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Would you Drood with me? *Spoilers May Lurk Here*

The Green Dragon

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1MrsLee
Feb 23, 9:56am Top

A couple of pub denizens have decided to read The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens and Drood by Dan Simmons during the month of March.

Feel free to join in the conversation if you have already read these, or join us in the reading! This is an open-ended thread, so if you stumble upon it three years from now, you are never too late to participate. Just comment and the thread will revive. :)

As for spoilerish comments, I have put the warning in the title, so take your own risks. I find it dreary to open a thread and see that it is all spoiler-hidden if it is about a book I am reading. What I will do, is mention at the beginning of any comments I make which chapter of the book I am in, so readers can skip/read/wait if they are not there. I suggest that if you haven't read the books, but intend to sometime soon, star the thread and come back to it when you've read the books.

Hoping to start reading Drood today, but I've some chores to do first. I've already read the Dickens book, and refreshed my memory on Wikipedia, so I'm not going to read it again. I didn't love it that much the first time. Didn't dislike it either, but life is short and my reading time is getting shorter and shorter, so I only reread books I adore.

2MrsLee
Edited: Feb 23, 10:00am Top

This is the cover I am reading.


I hope others will post their covers if different than mine. I'm looking at you pgmcc, because yours is wonderful.

3hfglen
Feb 23, 10:43am Top

Pardon me sitting this one out. A too-close acquaintance with Edwin Drood as a school set-work has given me a lifelong, passionate hatred of anything to do with Dickens -- aided and abetted, I must say in all fairness, by exceptionally gloomy Victorian prints of Scenes From Dickens that one was supposed to admire on every wall of the Aged Mother's uncle's house. Yeurgh.

4haydninvienna
Feb 23, 10:51am Top

I’ve starred it and will lurk.

5pgmcc
Feb 23, 1:29pm Top

>2 MrsLee:
Your wish is my command.


6Bookmarque
Feb 23, 2:44pm Top

Well since I haven't read the Simmons book, or even started it, I might not look in much since there will be spoilers about. When I get a moment I'll pop in with my thoughts on the Dickens.

7MrsLee
Feb 24, 10:05am Top

Having dipped my toes in up to chapter 3, here are my initial thoughts.

The first chapter's malicious/snarky tone nearly put me off the entire book. It required that I step aside and do a little (and by a little I mean Wikipedia) research on the lives of Dickens and Collins, and a few sidelines that came up through that research.

Chapter two was fairly engrossing, requiring a bit more research on the actual event spoken of.

Chapter three moved along, until near the end when the Franklin Expedition was mentioned, which then required more research and ended in me spending the rest of the evening reading about the recent discoveries of that Expedition and its fate.

At this rate, it will take me the rest of the year to read this, but I will then be an armchair expert on the 1840s-1860s in England.

8pgmcc
Feb 24, 11:40am Top

>7 MrsLee: One of the things the book drove me to was learning more about Dickens and Collins.

9MrsLee
Feb 25, 9:02am Top

Last night the rabbit trails were rheumatoid gout (I had heard of rheumatoid arthritis, but not gout, then of course I traveled through several medical sites reading about both, and the historical treatments thereof) and laudanum. Same thing, several webpages for the history of it.

What with that, and trying to make some good progress in my nonfiction books of the moment, I am still on chapter 3.

I'm not sure whether these diversions are a sign that the story isn't compelling to me, or that my brain is very distractable at the moment, or that the author is making the subjects interesting and therefore causing me to read further. I don't hate the story, but I wonder if there will be more to it than was foretold in the first chapter or not.

10Bookmarque
Feb 25, 10:04am Top

Sorry for the long post. I'm trying to catch up with MrsL!!

Notes on The Mystery of Edwin Drood (up to chapter 15 Impeached)-
* Opium dreams! What an opening

* I love how one opium addict looks down on another - it’s so typical of a highly stratified society that even the lowest will try to elevate themselves above someone. Anyone. “‘What visions can she have?’ the waking man muses, as he turns her face toward him, and stands looking down at it. ‘Visions of many butchers’ shops, and public-houses, and much credit? Of an increase of hideous customers, and this horrible bedstead set upright again, and this horrible court swept clean? What can she rise to, under any quantity of opium, higher than that?’” No! My opium dreams are better than yours!

