Sunday, 27 January 2013

Too late...and The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

I feel that the time for a round-up of 2012 has passed. Since the start of the year my energies have been taken up in trying to plan for the future while preparing to hand over 20 years of accumulated "stuff" to someone else. At the same time there are grant applications, a conference to organise, membership renewals to chase, newsletters to be written...I'm still doing all the things I would be doing if I weren't leaving plus a whole lot of extras. Which may well mean that I don't appear here much until after it's all over. I'm trying, too, to prepare myself for change, to think about business plans and strategies, but although I want to throw myself into that, I shall have to be patient!

Reading has inevitably suffered. I find myself picking something up and reading a hundred pages or so and losing interest. Nothing wrong with the books, they are just failing to hold my attention. So there will be a lot of re-reading and comfort reading, I guess (it's a pity I used some of the best candidates up while I was waiting for news from work last year!) and quite a bit more giving up half-way. I shall aim to finish my Century of Books this year, and I plan to re-read all of Barbara Pym's novels in celebration of the 100th anniversary of her birth.

Current reading is The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, which is proving very soothing and just what I need. It's a long book but doesn't feel it, and is told in several voices, not, as might be done today, in alternating chapters, but in parts. Part one is told by a much-loved old family retainer, part two by an infuriatingly evangelical cousin, three by the family lawyer and so on. They are all to some extent partial observers, if not necessarily to be entirely distrusted, but they each tell the story to which they are witnesses while the person who is the main actor, Rachel Verinder, remains a rather shadowy figure whose motives are hard to interpret.


It manages to be Dickensian -- full of lurking strangers and shivering quicksands -- without an extensive cast of characters and multiplicity of subplots, so events move along quite briskly while the reader tries to work out who can have stolen the huge diamond that Rachel inherited on her eighteenth birthday. On this reading I found myself being very aware of the various devices used to set up later events - much more so than I generally am, I'm a very passive reader as a rule. I can't decide whether that means that Collins is particularly transparent or just that I was in a noticing state of mind! I was also very conscious, and more critically so, of the Moonstone itself - to the Indians who seek it, it's a stone of great spiritual importance, and it's always acknowledged that John Herncastle stole it from the temple at Seringapatam. As the intact stone, the form in which it is precious to the Indians, of course, it is flawed, whereas broken up and re-cut it would simultaneously become of immense value and be rendered powerless. As a metaphor for the role of British in India, I find this chilling.

I'm not going to write further about The Moonstone, much as I like it, because there are masses of excellent reviews of it already. I've listed a few below. Meanwhile I have also been reading a new(ish) children's book, The Salt-Stained Book, which I absolutely love, and reviewed yesterday at Hurlyburlybuss.

Some more views on The Moonstone:

Margaret at Booksplease
Iris on Books
Simon at SavidgeReads
Jackie at Farm Lane Books
Book Snob

8 comments:

  1. when good books can't hold your attention it's called anxioty and stress!.. that being said.. I love Wilkie Collins writing and read this and a few others by him..I like Dickens by like Collins more! There I said it and I"m glad lol

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    1. I think I'm going to have a binge on Collins, he's so satisfying to read. I've got Bleak House as an audio book to listen too, as well - my favourite Dickens :-)

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  2. I hope all the changes in your life are sorted soon to your satisfaction and you can get back to some semblance of normality.

    I believe I read The Moonstone years and years ago, but am not sure because I could be confusing it with Moonfleet. However I do have several books by Collins on my tbr pile and plan to start one - probably The Dead Secret - very soon.

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    1. LOL, I haven't read Moonfleet for years, I keep meaning to find a copy.

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  3. I hope all the busy-ness in your life resolves soon! It can be nice to have a lot going on, but I get exhausted pretty quickly. Meantime, I'm glad you like The Moonstone. Wilkie Collins is so great.

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    1. Me too, Jenny! Which is why I keep escaping here and to Facebook when I'm supposed to be doing other things - it's keeping me sane :-) And yes, Wilkie Collins is great!

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  4. I remember a black and white television version, starring Patrick Cargill. It quite frightened me! Since then I've read it more than once, always with pleasure and always in winter, for some reason.

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    1. It's proper winter reading, it wouldn't be as satisfying if the sun was blazing outside. And definitely not beach reading (although I'm not the person to pronounce on that, I haven't read on a beach since sometime before the Ark was launched!)

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