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The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone (original 1868; edition 2012)

by Wilkie Collins

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6,650133565 (3.97)602
Title:The Moonstone
Authors:Wilkie Collins
Info:International Alliance Pro-Publishing, LLC (2012), Paperback, 366 pages
Collections:Your library, Currently reading
Tags:fiction, classic lit, mystery

Work details

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)

  1. 90
    Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Booksloth)
  2. 62
    Drood by Dan Simmons (Jannes)
    Jannes: A (fictional) tale about Collins and his friendship with Dickens. "The Moonstone" in prominently featured. Give it a try if you're into historical thrillers.
  3. 41
    Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram-Haugh by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (Anonymous user)
  4. 21
    Dead Men Tell No Tales by E. W. Hornung (TineOliver)
    TineOliver: Both are essentially mystery novels, although Collins is both more pioneering and, in my view better written. While the two novels were published approximately 30 years apart, both are set in the mid 19th century. Reading both books allows the reader to place the works in context of other mystery novels from the 19th century. Accordingly, I am not suggesting that just because you enjoyed one means you will enjoy the other to the same extent.… (more)

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» See also 602 mentions

English (128)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (133)
Showing 1-5 of 128 (next | show all)
This is the most exciting book I've read in ages - I devoured it in 3 days and resented anything that interrupted me (work, meals etc) ( )
  lee-mervin | Jun 27, 2015 |
What a story! So many twists and turns - wonderful read. ( )
  DonnaB317 | Jun 18, 2015 |
The heroic and selfless effort of Hindus to recover a religious treasure stolen by British occupiers, transported to England, and dealt with flippantly, yet avariciously, by aristocrats. OR a delightful detective story with memorable characters like Betteredge and Gooseberry. ( )
  rsairs | Mar 8, 2015 |
Certainly a classic, but a bit of a chore to get through. ( )
  sturlington | Feb 27, 2015 |
Espionage, murder, romance and humour; this novel has them all.

Considered by many to be the inaugural detective novel, Wilkie Collins' nineteenth century novel 'The Moonstone' is a classic.

What's it about?

A precious gem is stolen, a curse follows the thief and three Hindus sacrifice their caste to retrieve it.

This brief précis gives the novel a certain exoticism, and it's true that India bookends the story, but really it's a whodunnit set in a country house. The main action focuses on a period of about a year and a half during which the sought-after diamond is stolen - again - from a Miss Rachel Verinder, mere hours after she receives it.

From this point, puzzles abound. Who stole it? Why won't Miss Rachel support the police investigation? What have the three Indians who were hanging around the house got to do with the theft?

Some of the answers initially seem obvious, but as the story develops there are several strange twists and turns that place the initial events in a very different light.

What's it like?

A little slow and repetitive in places due to the narrative structure, but there's no shortage of surprises and puzzles to keep readers intrigued, including an excellent twist half-way through.

The novel is carefully constructed from "documents", most of which are eyewitness statements commissioned by one of the key characters in the tale. Just like Collins' most famous work, 'The Woman in White', the central conceit is that each section is written by a character who is limited to telling you what they did, thought, saw and suspected at the point in the story they are writing about. This necessarily creates a little repetition at times but the narrowness of each character's vision is what contributes so effectively to the suspense.

Furthermore, some repetition is deliberate and quite helpful to the reader. Since the novel was originally serialised in Dickens' magazine 'All the Year Round' between January and August 1868, contemporary readers would have appreciated judiciously timed reminders of events which had happened in previous instalments. Reading this on an ereader meant I found it difficult to toggle between sections and so found the discreet recaps equally useful!

So has it stood the test of time?

Definitely; the aristocratic characters may have fewer real-life counterparts today, but the emotional heart of the novel rings as true as ever.

To fully appreciate this, you need to enjoy reading a lot of dialogue and accept a slow pace to the development of the mystery. The formal structure Collins adopts means the novel consists mostly of dialogue as characters explain all the key incidents to each other. This does create a certain distance and reduces the dramatic impact but is essential to create the suspense: if we had (for instance) Rosanna Spearman's account of events from Rosanna Spearman's own mouth, instead of recounted second-hand and then by letter, this would be a much shorter and far less puzzling story. Besides which, much of the enjoyment is found in the characterisation and the narrative approaches.

