Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Moonstone Read-a-Long Half-way Check In

I'm actually writing this a good few days before the official check-in because I want to write it when I'm actually at the halfway point and I don't want to stop reading and wait patiently for the right check-in point.

The Moonstone is just so good! I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I've completely and totally fallen in love with it. THERE ARE SPOILERS below, but only up to the end of Druscilla Clack's narrative.

So off we go.

First off, this is where Frizinghall is:

And this is where I live:

Obviously this is not actually my house. Gawd.

Do you have any idea how happy this makes me? The Moonstone, in all it's awesomeness, is set 1.4 miles away from where I live. It's in walking distance, people.

I know, I know... I'll talk about the actual book now very soon. I just had to check where Wilkie Collins lived first, just in case OH MY GOD HE LIVED IN MY HOUSE IN MY BEDROOM I SEE A WILKIE GHOST! or something.

He didn't. Sadly. But his Wikipedia entry is quite snide: '...the quality of his writing declined along with his health.' Ouch. Someone's resentful.


Sorry, I'm here now, away from the amusements of typing Wiki Wilkie into Google.

So I picked up The Moonstone and almost put it straight back down again. That's not a good prologue. I understand that some form of introduction is necessary so that we know exactly why the Indians are chasing after the Diamond in the first place, but it sounded very adventure novel-esque to me, something akin to King Solomon's Mines. 

It didn't take me long after the story actually began to get hooked though. I didn't realise it at the time, but the story is told by changing narratives. The basic premise is that one of the key characters decides in the future to compile a complete account of the Moonstone affair by asking several witnesses to send him the details of what they saw at the time.

It starts off with Mr Betteredge, the head servant at the household in question. The best way I can sum him up is 'Bless him!' He's an old man, very traditional and very set in his way. He bumbles quite a lot - mentioning something insignificant and then saying, 'But it is relevant - I'll tell you later!' when sometimes you wish that actually, maybe he could tell you now?

Being a 24 year old, female, newly-qualified barrister I am very obviously completely for the equality of women (and races, classes, ages... etc). Yet there's something almost adorable about old men in 1850s novels. I want to pat him on the head and go 'Aww!' when he's being his charming sexist self, even though anybody who spoke to me like this in the real world would shortly receive a Blackstones Criminal Practice to the face. 

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 (my daughter, or not, it doesn't matter), 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 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.
Poor wretches indeed.
To avoid all doubt, I like Mr Betteredge. I shouldn't, because he's everything that usually annoys me in a fictional character, but I really do. Perhaps it's because in my HeadMovie he's played by William Hartnell, the first Doctor. Who knows!

(see what I did there? Who knows!?  Cause he was Doctor Who! Yeah, it's late. Sorry.)

He's very self important and arrogant, but again it's rather charming and I don't know why. 

I am (thank God!) constitutionally superior to reason... Profit, good friends, I beseech you, by my example. It will save you from many troubles of the vexing sort. Cultivate a superiority to reason, and see how you pare the claws of all the sensible people when they try to scratch you for your own good!

Sorry, Betteredge. I'm too busy rummaging my own mind for a reason - I just don't have time to be superior to it as well.  

 At this point I didn't understand the whole changing narrative thing, and I had to check to make sure I wasn't holding an omnibus of Wilkie novels or something. There was just so much of the damn book left and I didn't see anywhere else it could go. Then we switched over to Druscilla Clack, who is possibly my favourite literary character ever, and it all kind of fell into place.

Miss Clack is awful. She's just a very, very misguided human being who tries so damn hard to be useful, in the least useful way possible. She's a masterpiece. I really hated her, but I loved her narrative. She's amusing, without ever actually making you vehemently angry.

She's very religious and is desperately trying to 'save' pretty much everybody. She rejoices in the bad fortune of others because it means she can help them turn to God and tells a girl who has just lost her mother that she probably hasn't gone to heaven. She hides tracts in people's bathrooms despite their active refusal to read them. She's awesome.

I bookmarked literally seven quotes from Miss Clack, just because she amused me so greatly. Again, she's the kind of character that I'd normally loathe in a book and avoid in real life. What is it about these characters that make them so endearing!?

Some persons, hearing what I now heard, would have been probably
overwhelmed with astonishment. For my own part, knowing Rachel's spirit to have been essentially unregenerate from her childhood upwards, I was prepared for whatever my aunt could tell me on the subject of her daughter. It might have gone on from bad to worse till it ended in Murder; and I should still have said to myself, The natural result! oh, dear, dear, the natural result! The one thing that did shock me was the course my aunt had taken under the circumstances. Here surely was a case for a clergyman, if ever there was one yet! Lady Verinder had thought it a case for a physician. All my poor aunt's early life had been passed in her father's godless household. The natural result again! Oh, dear, dear, the natural result again! 

