La pietra di luna

By Wilkie Collins, Ettore Capriolo, T.S. Eliot

86,034 ratings - 3.9* vote

"La Pietra di Luna", prezioso e antico diamante giallo originario dell'India, dopo una serie di avventurose vicissitudini nel corso dei secoli, arriva infine in Inghilterra e viene donato a una giovane nobildonna di nome Rachel Verinder nel giorno del suo diciottesimo compleanno. Il gioiello, di valore inestimabile, scompare in circostanze misteriose quella notte stessa e "La Pietra di Luna", prezioso e antico diamante giallo originario dell'India, dopo una serie di

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Book details

Paperback, 511 pages
1971 by Mondadori

(first published August 1st 1868)

Original Title
The Moonstone
ISBN
0375757856 (ISBN13: 9780375757853)
Edition Language
Italian

Community Reviews

Bill Kerwin


The Moonstone, generally recognized as the first detective novel (despite the appearance of The Notting Hill Mystery a few years before), is not only a work of historical importance but also a work that transcends the genre it created, in the artfulness of its plotting, in its compassionate depiction of servants, and in its enlightened resolution of the theme of the British Empire, its crimes and their consequences.

Not that I wish to minimize its historical importance. The Moonstone is the first—certainly the first fully-formed—detective novel, and it contains within that great “first” a number of little “firsts”: the first English country house mystery featuring a large guest list of suspects, the first crew of bumbling local policemen mucking about in the evidence, the first detective genius distinguished by an unlikely hobby, the first small, suggestive physical clue (a smear on the bottom of a newly-painted door), the first effective “red herrings” (I counted at least two), the first attempt at a precise reenactment of the crime at its original scene, and the first pursuit of a disguised criminal through the streets of a major city.

But it is the plot, which uses all these “firsts” to great advantage, that both astonishes and pleases the reader. The Moonstone is at least three times the length of the average detective novel, and yet it sustains interest and maintains credibility throughout its many twists. turns, and asides. Its plot reminds me of the melody line of Bellini's “Casta Diva,” which strikes the ear as a thing of incomparable elegance, but never calls to mind—except upon later reflection—either its own extraordinary length or the expert craftsmanship such seamless length requires.

Also impressive is Collins' sympathetic depiction of the English servant class. Steward and Butler Gabriel Betteredge is a marvelous comic character, memorable for his daily readings of Robinson Crusoe, which he reveres as a source of divination and practical guidance. But Betteredge is also the essentially reliable narrator of half the novel, and, as we learn of the events on the Verinder estate through his eyes and ears, we grow to love and trust him as a good man and an intelligent observer. Also noteworthy is Collins' presentation of Roseanna, the servant girl with a deformed shoulder and a criminal past. Collins treats her with dignity, neither as a comic grotesque nor as an object of simple pity, but as fully human person with a unique, blighted destiny.

But perhaps my favorite thing about the book is Collins' use of “The Moonstone” itself, that great diamond snatched from a Hindu shrine by the villainous Colonel Herncastle during the Siege of Seringapatam—the 1799 climax to the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War which served to institutionalize English theft under the banner of the British East India Company. It is the second theft of this gem from the Verinder estate that precipitates the events of the novel, but memory of the original crime—and its curse—is never far from the reader, for the Brahmins who wish to return “The Moonstone” to the shrine of Chandra are never far away. At first these shadowy figures appear to be exotic villians, but Collins eventually shows us that the real criminals—both past and present—are the “respectable” English, and he grants his Hindu priests a moving coda. Sure, the ending of the novel is romantic, and exotic. But it is dignified and respectful of other cultures too.

The real reason, however, that you should read The Moonstone is that it endures, after all these years, as a diverting and absorbing entertainment. The first detective novel is still as readable as if it were published today.

Jeffrey Keeten

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The Moonstone was published in 1868 and is considered by most people to be the first detective novel. Given the novels place in the history of the genre, that alone should put this book on most people's reading lists. To sweeten the pot, the plot is compelling, the last hundred pages I couldn't have put the book down for anything. I was caught up in the case and wanted to find out the why and the who in the mysterious circumstances surrounding the MOONSTONE.

