Moonstone, written in the early 19th century by Wilkie Collins is a detective story where instead of a detective solving the crime, it’s the readers who discover the thief through a series of narrations. A very interesting way to put it. And quite skillful too
The plot starts with how the Moonstone comes into the hands of a Colonel, through a series of plunder of the Hindu temples that happened during the 600 yr rule of the Mughals and British in India. It then talks of its journey to England and there it is bequeathed to the Colonel’s niece during her 18th birthday. She receives it on her birthday dinner but the following day, it is found to be missing. Who stole it, How did it find its way out of the house into a banker, Who then recovers it, forms the rest of the plot
You are taken through the events of the day and the search that follows through a series of narrations by the members who were present during the birthday party. The different styles of narration, the hidden agenda behind each person’s moves, parallel stories that give a different meaning to the sequence of events, reactions of each suspect involved making more sense as you hear another’s narrative, all this comes together to form a rather interesting detective novel. And the ending doesn’t disappoint either.
The beginning was tough for me to read. Stories of plunder of your own heritage is a little difficult to absorb and I found myself shutting the book and being unable to continue for more than a week. Rarely has a book disturbed me so. Took my quite the effort to move past that point and treat it like a detective novel.
The pace at the beginning is slow and tedious. But trust me, this is only because the person whose perspective you are reading is someone who speaks like that and likes to go to great lengths to describe something, sometimes to a point of serious digression. Once you reach the second narrative you realise the brilliance of Wilkie Collins to be able to speak as different people and accurately at that.
Do read this but prepare to be really patient with it. It is a good story and the ending is really good. The actual revealing of the thief that is. The book has largely a formal English tone with a bit of dry wit here and there. There isn’t really much humour to speak of in this. But definitely some fascinating insights into the different ways people can read the same situation.
Like Wilkie Collins puts it through one of his characters,
“We often hear, almost invariably, however, from superficial observers, that guilt can look like innocence. I believe it to be infinitely the truer axiom of the two that innocence can look like guilt.”
You will find yourself pleasantly surprised by the innocence of the one that looked guilty all along.
Photos: Remya Nair