Friday, January 15, 2021

"The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins

I tried to read The Moonstone a couple of years ago, and just couldn't get into it.  Don't know why.  Wasn't in the right mood, maybe?  Still, I knew I wanted to read it, since it's widely hailed as one of the first great mystery novels.  I got this lovely copy with a gift card, and it sat on my TBR shelves for months and months because I was hesitant to try it again, if you must know. 

But some friends on Bookstagram decided they wanted to do a very laid-back read-along of it, just reading it at our own pace in the month of January, and I decided it was time for me to tackle it again.  I read it in a little over a week, all 673 pages of it.  (These editions are pretty small, so the pages add up fast.)

Parts of this book made me laugh aloud, especially in the first third or so, which is narrated by a snarky, observant old servant named Betteredge.  His asides made me think of Jane Austen because of their wry satirical wit.  And his obsession with Robinson Crusoe was always funny.

Parts of this book made me wish they would be over quickly, especially the section narrated by Miss Clack, who was a pharisaical, puritanical busybody.

The plot revolved around a giant diamond looted from India and later given to a young lady on her 18th birthday.  And then it promptly gets stolen.  Collins spins the mystery out for what feels like forever, but he does finally resolve it.  For a while there, I thought he was going to just end it with us never knowing what happened to it, and if that had happened, I would have thrown my book across the room.

I'm not sure how this book managed to simultaneously feel as if it was dragging on far longer than necessary, and yet kept up a galloping sense of suspense.  I kept saying, "Why isn't this book over yet?" and "I have to know what happens next!" at the same time.  That's a rather odd mix, I have to say.

I really haven't figured out yet if I actually liked this book or not.  I definitely want to read more by Wilkie Collins, though.

(Mine from my Bookstagram)

Particularly Good Bi

The more money he had, the more he wanted; there was a hole in Mr. Franklin's pocket that nothing would sew up (p. 35).

We had our breakfasts -- whatever happens in a house, robbery or murder, it doesn't matter, you must have your breakfast (p. 128).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG.  Lots of suspense, some mild violence (people getting tied up, that sort of thing), and mention of a man having a mistress.

This is my 13th book read for my 3rd Classics Club list and my first for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.


  1. I read The Moonstone years ago. I really Like The Woman in White. It was written before The Moonstone so it predates it as a mystery novel and it is viewed as one of the great sensation novels. I highly recommend it.

    1. Jennifer, I have a copy of The Woman in White too, so I'm hoping to read that this year also!

  2. I remember when I first read The Moonstone, I couldn't put it down. Congratulations for finishing!

    1. Cleo, yeah, it definitely grabbed me! Thanks :-)

  3. I keep meaning to read this one, the title always intrigued me.

  4. Read it back in 2010. I know that thanks to Goodreads. :)

    I don't think I disliked it per se but I also didn't really like it. A lot of the characters were just annoying & it seemed like a slog to get through. Basically the only thing I've remembered about it over the years has been the Robison Crusoe thing.

    1. George, the more I think about it, the more I like it, overall. I do know I will skim Miss Clack's narrative next time, though.

      The Robinson Crusoe fixation was definitely memorable!

  5. I found it hard to decide if the sometimes-slow feeling (while it was still being compelling) was the 'fault' of the novel, or simply the result of changing linguistic style/convention since it was written.

    I read this last year, and while it doesn't look like I made any notes on it, and it didn't ultimately make it to my top reads of the year list, I know that I enjoyed it and I'll probably read it again some time.

    It was definitely funny in places!

    1. VT, I read a lot of 1800s literature (38 of the books reviewed here in the last 9 years were first published in that century), so I don't think it's because of changing styles and conventions so much as just a peculiar attribute of either this book or Collins. I want to read his book The Woman in White to see if it's kind of him, or just this story.

      I do expect I'll reread this at some point.


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