The novel is narrated by several different people. My favorite was Gabriel Betteredge, the head servant at the Verinder house, who becomes a reluctant Watson for Detective Cuff during the investigation. He is a man convinced in the spiritual guidance of Robinson Crusoe and believes that any disruption in his life can be explained by reading and interpreting passages from his dogeared copy of Defoe's classic.

"In this anxious frame of mind, other men might have ended by working themselves up into a fever; I ended in a different way. I lit my pipe, and took a turn at Robinson Crusoe."

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Betteredge is a man of his age and his views on women I found so ridiculous as to actually laugh out loud.

"It is a maxim of mine that men (being superior creatures) are bound to improve women-if they can. When a woman wants me to do anything I always insist on knowing why. The oftener you make them rummage their own minds for a reason, the more manageable you will find them in all the relations of life. It isn't their fault (poor wretches!) that they act first, and think afterwards; it's the fault of the fools who humour them."

Despite his archaic views, Betteredge proves to be a good assistant to the enigmatic Sergeant Cuff. Cuff's eyes had such intensity, "looking as if they expected something more from you than you were aware of yourself." Wilkie Collins based his character Sergeant Cuff on a real celebrated Victorian Detective Inspector Jack Whicher.

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Sergeant Cuff is summoned from London to investigate the disappearance of the Moonstone, and despite the reluctance of the household to help him in his investigations, he does come up with a theory (kept from us) that proves in the final pages of the book that he is worthy of his reputation. Cuff is as equally interested in the rose gardens (he has strong opinions) as he is in the crime he is investigating. "grass walkways never gravel" Collins does a great job putting flesh on the bones of the characters. We learn more about every major character than is necessary for the advancement of the plot. By the end of the novel I had the feeling that I was not only closing the cover on a great book, but also leaving behind some dear friends.

Another narrator, that I was not fond of, in fact, she made my skin crawl is Drusilla Clack. A cousin of the family, Drusilla, with her tendency to eavesdrop and make herself in all ways intrusive on her family and "friends" is a born again christian. The novel is set in 1848 and the term born again was not in use until much later, but she fits the profile. She was determined to save everyone and carried about her person tracts of her hero Miss Jane Ann Stamper. Once she has invaded a house she would leave tracts scattered about in places where people would eventually find them, and hopefully receive the edification that Drusilla felt they needed.

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She seemed like this on first appearances.

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But like Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer she would pounce on people, not for blood, but for a chance to save their immortal souls.


As I have mentioned, all the characters are well developed and Drusilla is no exception. She is a person, that after a previous encounter, you would go to great lengths to keep her from buttonholing you again.

This book delivers. You will not be disappointed. If I read it again I will put on a kettle of good English tea, light some candles, and tuck myself into an armchair, suspending myself as well as I can back into a Victorian age. I had such a great time I will certainly be reading more Wilkie Collins.

"You are welcome to be as merry as you please over everything else I have written. But when I write of Robinson Crusoe, by the Lord it's serious-and I request you to take it accordingly!"

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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

4.5 stars, rounding up, for this 1868 Victorian-era mystery, often considered the first English-language detective novel. Wilkie Collins spins a literary web that starts out slowly but then inexorably pulls you in; I finished the last half of the book in one extended readathon. He has a gift for writing as vastly different characters, who each take a turn telling or writing their part of the story, and a droll, sometimes very sarcastic sense of humor.
description
In 1799 a British soldier steals a large yellow diamond from a Hindu statute in India, ruthlessly killing three Indian men protecting the statue, and earning himself a curse from one of them in the process. He gets a bad reputation as a result and is shunned by his extended family in England. So when he dies, he leaves the Moonstone to his niece Rachel (whose mother refused to receive him as a guest in her home), knowing he's leaving her not only a 30,000 pound fortune in the jewel, but also a load of potential trouble: there's not just the amorphous curse, but three Indian men who have been following the owners of the Moonstone for years and are determined to steal it back, one way or another.

