, and it’s important to keep in mind that this book has not stood the test of time because of the intricacy of its plotting. Rather, it’s Collins’s keen understanding of human nature and his wickedly funny prose that make The Moonstone such a delight to read today. I would recommend this book to any younger reader enjoying Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie.

Here’s a list of the other Winter Classics participants who are reading The Moonstone:

Restless Reader
The Indextrious Reader
My Individual Take
Holly Dolly

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4 Responses to “The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins”

  1. I would agree with you that Collins’ humor here is one of the best selling points of this book. The other major reason that it remains in print is that it was one of the first modern detective stories and gets picked up for that reason as well.

  2. I read this book back in September and just re-read my review. I totally agree with you. The characters are truly wonderful. I loved Mr. Betteredge and his devotion to Robinson Crusoe. Great review.

  3. Hi! I read The Moonstone as my first Classics Challenge as well (in case you want to add me to the list, my blog is http://astripedarmchair.blogspot.com). I agree that Collins’ satire is what makes the book fun. I really hated Miss Clack though. I couldn’t even laugh, I found her so incredibly self-righteous!

  4. Oh–Miss Clack was my favorite!! I loved her pamphlets and smug self-righteousness. Her chapters were the funniest. Though Betteredge comes in a close second, for Framed’s reasons–


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