I’m SO close to finishing Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone that I will have no trouble finishing it tonight before I drop off to sleep. My mystery book group is discussing the book tomorrow, so I’m finishing it just in time. I believe this will be the third time I’ve read the novel. I think I read it first as a teenager, grabbing it off my dad’s shelf of classics. I read it again sometime in my twenties probably, just for the fun of it. This time around, it was my pick for the book group; we had been talking about the possibility of reading it for a while, so I decided that it was finally time. I think many people in the group had already read it, so it will be a reread for a lot of us. I’m looking forward to hearing what other people thought.
My memories of my previous experiences reading The Moonstone are a little vague (I wasn’t blogging back then and so don’t have a record — alas), but I do recall enjoying the book’s multiple perspectives a lot. In fact, that’s what struck me most strongly during my first reading, and I remember thinking that I wanted to read other books with similar structures and that that structure would probably remain a favorite of mine, which it has. If you haven’t read it, The Moonstone has multiple narrators who pick up the thread of the story when they have something important to contribute. These narrators often respond to each other and disagree with each other. The first two narrators are particularly entertaining, as they are strong characters with amusing quirks who happen to dislike each other severely, and it’s funny when they tell you not to believe a word of what the other says. I also like how these multiple narrators allow you to see many of the characters both inside and outside. We get to hear Gabriel Betteredge, the first narrator, explaining how important Robinson Crusoe is to him, which he does with such enthusiasm we almost come to agree with him and go look for a copy of the novel ourselves, and we also get to see a different character completely bewildered at the fact that Betteredge is pushing Defoe at him as a source of wisdom on par with the Bible. It’s all a lot of fun.
I enjoyed the multiple narrators this time around too, but I noticed Collins’s wonderful sense of humor even more. His characters are just so entertaining. There’s Betteredge with his Crusoe obsession, his digressions, his strong opinions, his dignity combined with his failure to notice or to comment when Franklin Blake treats him rudely. And there’s Miss Clack with her tracts and intrusiveness and insatiable curiousity disguised as piety. The scene when she watches from behind the curtains as Rachel and Godfrey Ablewhite get engaged, watching while pretending not to, is classic comedy.
I’m not entirely sure I want to read this book again; perhaps I’ll change my mind, but I feel right now as though I’ve gotten what I can out of it, and I’d like to move on and read other Wilkie Collins novels. But three good experiences reading any novel is a pretty good record, I think.