Rachel's relative Franklin Blake is entrusted with bringing her the diamond for her 18th birthday, and falls in love with her as he gets to know her over several days. The Indians are lurking, looking for their chance to grab their gem. Rachel wears the Moonstone at a dinner party the night of her birthday, puts the jewel in a drawer in her bedroom ... and the next morning it's gone. The odd thing is, it looks like an inside job. The bumbling local police are of little help, and even the renowned outside detective, the estimable Sergeant Cuff, is unable to bring the case to a satisfactory conclusion, though part of the problem is that several people aren't cooperating with him.

Wilkie Collins doesn't try all that hard to hide the villain in the tale, but the "how" is fascinatingly revealed over the last half of the book. I don't think Wilkie was particularly interested in giving readers all of the clues; this isn't really a mystery that is supposed to be solved by readers before the big reveal, in my opinion (the final reveal of exactly what went down that fateful night pretty much comes out of left field, though there are a few clues in the story). He's more interested in telling an exciting story, and he pulls just about everything into the mix: a massive jewel, star-crossed love, people hiding things for their own reasons, a servant with a highly suspicious past, dangerous quicksand, and a loyal servant with an amusing and rather touching devotion to Robinson Crusoe, which he treats as a sort of Bible. Better him than Rachel's cousin Drusilla Clack, an annoying Christian evangelist given to preaching and leaving tracts with titles like "Satan in the Hair Brush" around people's homes!

This proto-detective novel does get a little slow at times - Victorian authors typically weren't in a hurry to tell their stories, especially when they were serialized in magazines, like this one was. But once the storyline really started moving along in the second half I thought it was a great read. Bonus points for handling the Indian subplot in a manner that's unusually sensitive for books written in the Victorian age.

Sean

The following is a recently found letter written by the English author Charles Dickens to his friend Wilkie Collins concerning the latter’s newly released 1868 novel The Moonstone:

Charles Dickens
11 Gad’s Hill Place
Hingham, Kent
England

November 13, 1868

Dear Wilkie,

I am now pressing my pen against this paper to congratulate you on the success of your excellent new novel, The Moonstone. I have just completed reading it and I would like to present you with my opinion that this was, as they say, a true “page turner” in every sense of the word. I am also taking the liberty to take this compliment a step further by stating that this is one of the finest mystery novels of all time.

I must confess that I have never actually read a book such as this that captures the sensation of a mysterious theft and a thorough investigation that follows it. It was a fascinating read throughout as the solution to the mystery was also entirely above my suspicion. I also thoroughly enjoyed the use of multi-narration where the reader obtains various different viewpoints during the inquiry concerning the loss of the Indian diamond.

I believe that this novel, The Moonstone, has successfully maintained the same exceptional level of quality as your masterpiece, The Woman in White, and it ranks among the top tiers of the written pages from our fellow countrymen. I have not the shadow of a doubt that this book will continue to enthrall readers for centuries to come. The Moonstone is a best-seller at the local bookseller here in Kent and my excitement for your continued success is immense. Well done, my dear friend Wilkie. We shall celebrate this achievement over a glass of Cognac. Best wishes and I look forward to reading your future works.


Your friend always,

Charles Dickens

Paul Bryant

The problem with mysteries – for me, anyway, is that I don't care who did it. Which is a drawback. I just think well, it's one of those characters the author has given a name to, it won't be the fourth man back on the upper deck of the omnibus mentioned briefly on page 211. It will be someone with a name. And further, it will be someone who you don't think it will be, because that's the whole point. You don't think it's going to be that person so it's a surprise. So, if it turns out to be the not-obvious person (how could the little spinster with the gammy foot batter the ten foot Guardsman to death and scale the west wall on the fateful night? Well, she was on Victorian crack is how) I say – wow, how obvious. She was really not obviously the murderer, so she was obviously the murderer.

However, I really liked Wilkie's novels The Woman in White and No Name, so I read this.

In a modern detective tale, you have your detective, and there is a detective in this one, but he only occupies a short part of the story, he quickly retires to grow roses, literally, that's not a euphemism for some kind of rent boy scandal, so the rest of the story is made up by narratives from five or six main characters.

Now comes the dance of the seven veils.

