23 December 2011

Victorian Controversies, 1868: Imperialism

The next three days, I'll be talking about three more works of "Victorian controversies," derived from my reading for the graduate seminar I just finished taking...

The Moonstone
by Wilkie Collins

I've previously read two novels by Wilkie Collins, No Name and The Woman in White, the first of which was good and the second was brilliant.  I picked up The Moonstone on the strength of those, but this class caused it to jump ahead on my reading list a bit.  The Moonstone falls somewhere between the two of those in terms of quality.  It's great, just not as great as The Woman in White.

Like The Woman in White (not to mention the later Dracula), the conceit of The Moonstone is that the only way for the characters to understand the events that have just happened is to look at them objectively, which requires obtaining statements from everyone involved and assembling them into a narrative.  This means there's a varied set of voices, the best of which is clearly the first one, narrated from the perspective of Betteredge, the head servant.  His section is just a joy to read-- not only is it funny, but there's twists and turns a-plenty, and Collins shows that he's still one of the best writers of "suspense."  None of the other narrators are quite as good (except for the evangelist Drusilla Clack), but the mystery unfolds itself in enjoyable fashion regardless, and the ultimate resolution is indeed fairly surprising.  (Sergeant Cuff doesn't really ever get to narrate, but he's still awesome; I'd read a series of books about Cuff and Betteredge solving crimes together.  Heck, I'd write it.)

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