Ilsa Bick's Reviews > Drood

Drood by Dan Simmons
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Jul 04, 11


(Review of audiobook)
Okay, I’ll admit it: I bought this doorstop of a novel when it first came out and just couldn’t get into it. This was surprising, especially since I think Simmons’ A Winter Haunting is a masterpiece and one I’ve read several times. On the other hand, I couldn’t get into The Terror either. Still, I’m a Dickens fan of longstanding; I remember how upset I was when I realized that Dicken’s unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood was the last book of his I would ever read! So when I saw that Simmons was tackling a fascinating period in Dickens’ life–from the Staplehurt accident in 1865 to his death in 1870–I just couldn’t resist, doorstop or not. Why? Because Dickens was clearly profoundly affected by the accident; only his carriage was spared, and Dickens suffered from what we’d recognize as PTSD for the rest of his life. Dickens had other problems during this time, too, not the least of which was the continuing stress following the dissolution of his marriage and his affair with the much-younger actress, Ellen Tiernan, with whom he’d been traveling at the time of the accident. His writing took a hit, too; after he completed work on _Our Mutual Friend_, he simply stopped penning novels, devoting himself instead to an intense series of readings in the U.S. and Great Britain. The toll this took on Dickens is well-documented not only in the more well-known biographies but also in George Dolby’s account of these reading tours in _Charles Dickens As I Knew Him: The Story of the Reading Tours in Great Britain and America, 1866-1870_. Dolby was Dickens’ manager and this loyal friend’s insights and descriptions are worth the read.

Simmons’ conceit is “novel,” too: a narrative told from the perspective of William Wilke Collins (author of such classics as _The Moonstone_ and _The Woman in White_). Collins was a close friend and Dickens’ collaborator for many years as well as a highly successful author in his own right. Collins was also a laudunum addict, and that gives a reader pause–because you simply don’t know what or who to believe.

Still . . . I just couldn’t get into it, and I think it’s for the same reasons that this abridged listen works for me: there’s just so much detail–much of it true, by the way–that this reads as well as almost any Dickens biography covering the same time period. While there are a few odd transitions that could’ve used smoothing over, this listen made me eager to try and tackle the book next. Again. When I have time. Seriously, this is a fine performance and Simmons’ Collins is every bit a modern man.
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