Because if two narrators had been given their voice, the whole novel would have been over in 50 pages. You get the longwinded thoughts of all the people who DON'T know what actually happened. By page 350, after being mumbled at, prevaricated over, and digressed to for what seemed days, NAY, weeks, by Wilkie Collins' five narrators, all of whom suffer from amusing psychological tics and endearing human flaws, or was it the other way round, and all of whom could have summarised their tales onto two pages of foolscap, I was ready to shrink myself to the size of a capital R (pronounced "aargh") and insert myself into this novel Fantastic Voyage-style and grab a passing amateur sleuth and confess loudly I STOLE YOUR DAMNED MOONSTONE, ARREST ME, AND THERE'S AN END OF IT!

(Memo - write future review of Victorian novel as if invested into it Fantastic Voyage-style. Should be hilarious.)

Actually, there is a point to all this 430 pages of Moonstone. The whole plot, and this, strangely enough, is not a spoiler, hangs on the attempt of one guy to give up smoking. So The Moonstone is a very elaborate warning that going cold turkey is a bad idea,

you must use the patches.

The Moonstone is often cited as the earliest medical warning story – later examples are Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde, which concerns self-medication and its dangers, and Henry James' Daisy Miller, which explains to tourists that they must get all their vaccinations. The genre is still thriving - the recent movie Bad Lieutenant – Port of New Orleans is all about inappropriate methods of combating severe back pain.

In the end I thought this was the Monkees instead of The Beatles, Pleasant Valley Sunday instead of Tomorrow Never Knows.



Alex

The Moonstone is known as the first detective novel*, and it's a cracking one. You can see things invented here that were directly borrowed by future writers: Holmes' overconfidence (and his use of London urchins as agents); Agatha Christie's exploration of narrative reliability.

* as opposed to Poe's Dupin, which was the first detective story - I know, we're splitting hairs.

And if the mystery's not enough for you, how about mysterious Oriental cultures? Romance? Quicksand?* Opium? This is a ludicrously entertaining book, almost on the level of Count of Monte Cristo for sheer kicks.

* Things I Was Super On The Watch For When I Was A Kid And It Turns Out They Are Not Actually Things
- Alligators
- Amnesia
- Chloroform-soaked rags
- Razors in apples
- Steamrollers
- Quicksand

It shares with Collins' other masterpiece, The Woman in White, a preoccupation with narrative - from different sources, in different voices, with varying motives and degrees of reliability. Like Woman in White, it's set up like a court case: a series of witnesses come forward to tell their part of the story in more or less chronological order, while commenting on (and insulting) each other's narratives. Many characters also cite other texts: Betteredge is obsessed with Robinson Crusoe; Miss Clack carts around a variety of religious tracts, all of which are made up, which sucks because how badly do you want to read "Satan in the Hairbrush" and "A Word With You On Your Cap Ribbons"? Pretty bad, man - and finally, Ezra Jennings will cite De Quincey's landmark drug memoir Memoirs of an Opium Eater.

Which, by the way: unlike Woman in White (1860), The Moonstone (1868) was written while Collins was deep in the throes of a laudanum addiction, and the whole thing can be seen as, more or less, about opium.

Also unlike Woman in White, which features one of my all-time favorite female heroines, the diamond-sharp Miss Halcombe, The Moonstone has an awkward relationship to women. Many of its narrators are prone to statements like this:
"Men (being superior creatures) are bound to improve women - if they can. When a woman wants me to do anything, I always insist on knowing why. The oftener you make them rummage their own minds for a reason, the more manageable you will find them in all the relations of life.
The first couple times you see stuff like this you can figure Collins means for you to laugh at it - but after like ten different people say things along similar lines, you do start to wonder a little.

Woman in White just edges out Moonstone for me as my favorite Collins. Its characters - Miss Halcombe and the mighty Count Fosco - are more indelible than Moonstone's. But The Moonstone includes a thinly disguised Richard Burton, as well as the terrifically bitchy Miss Clack...look, here's my secret: I like Collins better than his buddy Dickens. This book is a gang of fun.

