1 December 2019 Susannah

Wilkie Collins & ‘The Moonstone’

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.

As a writer, Wilkie Collins 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 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.

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 his other books, but this one has always been my favourite. What do you think of it?

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Comments (6)

  1. 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.

  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. 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.

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