*Mr. Jasper must have been the baby of the family to have a nephew as old as Edwin

* {the Nun’s House} “irregularly modernised here and there, as steadily deteriorating generations found, more and more, that they preferred air and light to Fever and the Plague.” Funny

* Mr. Jasper & Mr. Sapsea meeting = mutual admiration society

* Wow. Dickens sets up a buffoon so well (Sapsea) that I can’t wait for his downfall. “When I made my (marriage) proposal, she did me the honor to be so overshadowed with a species of Awe, as to be able to articulate only the two words “O Thou!” meaning myself. Her limpid blue eyes were fixed upon me, her semi-transparent hands (ew) were clasped together, pallor overspread her aquiline features, and, though encouraged to proceed, she never did proceed a word further.” OMG! Swoon in the great man’s presence and his stooping to notice you and, oh joy of joys, want to make you his devoted slave. Oh crap, this is an unfinished novel so…

* OMG and what he puts on her gravestone!

Ethelinda
Reverential Wife of
Mr. Thomas Sapsea,
Auctioneer, valuer, estate agent etc
Of this city
Whose Knowledge of the World
Though somewhat extensive,
Never brought him acquainted with
A SPIRIT
More capable of
Looking up to him.
STRANGER, PAUSE
And ask thyself the Question
CANST THOU DO LIKEWISE
If Not,
WITH A BLUSH RETIRE


* Why so much about the absurd Durdles? What’s the plan for him?

* Mr. Honeythunder!! An 19th century porn name!

* And of Mr. Honeythunder - “still his philanthropy was of that gunpowderous sort that the difference between it and animosity was hard to determine.”

* I love Neville’s fight with Edwin and then his grand flounce!

* I picture Durdles like Pigpen - in a cloud of dirt

* “As aeronauts lighten the load they carry, when the wish to rise, similarly Durdles has lightened the wicker bottle in coming up.” “And as aeronauts make themselves heavier when they wish to descend, similarly Durdles charges himself with more liquid from the wicker bottle, that he may come down the better.” - neat, that. Durdles is no fool.

* Jasper and Durdles go spelunking and it’s described as an unaccountable expedition - the whole book is starting to feel this way.

* Rosa tells Edwin that they really don’t have to get married and neither of them has been exactly enthusiastic about it. Edwin’s reaction is typically misogynist - “It was new and strange to him to have himself presented to himself so clearly, in a glass of her holding up. He had always patronized her, in his superiority to her share of woman’s wit.”

* And boy are the English of this period xenophobic - “Mr. Sapsea is by no means friendly towards the inflammable young spark (Neville). He says that his complexion is ‘Un-English’. And when Mr. Sapsea has once declared anything to be Un-English, he considers that thing everlastingly sunk in the bottomless pit.”

Anyway...that’s as far as I’ve read and it seems that Neville has gone walkabout with his giant and heavy walking stick. No one can find Edwin and there is a panic ensuing in the Cathedral backwater.

Normally I don’t have a problem with Dickens. His wit, insight, plots and characterizations are usually pretty satisfying, but this one feels prolonged and unedited. I will plod through though as things seem to be hotting up.

11MrsLee
Feb 26, 9:16am Top

Dickens excels at creating cringe-worthy characters! Not all of them are bad people, either. The simpering sickly girl in one of his stories made me rather glad when she died, just because she was so useless, except somehow had a great attraction factor for the boy/man in the story. My brain is betraying me on which story that was at the moment. Dora. was her name Dora? Anyway, nothing to do with these stories. :) Except possibly that Dickens himself had a slightly twisted view of women?

I finished the 3rd chapter last night. I really don't like the vitriol spewing from the narrator. I don't mind a slightly bitter outlook on life, but this is making me not care much about what he thinks. I'm trying to imagine that it is the laudanum.

12Bookmarque
Edited: Feb 26, 9:36am Top

Dora was...I think, David Copperfield's wife and I hated her, too. People say Nell in Little Nell is just as bad and that you cheer when she kicks the bucket.

Am trying to tie up some other books before hitting the Simmons book. Is the narrator Collins, or a Collins stand-in? I seem to recall Simmons sets him up as a rival, which I suppose he was, but I think mostly they were friends.