Daniel

I was torn between giving two stars and three stars to Wilkie Collins's "The Moonstone," a book T. S. Eliot called "the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels." "Longest" is perhaps the operative word here, reminding one of Samuel Johnson's comment (speaking, in his case, of Milton's "Paradise Lost") that none ever wished it longer. "The Moonstone"'s length, in the end, is its chief and perhaps only major failing. Large chunks of the novel seem to drag on and on with few advancements being made to the plot in the process. The latter parts of the section narrated by Gabriel Betteredge, chief servant to the Verinder household, and almost all of Drusilla Clack's section really could have used some judicious editing.

I suspect, though, that long after I forget what a slog much of "The Moonstone" was to get through, I'll remember its many charms. Betteredge is a particularly fun narrator, given his obsession with Daniel Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" -- a book he treats as a cross between the Holy Bible and Nostradamus's "Prophecies" -- and his jaundiced eye toward male-female relations. Collins also must have had a ball making Drusilla Clack one of the most judgmental, grating Christian evangelists in English literature. Particularly priceless are the passages in which she wanders around the Verinder household and strategically places religious tracts in spots where family members, she hopes, would just happen upon them, instantly putting her relatives on the path to salvation.

Betteredge and Clack are so compelling that almost every other character in "The Moonstone," with the possible exception of opium addict Ezra Jennings, pales in comparison. Rachel Verinder -- despite being at the book's center as the recipient of the Indian diamond known as the Moonstone, the theft of which the plot revolves around -- isn't as fully drawn as the other characters, perhaps because she never takes over narration of the story. This, in a way, actually demonstrates one of Collins's chief skills as a writer: as each narrator takes his or her turn telling the story, that section of the book really becomes more about him or her than about the plot.

And that, ultimately, is what makes "The Moonstone" an interesting book. Despite being such an early and influential mystery novel -- it predated Arthur Conan Doyle's introduction of Sherlock Holmes by almost two decades -- it's really more about the characters themselves, their view of the world, and the decisions they make than it is about solving the mystery of the diamond's disappearance. It's a shame that more of today's mystery novelists haven't learned that lesson from "The Moonstone."

In retrospect, I realize I'm perhaps making "The Moonstone" sound like more of a four-star book, but trust me: the long, drawn-out sections of the book really are incredibly long and drawn out. I cannot overstate just how much this book tests the reader's patience, and for scores of pages at a time.

Fionnuala

I finished this book several days ago but couldn't motivate myself to add it to my goodreads shelves or write a review. It's as if the weight of the tons of words in the text has paralysed me. What's more, I knew what I was getting into. I read The Woman in White just before this one and it left me with a similar lethargy. The only thing I was capable of doing after I finished it was to pick up The Moonstone as if my mind had been taken over by a rabid Wilkie Collins fan. Today, I'm beginning to emerge from the stupor, and I feel up to making a guess at why Collins's writing bewitched me enough to make me read two of his books yet numbed me so much at the same time.

The stories in the two books are told in the same long-winded way: each book traces the exact history of a series of mysterious events by making the characters who were most closely connected with each stage of the events, narrate their experience, word for word.

Word for word really means word for word here. The many narrators outdo each other in the care they take to tell every single thing they observed while at the same time not revealing anything that they learned after the period which their part of the narrative covers. It's all very artificial and more than a bit painful. The narrators also specialize in adding extra details according to their particular brand of whimsy, and some of them are very whimsical indeed. The details in many cases have nothing to do with the central mystery of either book. What's more, the mysteries when finally revealed hardly merit all the time and effort spent on recording them so painstakingly...

Two days later.
I didn't finish writing this review the other day because I fell back into a stupor. I think it was the very fact of describing why I'd fallen into a stupor in the first place that caused it to descend on me again. I've read a book by a different author in the meantime—though not before I'd read a page of a third Wilkie Collins book I'd downloaded while my mind was still in the control of the Wilkie Collins fan. Fortunately I saved myself in time and deleted it from my kindle before it got hold of me.

