The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone by Wilkie CollinsThe Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins is a real classic. It’s not just old and (relatively) famous, it’s also one of the first detective stories ever written. The book is mentioned by Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher as being influenced by a real case, which she describes in detail.

Both the case that police detective Mr Whicher has to deal with and the case in The Moonstone deal with a locked-house situation. In the case of The Moonstone a very expensive diamond is stolen although it is clear no one has entered or left the house since the diamond was put away in the evening. So, one of the people present has to be the thief.

The book is told by different people that have all been asked to put their view on the events on paper. A large part of the story is told by the house-steward Gabriel Betteredge and by Franklin Blake, a cousin of the owner of the house, lady Verinder. In total seven people tell the story, each picking up the story where the other leaves off.

The book makes use of current (1860s) research on memory and experimentation with drugs, which was very interesting and even now we would agree with most of the findings. I think Wilkie Collins put some work in researching these issues as well as police detecting methods of the time.

For me, like with many classics, the book was a slow read. I was prepared to read long-winded sentences but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed it. That is, I love this kind of language, it’s just that a whole book full of it is a bit much!

Also, the story itself went on and on. We were led to believe one version of the proceedings during the theft, then another and only after a very long time and very many pages do we finally come to the truth of the matter. And it wasn’t that exciting an explanation.

But I’m not complaining (too much). I did enjoy reading it. I liked the way the house-steward is so concerned about “his” lady and tries to get all details of his job right. I liked Miss Clack, the Christian narrator who is concerned mostly with leaving Christian literature for her aunt to read, never mind her aunt is dying (all the more reason to get her to read a few good lines). She is so boring and everyone’s so bored by her! She describes the reaction she has on people but does not seem to realize that they don’t like her. And so there are other interesting characters in the story.

I also read Collins’ The Woman in White which is told by several narrators, too. I found that story more interesting than The Moonstone although the writing style was, of course, very similar.

Rating: 3.5/5

I got this book: from Waterstone’s bookshop in Brussels.

I read this in: the original language, English.

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

20 Responses to The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

  1. amymckie says:

    Oh I had forgotten about this book, though it went on my wishlist after Summerscale’s book. Good to see that it was enjoyable, if tedious 🙂

  2. Bella says:

    Lots of people have recommeded this one to me because I love old mysteries. I think I definitely have to add it to my list.

  3. I am hoping to get to this book in the next couple of months. I read The Woman in White last year and loved it and I am ready for some more Collins now.

  4. I would be annoyed that this one went on and on a little too much, which I was afraid of. I still want to read it though!

  5. Iris says:

    I still have to read my first Wilkie Collins, but I’m looking forward to it! But then I’m in a classics mood at the moment..

  6. Tes says:

    I have heard about this book and wanna read it for a long time now… thanx for the review!

  7. Alex says:

    I read The Woman in White for my bookclub last year and felt exactly as you did about this one: interesting details, but just too long.

    I also had some problems with the very-good or very-bad characters. Were they also like this in The Moonstone?

    • leeswammes says:

      No, I didn’t feel that some people were very good or very bad. I thought it was more subtile. Any character could be a suspect in my opinion, in this book, and a few people indeed became suspects. But it didn’t seem like some people were “too good” to be suspected or very bad.

  8. Dorte H says:

    I just came by from Cathy´s blog.

    Like you, I found The Moonstone somewhat slow and liked The Woman in White much more. Partly because I found the story of the mysterious woman rather intriguing.

    Tot siens.

    Dorte, Denmark.

  9. Kailana says:

    I had considered reading this book for the R.I.P. this year but I haven’t made any effort to acquire it yet. I still have a month left, though. I did read The Suspicions of Mr. Whichler, though, and thought it was pretty good!

    • leeswammes says:

      Kailana, The Moonstone was based on the case that is mentioned in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, so if you liked that, it’s probably worth picking it up sometime.

  10. bekkah says:

    I agree, The Moonstone was a bit drawn out at times, but I enjoyed it very much. I’m looking forward to eventually picking up The Woman in White!

  11. Pingback: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins | Iris on Books

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