Friday, 1 November 2013

Readalong: The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins

November. The beginning of the busiest time of year for anyone who works in retail. The clocks have gone back, it is dark when you leave work, but the Christmas lights have not yet gone on to cheer you up. And for many of a literary bent, it is also National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, a project I attempt most years as a desperate bid to hold on to the part of me that neither my employers, the approaching winter, nor the people I deal with every day have claimed as their own, and try to get fifty thousand words of continuous fiction onto paper in a month. So it would be absolutely ridiculous to sign up for a bloggers' readalong on top of all that, right?




Ellie, not to be confused with that Ellie, or the other Ellie, is hosting a month-long readalong of Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone, which is generally considered the first example of detective fiction. After reading other bloggers excitedly blogging and tweeting about this readalong, I trundled along to the library after lunch, and lo and behold, there were two copies sitting there in the classics section. Surely, it was meant to be! 

And the prize for the least-exciting edition of this book goes
to the Everyman's Library edition. But it's what's inside that counts.

This is to be a very laid-back readalong, allowing an entire month to read the novel, updating once at the midway point around the 16th November, and once more at the end of the month. There will also be an ongoing twitter discussion of the book at #readwilkie.

Collins writes in his preface that this is a novel designed to "trace the influence of character on circumstance," promising a character-driven plot full of interesting, proactive people who do more than simply allow things to happen to them.

I'm only a couple of chapters in so far, but I am already enjoying the narration of Gabriel Betteridge, an elderly steward to a well-to-do family involved many years ago in a mystery surrounding a missing, allegedly cursed, Indian diamond. Betteridge is a warm, good-humoured narrator, constantly rambling off on tangents which flesh out the facts of the plot with depth of character and background, while being brought back on-topic by his daughter.
"In answer to an improvement on this notion, devised by myself, namely, that she should tell the story instead of me, out of her own diary, Penelope observes, with a fierce look and a red face, that her journal is for her own private eye, and that no living creature shall ever know what is in it but herself. When I inquire what this means, Penelope says, "Fiddlesticks!" I say, Sweethearts.

12 comments:

  1. YAY! I'm completely ridiculously pleased you're joining in. Good luck with everything this month and I really hope you enjoy reading Wilkie with us :D I love Everyman editions - they're so simple but so lush.

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    1. Thank you! I've never read any Wilkie before. I once had a copy of The Woman In White, but lent it to a uni friend and never saw it again. (I left uni... 6 years ago. Gosh. I think I should consider that book lost to me.)

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  2. How nice that you decided to join in!

    So far all the editions of the book I've seen around being read by people have been different ones. This one looks very minimalistic; I probably wouldn't purchase it for myself but as long as it's a library book, it doesn't matter much I think.

    And I also took notice of that quote - so far the narrative has been very quotable and I've chuckled many times.

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    1. Yes, I'm really liking the characters already. Wilkie has a great sense of humour. If I buy myself a copy of this book, I'll probably go for one of the pretty penguin paperbacks, but this one does the job (and had the added advantage of being free.)

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  3. Hi,
    I am reading The Moonstone at the moment anyway and I must say I am struggling with it. Finding it quite a task to read at the mo, as it is holding my interest. I do, however, like the character of Rosanna Spearman. She seems quite mysterious.

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    1. Oh, that's a shame. Are you joining in the readalong? I haven't yet met the mysterious Rosanna Spearman - I'm just a couple of chapters in so far.

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  4. Oops that should say, not holding my interest.

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  5. I wonder what it is about the Everyman editions that makes them so appealing to libraries. My library's collection of classics is almost exclusively Everyman, and I seem to remember that my university library wasn't much better!

    I love Gabriel's tangents - they make him seem so much more like a real person than a character!

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    1. Our library seems to be half-full of old, faded Everyman classics. I'd rather have some bright paperbacks, something a bit more eye-catching. Agreed about Gabriel. He makes me think of a cool old guy you might meet in a pub, telling you all about his life and adventures.

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  6. Woohoo! You're joining in, yaaaay! It's actually the perfect time for me to be reading Wilkie, because for us the shop actually goes quiet for a while round about now. Half term's (almost) over, and the hardcore Christmas shopping tends to be done in cities and shopping centres. Folks drift back to our little town again for the extras once the main money-spending is done, so we get busier in December but have a relative lull for a while beforehand.

    Also, I actually have a bit of a soft spot for the Everyman hardbacks. My school library emptied and refitted an entire shelving unit when I was in... year 11?... and nobody knew why until one day they were suddenly filled with these books. They looked so smart, all together in crisp black and white with their red bookmarks, and I ended up reading books I'd never dreamed of trying just because they were there and so lovely to hold. WHAT CAN I SAY I AM A ROMANTIC. :P

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    1. Maybe I'm not loving the Everyman editions because the ones in the library are about 20 years old and rather faded, not as crisp as they used to be. Or maybe I just prefer brighter covers. Hooray for extra reading time at work, peace and quiet (if not so good from a business point of view.) I think your town would be good for quirky fun little gifts from what I recall. I wonder how busy the Island's going to be this year. Last year was quite quiet round Christmas - too quiet - and I suspect that now our HMV is closed, a lot of people might just go to Southampton and Portsmouth for Christmas shopping. I plan to do a bit of that myself.

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  7. Yes, I would like to join in with the read along please. My version is on my phone. It's published by Cricket House Books . I am on Chapter 7, in The Loss of the Diamond.

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