And speaking of Collins, he creates a cringe-worthy female, too. In The Woman in White, Laura is practically inert, but people fall all over themselves doing things for her and protecting her from basically everything. It's really puzzling why this kind of female is so entrancing. Just so everyone else can feel strong and superior? I guess that must be it.

13haydninvienna
Feb 26, 9:43am Top

>12 Bookmarque: I found the same about Laura Fairlie. She is beautiful and good and next to useless and you just want to shake her. I gave up reading for a time because I couldn't work out why Walter didn't just give up on Laura and get it on with the much more attractive Marian. Actually, that's a difference between Collins and Dickens (disavowing any special expertise in either). Dickens' women are all either Dora or figures of fun. Collins at least managed to create Marian Halcombe.

14Bookmarque
Feb 26, 10:02am Top

I'm glad I wasn't the only one. Marian's downfall was that she was all brains and no beauty, the only thing women were valued by in those days...what am saying. The only thing women are valued for. But at least he gave it a try. Check out The Legacy of Cain if you have a mind. We've got the limpid female and the scheming female...basically the two women of Victorian sensation novels.

15Bookmarque
Feb 26, 10:04am Top

Oh and I did finish Edwin Drood and it was kind of a slog. I skimmed a lot because I knew there were no ends to tie up or facets of the story I had to remember for the ending to make sense. Frankly I was relieved it was over. I wonder where Dickens was going to take it...as does everyone. I hope he would have tightened it up a bit, too, but that's probably a hopeless wish.

16haydninvienna
Edited: Feb 27, 4:45am Top

>11 MrsLee: Dickens and Collins were at least mostly friends and sometimes collaborators. Possibly Dan Simmons has attached Collins' name to a constructed character like that of Salieri in Amadeus. (Mozart and Salieri certainly knew each other, and seem to have been respectful professional rivals. Salieri was certainly not the buffoon he is presented as in Amadeus.)

I just started to wonder what Collins' point was in creating Laura Fairlie. But that's a speculation for another thread.

ETA: I meant that maybe Laura wasn't his ideal female character. Maybe he was trying to make a particular point about the helplessness of certain women in certain situations.

17MrsLee
Feb 27, 8:55am Top

>16 haydninvienna: I haven't read that Collins novel, but I read a different one. A ghost story which took place in Venice, I believe. I would have to look up my notes on it to remember anything about the women, and my internet is down at the moment, so I'm on my tablet with 4G, which isn't as easy to navigate as my desktop.

Simmons isn't so much setting Dickens and Collins as rivals, so much as making Collins seem a very jealous and spiteful person who only pretends to like Dickens. A bit like Salieri in that he seems to be getting a thrill out of watching his friend lose it. But, I'm only at chapter 4.

Collins in real life was not married. He had two women he lived with, one of whom had some children by him. Not sure what that says about his views of women, possibly it would depend on if he made any provisions for them when he died?

18-pilgrim-
Feb 28, 5:15am Top

>17 MrsLee: Hi. I have been lurking, hoping that listening to you Dickens lovers will enable me to revise my views of him.

I am unclear whether Collins' dislike of marriage was a protofeminist dislike of the subordination of the wife which that entailed, or something rather less noble. I note that both his permanent relationships were with women of lower social class, who never accompanied him socially. Should we interpret this as snobbery, or a necessary compromise made by someone dependent on popular approval for his livelihood?

Apparently he made generous provision for his children in his will, but I have not heard any mention of provision for the women.

However one thing that counts in his favour is this: he took up with the much younger Martha Rudd when Caroline Graves left him to marry someone else. She returned to him two years later. It seems evident that she was the love of his life. However he did not act as many of the men of that era would have done; he did not abandon the girl whose "prospects" he had ruined. He continued to support both families for the rest of his life. (Of course, since he also had more children by Martha, this could simply be taken as "having one's cake and eating it"!)

19MrsLee
Feb 28, 9:14am Top

>18 -pilgrim-: It's very difficult for us to judge from this distance. :)

20pgmcc
Feb 28, 9:20am Top

>18 -pilgrim-: & >19 MrsLee: If one has cake what is one supposed to do with it?

