Jennifer's Reviews > The Moonstone

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
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's review
Feb 11, 2009

liked it

Wilkie Collins has the remarkable ability to keep me on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what's going to happen next, only to leave me not caring much in the end.

Credited as being the first detective novel, the story of the lost Moonstone, an Indian religious treasure stolen by a British family centuries before, is told through the butler and other characters as they seek to find the culprit who stole it out of Rachel Verinder's room. It's fine as a detective story, and the first part where Collins mixes the legend of the Moonstone with mysticism and three very real, shady characters intent on bringing the diamond back to India, is masterfully done. But as a novel, it feels dull and I didn't really care about the characters. SPOILER ALERT

The first half of the book is filled with suspense, the second half felt like a let down. The main characters that we follow are in no mortal danger. The reader is led to trust both Rachel and Blake, even when evidence points against them so that we never take seriously the charges against them. The real culprit is never treated as a serious character or one that we should like, hate or even fear. Gabriel Betteridge introduces him as a fine fellow who Rachel is expected to marry, but we know to trust his daughter Penelope, who tells her father that any woman would prefer Blake. Miss Clack - who I loved - shows us Ablewhite's duplicitous nature, so we are further led to mistrust him, a nice touch on leading readers to the truth. But he remains a 2-dimensional character. He's written to be the fall guy.

The Moonstone is the second Collins novel I read (the first was the Woman in White) and it holds together better than the other, whose story kind of fell into a confusing melodrama in the end with too many mysteries. (though the Woman in White was much more suspensful in the first two-thirds.) Both of them suffer the same flaw in that Collins does a good job in developing a main sympathetic male character, but the leading women are underdeveloped and largely unseen, though they are key to the story. He uses it partly to his advantage because the reader is left in the dark about what's going on with these characters, but the sides we do see of them are very flat and dull so that I could care less if they lived or died.
Collins knows how to hold the reader's interest, but in the end, I was left not caring much about the story or even able to finish the last chapter about the Moonstone's fate.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Daniel I liked your review, Jennifer, and read your comments on my review. I agree with you: except for Gabriel Betteredge and perhaps Ezra Jennings, I didn't really care much about any of the characters. I found Rachel Verinder particularly annoying for much of the book, though the revelations late in the story, and how she handles them, help acquit her character.

Frankly, most of the warm feelings I have toward the book (and I certainly didn't love it whole-heartedly) stem from my affection for Betteredge. The book just wasn't the same for me once his narration ended.

Jennifer Daniel wrote: "I liked your review, Jennifer, and read your comments on my review. I agree with you: except for Gabriel Betteredge and perhaps Ezra Jennings, I didn't really care much about any of the characters...."

I agree with you on Betteridge. The part he dictates is great. I enjoyed Miss Clack, too, though her part was a bit long. Ezra Jennings had the potential to be an interesting character - he hints at there being some secret about him, some reason people don't like him - but in the end, he doesn't tell us the secret and it turns out people are mean to him mainly because he looks weird. I felt like he could have done more with his character.

Daniel There also was some hint, if I remember correctly, that Ezra Jennings had committed a crime or done something else untoward when he worked for a previous employer, but, probably because he was narrating that section, we never get the full story. You're right: he had potential, but his character wasn't fully explored.

Marge Rudman Ezra Jennings is worth an entire novel himself!

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