Well, the refreshing book I've finished since has cleared the fog in my brain somewhat (though I'm still prone to moments of utter blankness) and now I'm able to explain why I was bewitched enough to read two Collins books. It's because of a few of the narrators: Frederick Fairlie in The Woman in White is so obnoxious yet so funny that he manages to relieve the ridiculous seriousness of that book, which is no small achievement; Sergeant Cuff in The Moonstone is amusing too, as is Miss Clack—when she isn't quoting from her huge fund of religious tracts. And then there's Gabriel Betteridge who really does know how to tell a story—I just wished he had a better story to tell. I wondered if his storytelling ability came from the fact that he'd read Robinson Crusoe so often he knew it by heart? It was impossible not to warm to a character who loved reading as much as Gabriel Betteredge did.

Kyle

Though Wilkie Collins was long-time friends with Charles Dickens, they had drastically different writing styles, and suffered some rough patches in their relationship. In a letter to someone, Dickens talks about his thoughts on The Moonstone: "The construction is wearisome beyond endurance, and there is a vein of obstinate conceit in it that makes enemies of readers."

What the heck? Who's this Dickens guy, anyway? What the heck does he know about writing? Sheesh!

I don't know what book the vaunted Mr. Charles Dickens read, but the book I read was absolutely wonderful. It was hilarious, entertaining, smart, and everything else that makes a good novel. Beyond that, it was especially surprising! Being one of the first detective novels, I expected it to be rather dry. Maybe a little dull, or outdated feeling. Perhaps even a bit shallow and boring.

I'm pleased to say, that it was none of these things. For a book written in the mid-1800's this novel has a remarkably modern feel. Though the main plot is a detective-style mystery, there is a wonderful underlying social commentary aspect, all revealed through the lenses of the unique cast of characters. The story is brilliantly told by using various written narratives of different people, all which not only tease us with knowledge of the mystery at just the right pace, but also provide wildly entertaining character studies of the people writing them. From (my favorite character) the chauvinistic old butler, who wants nothing more than to serve his household faithfully while leaning upon the crutch of Robinson Crusoe and his tobacco pipe, to the absolutely, but painfully, hilarious distant cousin who is on a mission to convert everyone to her particular brand of christian values. Each character's narrative is written in their unique voice, and it makes you love them all even when you're hating them.

I think Collins himself puts it perfectly, when he said that, unlike examining the influence of circumstances upon character (as many other novels), this book examines the influence of character upon circumstance. This isn't some novel where you place an average person in an extraordinary situation, and watch what becomes of them. This is a novel where the extraordinary characters are the movers and shakers of the plot. Yet, even as wonderfully unique as these characters are, they are all at the same time, so wonderfully human. With the narrative style Collins chose, we are allowed insight into the characters' thought processes, and feelings; we are able to see more than what actually happens. In many other novels, this approach might generate superfluous noise, but in The Moonstone it keeps the book churning at a page-burning pace, and allows us to appreciate the smaller aspects of the novel, even when the larger parts might normally be prepared to overshadow them.

This book almost feels like one of those "guilty pleasure books" people always try to judge others for reading, but you can hold your head high on this one. It's fun, fast-paced, and riveting, but nobody can accuse it of being shallow. Each character brings not only a unique perspective on the main plot/mystery of the novel, but also a unique perspective on the world around them. Let's explore what I mean with a couple of my favorite gentlefolk, shall we?:

The old butler:
"People in high life have all the luxuries to themselves-among others, the luxury of indulging their feelings. People in low life have no such privilege. Necessity, which spares our betters, has no pity on us. We learn to put our feelings back into ourselves, and to jog on with our duties as patiently as may be. I don't complain of this--I only notice it."


"There's a bottom of good sense, Mr. Franklin, in our conduct to our mothers, when they first start us on the journey of life. We are all of us more or less unwilling to be brought into this world. And we are all of us right."


The self-righteous cousin, whose only want is to share her beloved tracts*:

"I paid the cabman exactly his fare. He received it with an oath; upon which I instantly gave him a tract. If I had presented a pistol at his head, this abandoned wretch could hardly have exhibited greater consternation. He jumped up on his box, and, with profane exclamations of dismay, drove off furiously. Quite useless, I am happy to say! I sowed the good seed, in spite of him, by throwing a second tract in at the window of the cab."