;-)

21haydninvienna
Feb 28, 9:58am Top

>17 MrsLee: There is apparently a biography of Collins by Peter Ackroyd. I don't know that I want to buy it, but I may see if I can get it from a library. According to Wikipedia:
In 1858 Collins began living with Caroline Graves and her daughter Harriet. Caroline came from a humble family, having married young, had a child, and been widowed. Collins lived close to the small shop kept by Caroline, and the two may have met in the neighborhood in the mid–1850s. He treated Harriet, whom he called Carrie, as his own daughter, and helped to provide for her education. Excepting one short separation, they lived together for the rest of Collins's life. Collins disliked the institution of marriage, but remained dedicated to Caroline and Harriet, considering them to be his family. Caroline had wanted to marry Collins. She left him while he wrote The Moonstone and was suffering an attack of acute gout. She then married a younger man named Joseph Clow, but returned to Collins after two years.

In 1868, Collins met Martha Rudd in Winterton-on-Sea in Norfolk, and the two began a liaison. She was 19 years old and from a large, poor family. She moved to London to be closer to him a few years later. Their daughter Marian was born in 1869, their second daughter, Harriet Constance, in 1871 and their son, William Charles, in 1874. When he was with Martha he assumed the name William Dawson, and she and their children used the last name of Dawson themselves.

For the last 20 years of his life Collins divided his time between Caroline, who lived with him at his home in Gloucester Place, and Martha who was nearby.

I get upset about how Amadeus treated Salieri. Peter Shaffer was making a point about how the utmost genius seems to be given at random and is often bestowed on an unworthy vessel rather than on one who has worked diligently for it. I'm not entirely sure that Mozart was human, but he wasn't the gibbering ape in the movie and Salieri wasn't the buffoon either. Which is to say that Simmons' "Collins" is a fictional construct and need bear no resemblance to the real one. Presumably there is a point to his doing so, which we will find out in due course.

22hfglen
Feb 28, 11:08am Top

FWIW, BBC are broadcasting a dramatisation of The Woman in White on Radio 4 Extra. The first episode is here, and will remain available for just under 4 weeks.

23MrsLee
Feb 28, 11:40pm Top

>21 haydninvienna: I agree about Amadeus, and will try to keep in mind that this is a fictional construct. Actually, I don't confuse the narrator with the real Collins, I just don't like the narrator and hope it turns out that there is a good reason for his nastiness.

>22 hfglen: Thank you Hugh. :)

24MrsLee
Mar 3, 10:51am Top

Oh dear. I am struggling with this book. Sometimes I feel like the author is doing an info-dump just to work in all the knowledge he has on Victorian England. I don't know. I keep looking at the thickness and trying hard to read on and make progress, but I'm not loving it and can't seem to manage more than 2 chapters when I sit down to read it. Yesterday I found myself only reading the dialog between Collins and Detective Field, and skimming that. This is not a good sign folks.

It isn't that the subject matter isn't interesting. Who wouldn't want to know more about the foetid conditions of Victorian London in exhausting details? No, I don't have a problem with the subject matter, or even the writing, but I really, really dislike this portrayal of Collins. I don't like him. He's a passive whiner. He's a snarky, stab-you-in-the-back-from-a-safe-distance-of-150-years person.

Not sure I will be able to finish this one, but I am going to give it a good go, more than the Pearl rule for sure. Another weekend or two anyway.

25Bookmarque
Mar 3, 12:08pm Top

Oh boy. That does not bode well for me wanting to read it. I've only read The Terror by Simmons and found that to be overly long as well.

26pgmcc
Mar 3, 12:40pm Top

>24 MrsLee: I remember thinking that if I were a descendant of Collins I would be taking a case against Simmons. He is not portrayed in the best light.

27-pilgrim-
Mar 4, 1:00am Top

>26 pgmcc: What sort of case do you have in mind? As far as I recall, slander and libel laws only protect the living, not the good name of the dead (who cannot bring a case). Hence the unseemly rush into print when someone dies.

