‘The Moonstone’ is a great read. It was published in 1868 in separate installments and it is an epistolary novel. Similar to ‘The woman in white’, several characters write down their experiences, which together form the story. The title refers to a large Indian diamond that goes missing at the beginning of the novel. ‘The Moonstone’ is regarded by some as the first of the modern English detective novel. The plot is full of cliffhangers and it very well written and very accessible. I could not put this down!
A number of things stood out for me as I read this. Firstly, since this was published in several installments, there is quite a lot of foreshadowing (Gabriel Betteridge’s narrative, Chapter 10)
‘Looking back at the birthday now, by the light of what happened afterwards, I am half inclined to think that the cursed Diamond must have cast a blight on the whole company.’
Another way to keep the audience reading was to have Sergeant Cuff predict what will happen next (Gabriel Betteridge’s narrative, Chapter 22)
‘I’ll tell you, at parting, of three things which will happen in the future, and which, I believe, will force themselves on your attention, whether you like it or not.’
As with a lot of novels published in this period, class plays an important role. The police detective, Sergeant Cuff, is of lower class than Lady Verinder and her daughter, which means that they can withhold information from him without any consequences. I also found this quote, where I feel Wilkie Collins provides some social commentary (Gabriel Betteridge’s narrative, Chapter 8)
‘It often falls heave enough, no doubt, on people who are really obliged to get their living, to be forced to work for the clothes that cover them, (…). But compare the hardest day’s work you ever did with the idleness that splits flowers and pokes its way into spiders’ stomachs, and thank your stars that your head has got something it must think of, and your hands something that they must do.’
Part of what makes this such a convincing read is that Wilkie Collins is able to create convincing voices for each of the characters that provide us with a part of the story. If I ever re-read this novel, I should like to pay closer attention to how Collins achieves this. I look forward to reading some more Wilkie Collins. I see that apart from ‘The moonstone’, ‘No name’, ‘Armadale’ and ‘The woman in white’ are regarded as his best works. As always, one read leads to many others!