"When I folded up my things that night--when I reflected on the true riches which I had scattered with such a lavish hand, from top to bottom of the house of my wealthy aunt--I declare I felt as free from all anxiety as if I had been a child again. I was so lighthearted that I sang a verse of the Evening Hymm. I was so lighthearted that I fell asleep before I could sing another. Quite like a child again! Quite like a child again!
So I passed the blissful night. On rising the next morning, how young I felt! I might add, how young I looked, if I were capable of dwelling on the concerns of my own perishable body. But I am not capable--and I add nothing.
"


Even though I could go on and on with wonderfully entertaining passages, I realize I've already over done it on the quotations, so this humble reviewer must desist before he loses himself.

Basically, read this book. If you like detective novels, or if you like Victorian novels, or if you like novels in general, read this. It's quite fun! The true mark of a great mystery novel is that even if you know or "solved" the mystery, the book still manages to keep your attention and make you want to see the conclusion unfold for yourself. I can't imagine re-reading most mystery novels I can think of, but I can't imagine not re-reading The Moonstone again in the future. It's simply too much fun.






_____________________________________
*A small, religious pamphlet.

Piyangie

The Moonstone is probably the most popular work of Wilkie Collins in his day. Perhaps it still is or perhaps The Woman in White rivals its rank at present times. But no matter, its popularity in Collin's day is no secret. Named as the first detective fiction of English literature, The Moonstone paved the way and laid the ground rules on modern detective novels. In that sense The Moonstone is pioneer of the genre.

With his customary use of different narrators, Collins works on his story on a brilliant plotline. The story is very cleverly built. We meet a professional detective and few amateur detectives working hard at discovering the mysterious disappearance of a valuable Indian diamond named the moonstone from an English household. Suspense and intrigue are two vital features of detective fiction. Collins seems quite aware of this, for he slowly unfolds the story behind the moonstone, how it comes to be in English soil from the forehead of an Indian deity. The atmosphere is dramatically built informing the reader of an upcoming possible theft. Collins makes the reader impatient until the contemplated event takes place. The theft of the moonstone is one climax of the story; one can even say it is the first part of the story. The next part is to discover the thief (if it was stolen) and to recover the moonstone. Again Collins goes to the bottom and starts building the tension and suspense on the reader till the second climax where the mystery is finally cleared up.

I have always enjoyed Collins's use of multiple narrators. Their different styles of narration influenced by their own perspectives provide different tones and colour to the story. There were six narrators and I found each of the narration to be different. The story begins with a pretty humorous narrative of Gabriel Betteredge. This follows by the eccentric Miss Clack. Mr. Bruff then proceeds with a matter of fact narrative before passing the baton to Mr. Franklin Blake. Blake's narrative is passionate. Of all the narratives, I found his narrative to be the most intense. His narrative is then followed by the sympathetic narrative of Ezra Jennings and the professional narrative of Sergeant Cuff. It is difficult to account for the reliability of these narrators save except the latter two. But these different narratives made the reading more interesting and engaging.

There are many characters involved in the story. However, unlike in other works that I have read of Collins, I found I am a bit detached from the characters. As in all Collins's stories, we find a spirited young woman with an independent mind in the guise of Rachel Verinder. But unfortunately, the flow of the story is such that it is difficult to like her till the very end. I didn't dislike any of the characters; rather I was a little apart from their company. If I came close to liking any, it has to be Sergeant Cuff, Blake, and Jennings. Amazingly, however, my indifference towards the characters did not in any way impede my enjoyment of the story. This is one novel where the story was more interesting for its plot than the characters.

The one complaint I have is that the story was very slowly developed. For detective fiction, the pace was not fast enough; at least it was not enough to my impatient self. However, being the first in the genre and that Collins wrote this for serial publication under severe suffering from attacks of 'rheumatic gout', one has to make allowances.

I enjoyed the book, no doubt there. But I expected more from it given the immense popularity. But to me personally, the book didn't live up to the standard of The Woman in White and No Name - the two other books of his that I've read and loved.

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