Wilkie Collins & 'The Moonstone'

I first read The Moonstone as a teenager, after an adaptation of it had been on TV. I went on to read a few of Wilkie Collins’ other books, but this one has always been my favourite. I hope you enjoy your trip into a murky world of diamonds, thwarted passion, secrets and shaky ground.

It was said that when Wilkie Collins paused in the telling of his latest thriller, all of Victorian Britain held its breath. He was once told that his novels were read in “every back kitchen of England”. The remark was not meant as a compliment, but Wilkie Collins accepted it as such. He was a born storyteller and he wanted people, from all walks of life, to read his books. His literary models were Sir Walter Scott, Alexandre Dumas, Balzac and Dickens.

As a writer, he was a celebrity, paid enormous fees for his novels and friends with all the great literary men of his day. As a man, he was as mysterious as any of his books – secret mistresses and children, a double life that was kept from his public, dire health problems that turned him into a drug addict – all were a part of the life he hid from public gaze.

The Moonstone is a page-turner, it catches one up and unfolds its amazing story through the recountings of its several narrators, all of them enticing and singular.” ― Carolyn Heilbrun, mystery writer

When Wilkie Collins sat down to write The Moonstone the detective novel did not exist as a literary form. His spellbinding tale of romance, theft, and murder inspired this popular genre.

The Moonstone of the title is an enormous Hindu diamond that waxes and wanes in brilliance along with the light of the moon. When a young English woman inherits the Moonstone on her eighteenth birthday a period of turmoil, unhappiness, misunderstandings and ill-luck ensues. As the fate of the diamond is traced, the enthralling interplay of characters will hook you in.

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Discuss it with me

Did you find this book as spellbinding as I did? Are you a devotee of detective fiction, the genre started by Wilkie Collins? If so, why? If not, why not? Who are some of your favourite crime writers? Tell me in a comment.

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I only recommend books I have read or know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.
Featured image credit- Greg Wise as Franklin Blake & Keeley Hawes as Rachel Verinder, The Moonstone, 1996 BBC and Carlton TV adaptation, https://www.silverpetticoatreview.com/2018/12/27/the-moonstone-1996-review/
Body image credit- Wilkie Collins. From a photo by Alexander Bassano, 1900, By Internet Archive Book Images – https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14597131498/
Body image credit- David Manners as Franklin Blake & Phyllis Barry as Anne Verinder, 1934 BBC and Monogram Pictures adaptation, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0025515/

Comments (8)

  1. Miland

    I’ve enjoyed both the book and a film version (starring Greg Wise and Keeley Hawes). There are a number of film or TV adaptations on DVD. I’ve only seen this one, but I would be interssted to know what others think who have watched a numnber of versions.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I remember loving the old version with Robin Ellis, but it is a long time since I last saw it.

  2. Kelly

    I’m also intrigued by the connection between Wilkie Collins & Charles Dickens. ‘The Woman in White’ always reminds me of Miss Havisham!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, a distinct resemblance, though I doubt you’d have found Miss Havisham wandering the lanes of Hampstead late at night.

  3. Susannah, I too love “The Moonstone”, and am always uncertain as too whether I love it or “The Woman in White” the most; although I also find “No Name”and “Armadale” very readable and of interest today.

    I also like the unusual (for Collins) “Rambles Beyond Railways”, his account of a walking tour of Cornwall taken with his friend Henry Brandling in 1850… the title is drawn from the fact that since the bridge over the Tamar river between Cornwall and Devon had not yet been built, there were no railways in Cornwall at that time. Collins powers of observation and wry comment show very strongly in this his only real travel book.

    I am always intrigued by speculation of the influence “The Moonstone” had on Dickens in constructing his unfinished “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”. We know that Dickens was a bit jealous of the success that Collins had in the serial issue of The Moonstone in “All The Year Round”, and that you can see Drood as an attempt to “top” The Moonstone, perhaps in a more obvious way that Our Mutual Friend shows influences of “The Woman in White.’

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I didn’t know that about the title of his railways book. Wouldn’t it be fun to replicate his journey today and see how much has changed – an idea for a book?? Do you have a copy of the Railway book?
      I prefer The Moonstone to The Woman in White because I get so frustrated with the baddies in that novel. I don’t feel they are punished enough!
      Yes, I think there was a very healthy rivalry and also cross-pollination between Dickens and Collins. Wouldn’t it have been amazing to have been a fly on the wall during one of their bibulous conversations.

  4. Kelly

    I remember reading The Moonstone in high school. It was my first mystery & first novel written in an epistolary style. I’ve loved both ever since!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      It’s such a good book, isn’t it. You were lucky to get it at high school.

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