The narrators have very distinct voices and I particularly enjoyed the first two significant voices: Gabriel Betteredge and Miss Clack. Betteredge's narrative initially consists of a series of digressions followed by assurances of future progression of the mystery, but he's also sharply, wonderfully opinionated:

"Rosana Spearman had been a thief, and not being of the sort that get up Companies in the City, and rob from thousands, instead of only robbing from one, the law laid hold of her".

"I have myself (in spite of the bishops and the clergy) an unfeigned respect for the church"

"I can't affirm that he was on the watch for his brother officer's speedy appearance in the character of an ass - I can only say that I strongly suspected it."

"I am (thank God) constitutionally superior to reason."

If you find the above quotations from Betteredge amusing then you'll likely find this a rewarding read, and by the time Betteredge retires from his position as narrator you'll be suitably hooked by the mystery to keep reading.

The next narrator, Miss Clack, is horribly evangelical with no empathy at all, but once her hypocrisy is unveiled she is equally enjoyable in her own way, and I quickly adapted to each new speaker and their quirks.

Final thoughts

I enjoyed reading this and was suitably perplexed by the central mystery. I found the various twists and turns interesting, though you do have to be prepared to suspend disbelief about a few key points. ( )
  brokenangelkisses | Feb 27, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 128 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (117 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Collins, Wilkieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Capriolo, EttoreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cole, G. D. H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cole, MargaretIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eliot, T. S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jeffrey, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Karl, Frederick R.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lane, Dr. LauriatIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maine, G. F.General editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nayder, LillianAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stewart, J. I. M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willis, ChristineEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
In the first part of Robinson Crusoe, at page one hundred and twenty-nine, you will find it thus written: 'Now I saw, though too late, The Folly of beginning a Work before we count the Cost, and before we judge rightly of our own Strength to go through with it.'
We are all of us more or less unwilling to be brought into the world. And we are all of us right.
It is one of my rules in life, never to notice what I don't understand.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Stolen from the forehead of a Hindu idol, the dazzling gem known as "The Moonstone" resurfaces at a birthday party in an English country home-with an enigmatic trio of watchful Brahmins hot on its trail. Laced with superstitions, suspicion, humor, and romance, this 1868 mystery draws readers into a compelling tale whose twists and turns range from sleepwalking to experimentation with opium.

Described by T.S. Eliot as a "master of plot and situation," Collins possessed gifts of characterization that rivaled those of his close friend, Charles Dickens. The Moonstone exhibits these skills with suspenseful and dramatic effects, as the narrative passes from one colorful character to the next. The novel is particularly distinguished by the appearance of Sergeant Cuff, a prototype of the English detective hero and the harbinger of a popular tradition of sleuthing.
Haiku summary
History is made
As first detective novel
In English language.
Rachel gets diamond
For birthday. It's stolen at
Night: call detective!

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375757856, Paperback)

"The Moonstone is a page-turner," writes Carolyn Heilbrun. "It catches one up and unfolds its amazing story through the recountings of its several narrators, all of them enticing and singular." Wilkie Collins’s spellbinding tale of romance, theft, and murder inspired a hugely popular genre–the detective mystery. Hinging on the theft of an enormous diamond originally stolen from an Indian shrine, this riveting novel features the innovative Sergeant Cuff, the hilarious house steward Gabriel Betteridge, a lovesick housemaid, and a mysterious band of Indian jugglers.

This Modern Library Paperback Classic is set from the definitive 1871 edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:31 -0400)

(see all 11 descriptions)

Rachel Verrinder receives the stone as a gift and does not realize that it has been passed to her in a sinister form of revenge by John Herncastle who, it transpires, acquired the moonstone by means of murder and theft. The jewel also brings bad luck. The stone disappears on the very night it is given to Rachel, though, and the tale concerns the unveiling of the culprit after the intervention of Sergeant Cuff, a famous London detective.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 19 descriptions

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17 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140434089, 0141198877

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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