Many years ago I listened to the audiobook of The Woman in White. I knew it was abridged but hadn’t realised how much until I listened to the full version last month. I think my abridged copy was only two or three hours long – the whole book is more than twenty hours. That really hit home when I was about half an hour in and I hadn’t yet recognised a word.
It also explained why I had thought that the only other two Wilkie Collins books I’ve read – No Name and The Moonstone – were so much better than The Woman in White, which is probably his most famous work. It turns out that when you miss out most of the words you lose a lot! No Name is probably still my favourite but I was totally gripped by this one – even though I knew more or less what was going to happen – and I resented having to stop listening.
This time I listened to the version read by Gabriel Woolf. I thought he was an excellent reader but the book badly needed better editing. There were a lot of extraneous noises like throat clearing and many instances of the reader making a mistake and then correcting himself. I still very much enjoyed it but it was distracting and if you’re thinking of listening it is probably worth looking for a different reading.
I have wanted to read The Moonstone ever since Kate Summerscale talked about it in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – and I read that book years ago!
Somehow though, I just haven’t got around to it before now. When I was in Dartmouth I naturally visited every bookshop I found – including the Community Bookshop. It is a lovely little shop and as I gravitated towards the classics section I found several books with the best covers. They were all published by Alma Classics and I so wanted to have one of those covers! I seemed to own all of the titles already though and it was only a determined second look which unearthed The Moonstone. It’s like it was meant to be!
When Rachel Verinder’s legacy of a priceless Indian diamond is stolen, all the evidence indicates that it is her beloved, Franklin Blake, who is guilty. Around this central axis of crime and thwarted love, Collins constructs an ingenious plot of teasing twists and surprises, and an elaborate multi-voiced narrative that sustains the tension all the way to its stunning ending.
Described by T.S. Eliot as the first, the longest and the best of modern English detective novels, Wilkie Collins’The Moonstone is an important precursor of the modern mystery and suspense genres.
This was my first proper Wilkie Collins book – I used to have an audio book of The Woman in White but it was a dramatisation and not the full novel. However, I knew I had enjoyed that so I was fully expecting to like this one too.
I was right – it was an intriguing mystery and although I guessed the culprit fairly early on there were so many twists and turns that I was never quite sure of myself. I also think that I was basing it more on my dislike of the character than any actual evidence! The methods used to solve the crime were fantastic too and I was very satisfied with the ending.
It was a much easier read than I expected and I very much enjoyed it. I will definitely be seeking out more of Wilkie Collins’ books. Perhaps I’ll even finally read the whole of The Woman in White!