Context: Read this as we walked the South West Coast Path for four days for our 15th wedding anniversary.
Collins practically invented the whodunnit and this is his first famous novel. Written 8 years before his other classic, the Moonstone, it tells the story of a crime motivated by wealth and deception.
I didn’t enjoy it as much as the Moonstone, it has to be said. It’s a very lengthy book for all its content and this doesn’t complement the suspense that we’ve come to expect from this genre. Of course, it was one of the first of its kind and as such was trying to break free from the shackles of the Victorian romantics.
So, on reading this, you need to be able to pick your way through the romantic interludes and flights of fancy to get to the bones of the plot. I found that a bit tedious and it took me a long while to read it. While, as with the Moonstone, I really had no idea of the truth of the crime involved until it was revealed, I did find the revelations a tad contrived. It’s one thing to reveal a completely unexpected fact to your readers, it’s quite another skill to lead them in such a direction that such a fact is entirely contrary to what they’d expect. That skill was to become much more developed as the genre progressed.
So, am I glad I read it? Absolutely. It defines a genre and as such paves the way for all sorts of works. Did I enjoy it? Not particularly. Would I read it again. Absolutely not!
This is the story of what a Woman’s patience can endure, and what a Man’s resolution can achieve.
Marian was the good angel of our lives – let Marian end our story.
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