I read this short novella for Wilkie in Winter. It was a bit fluffy and melodramatic so I was not surprised to learn from Helen at She Reads Novels that it was a novelization of a play written by Collins and Charles Dickens.
The story centers on Clara Burnham, a young woman with Second Sight who has reluctantly committed to marry an explorer named Richard Wardour. When the story begins Wardour has been gone quite a while and Clara, in the meantime, has fallen in love with Frank Aldersley. Just as Frank is about to undertake a voyage to the Arctic, Wardour returns, is rejected by Clara and promises to seek revenge on the man who stole her from him. When he learns that Frank is the man and that he is leaving the next day, Wardour manages to get himself hired on the same voyage and Clara’s worrying and terrible visions begin.
This was so short and lacking in plot and character development that it failed to hit that reading sweet spot for me. It’s a pleasant way to spend a few hours, but doesn’t come close to the brilliance of The Moonstone (which I read last year). I would probably only recommend this if you are a Collins die-hard or if you are looking for a short Victorian novel.
I’ve been reading so much lately that I have a small backlog of books to tell you about so I am going to break them up into several Mini Thoughts for the next few posts until I am caught up. Here are the first two titles:
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford – I really enjoyed Ford’s first book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, so this book was a natural choice for me to read. It takes place in 1930’s Seattle and tells the story of William, a little boy in an orphanage, and his discovery that the mother who abandoned him is now a budding movie star, Willow Frost. The majority of the novel takes us back to Willow’s teen years as a singer and abused daughter as we learn why she gave William up to the orphanage. I find Ford to be a compelling writer who tells a very swiftly moving story. This time I was half-way into the novel before I realized that I wasn’t liking it much. The plot was a bit generic and bland – I’m afraid to say almost like a Hallmark channel movie. It contained all the elements of a good historical novel, but it lacked that certain something that would make it memorable.
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins – According to Goodreads I started reading The Moonstone on November 12, 2012. I read about half of it right away and then put it aside for some unknown reason. I didn’t pick it back up again until July 2013. Do you ever do this? I can’t believe I didn’t finish it at the time. Anyway, I really liked it and found it to be a fantastic investigation into who swiped the famous moonstone diamond from Rachel Verinder. Collins uses four narrators to uncover the mystery that I wasn’t able to figure out until almost the end. Gabriel Betteridge, the caretaker of Rachel’s family home, is the best narrator by far. He is funny and opinionated and loves Robinson Crusoe. I was sad when his narration ended. I was also sad that we didn’t get more of Sergeant Cuff, the character based on Inspector Whicher, the real life detective who is featured in the book The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. He was very vivid and rational – a nice contrast to the emotional young characters who dominate the novel. If you like sprawling Victorian sensation novels, this one should not be missed.
3 more days until Mary Stewart Reading Week – are you ready?