28haydninvienna
Mar 4, 2:44am Top

>27 -pilgrim-: Well, yes, but some people can be cunning or stupid. In 1927 a man called Peter Wright published allegations that the former Prime Minister Gladstone consorted with prostitutes and was one of Lillie Langtry's lovers. Glastone's sons called Wright a liar publicly and Wright was foolish enough to sue them. So even though Gladstone could not sue, his reputation was clearly relevant.
... Gladstone became involved in a bizarre posthumous libel action when, in 1927, his surviving sons clashed with the author Peter Wright who had alleged that the prime minister was immoral. Gladstone's sons called the author a liar and Wright sued. Wright had been more obsessed with Gladstone's obsession with courtesans and upper class women of fortune than the prostitutes he tried to save and he had named Langtry as one of the prime minister's lovers, which she had furiously denied (she said he was too old, financially a mistake - but those were pre-Max Clifford years). Wright had said that he thought it most improbable that with a mistress on Grosvenor Square (Langtry), Gladstone would go and pick up girls on the street. But, seeking damages from the sons and heirs in the libel courts, he was wholly unable to provide evidence of wrongdoing and was, so the reports at the time said, torn to shreds by counsel for the Gladstone brothers. Author Wright's mistake, like Oscar Wilde's before him (and many, many since), was to try to use the libel courts to protect their own dodgy reputation.
(From here.)

29pgmcc
Mar 4, 3:25am Top

>27 -pilgrim-: What Richard said in >28 haydninvienna:. :-)

30MrsLee
Mar 4, 8:55am Top

>28 haydninvienna: I enjoyed reading your little bit of legal history much more than I'm enjoying Drood. :)

31haydninvienna
Mar 4, 11:48am Top

>30 MrsLee: I take it that you're saying that Drood is really tough going rather than that I'm (or the Guardian writer is) awesomely brilliant.

32-pilgrim-
Mar 4, 2:57pm Top

>28 haydninvienna:, >29 pgmcc: With a known lawyer on the thread, I felt sure I would get an answer to my question! ;)

But does success rely on the author of the original calumny pulling a Wilde? The Guardian article seemed to suggest an alternative approach of proving material damage to the heirs of the estate, but that surely would not work now in the hypothetical case of Collins?

33pgmcc
Mar 4, 3:31pm Top

>32 -pilgrim-: I shall bow to my learned council's professional expertise.

34Bookmarque
Mar 4, 4:43pm Top

Went to the library today. Took one look at the size of Drood. Remembered MrsL's posts.

Walked away.

Just not prepared to tackle it. Not now. Maybe not ever.

35pgmcc
Mar 4, 4:46pm Top

>34 Bookmarque: That was a glorious image you conjured up in my mind.

36pgmcc
Mar 4, 4:52pm Top

I have just scanned my own review of Drood to ensure it is spoiler free. I suggest you both might benefit from reading it at this point.

37MrsLee
Mar 4, 8:31pm Top

>36 pgmcc: Oh drat! Here was I thinking you loved this book, and I was trying so hard to give it a fighting chance, and wondering what on earth you had found to love in it. I must say I'm rather relieved after reading that.

I will probably not finish the book but skim a bit more to confirm my inclination. I already have an interest in reading Collins and Dicken's works, so I don't need this book for that purpose.

38pgmcc
Edited: Mar 7, 11:19am Top

>37 MrsLee: I did not want to colour your impression of the book. I liked the Dickens and the various conjectures about how he might have ended it if he lived. I wanted to see what Simmons did with the story but he did nothing other than steal a few characters and the name. Simmons made Collins out to be a total drug addict and half the story is put down to his drug induced hallucinations which, to be honest, is a bit of a con; a variation on the old, “it was all a dream” plot. It was a bit of a Bobby Ewing trick in my opinion.

39MrsLee
Mar 5, 9:05am Top

>38 pgmcc: That's the impression I had when I did a quick skim of the ending.

So how about it folks? Anyone out there who really loved this book? I would like to hear about it if so. It has to have supporters because it made such a splash. Or does it?

40MrsLee
Mar 7, 10:46am Top

I'm done. After 200+ pages, I found myself resenting the other 500 every time I picked up the book. I tried. I really did. Perhaps this book will appeal to someone else, but not to me.

Has there ever been a reading thread which crashed so ignominiously?

41Bookmarque
Mar 7, 11:55am Top

and I didn't even dare crack the cover!

42Karlstar
Mar 18, 2:34pm Top

Not me! I'm relieved that you folks had similar views on Drood. I finished it, but my main feeling after reading it was Why? or maybe What?.

43pgmcc
Mar 18, 2:55pm Top

>42 Karlstar: It would appear we are unanimous.

44NorthernStar
Mar 18, 4:52pm Top

Thank you all for your time and your comments. This book is going on my never-going-to-bother-with list.

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