"The doctors recommend plenty of exercise and amusement for Rachel, and strongly urge me to keep her mind as much as possible from dwelling on the past," said Lady Verinder.
"Oh, what heathen advice!" I thought to myself. "In this Christian
country, what heathen advice!"
The changing narrative actually works very well. I like how one person can fill in the gaps of another character's account and how they usually have their own opinion on the person preceding or following them. Both Betteredge and Clack (and presumably everybody after them) know what really happened to the Moonstone, but they've been forbidden from saying what that actually is. They do keep dropping hints though (or in Miss Clack's case, bitching about the prohibition).

This is more-or-less the halfway point so I'll leave you to it. Come back and find my second update in a fortnight, although I'll probably have actually finished the book before this post is even due!

Are you reading along too? Have you read The Moonstone before? Tell me what you thought below!


  1. I have to write my half-way post too - I read three first narratives (also the lawyer's one) and then just banned myself to read any further - this book is too addictive.

    I loved Betteredge, but Drusilla Clack is simply a brilliant character (also she is not as likeable as Betteredge, yes with even his sexism and what not - I had much the same emotions as you when reading his narrative), so Clack so far takes the cake as the best character for me. Who would have thought that while reading Betteredge, eh? :)

    And yes, Drusilla's narrative is so quotable, when Ablewhite exclaimed "Who asked the impudent fanatic into the house?" I was dying of laughter :D

    1. Haha, I considered banning myself, but I didn't think I'd be able to resist! I just wrote this post at the beginning of the week when I WAS at the halfway point and then continued merrily on with the book! :)

      I can't choose which I like best - Betteredge or Clack. They're too different to compare, in my head, which is a mark of great writing if ever there was one. I mean, how can one author write from the perspective of so many people, so distinctly?

      I loved the part when she first goes to the house to see Rachel and Mrs Verinder and she's all 'Rachel, you MUST cease talking about this... but please do carry on!' I love her so much!

  2. I'm just editing my halfway post now - but mine is CRAP compared to yours, and only goes to the end of Betteredge's account, because DAMN YOU LIBRARY BOOKS WILKIE-BLOCKING ME. I'm quite looking forward to Miss Clack now I've read this though, she sounds like a riot! (In the 'reading about her sense' obviously - if I lived with her she'd probably have been mysteriously incapacitated by a heavy book by now.) Oh, and looking at that picture of William Hartnell... yeah, you're right! He DOES look like the Betteredge in my head!

    P.S. Whaaaaaaaat is happening to your blog? Are you revamping? Is my computer dying? All I see is a full-width white page... NOT A HINT OF A SHOE ANYWHERE! IT'S ALL WROOOOOOONG!

    1. Oooh, it's back! I SEE SHOES! Also... *coughs discreetly*... your 'last book bought' box needs changing dude. Don't think you can hide from me. I was there when you bought Longbourn (sorry about that) and I WAS THERE WHEN YOU BOUGHT THE NEXT BAG FULL. *cackles* :P

    2. Oi, what's with the whole read-a-long worry? Your posts are ALWAYS great - so much better put together than mine. This was written at 1am in the throes of a Moonstone Glow.

      Miss Clack is simply wonderful. You KNOW I hate every character in every book pretty much EVER, so she comes along as somebody as I should obviously be irritated by... but no. She's just funny, which is clearly a demonstration of Wilkie's awesome writing.

      I can't call him 'Collins.' I just can't.

      No, I'm not revamping. I'm working on Lewis' Surface tablet at the minute - its great for writing but doesn't seem to like Blogger so much. Might have altered something by accident. Is it better now?

      I know, I know. I'm rubbish with that box! In my defence, I haven't added the new lot to LibraryThing yet, so I don't know what the new TBR total will be. About 309, I reckon. Eep.

    3. '... in the throes of a Moonstone Glow'... That sounds great! What better time to write about The Moonstone than IN THE THROES OF A MOONSTONE GLOW?! I can't call him 'Collins' either. It doesn't sound right.

      The blog's totally back to normal now - maybe Blogger was just having one of its little half-hour tantrums again. Like when it suddenly decides not to save my draft posts and I have to keep clicking the button for ten minutes until it finally works. YOU BOUGHT PARASITE! I NEARLY BOUGHT THAT! I am very intrigued to find out how good it is, because Mira Grant is heavily represented on my wish/library list but I haven't read any yet.

      YAY FOR GIANT TBR PILES. The bigger yours is, the less guilty I feel. :P

    4. Blogger is usually reasonably well-behaved for me... *touches wood* which is why I assumed it was the Surface. As long as you can see a blue background and some shoes at the top though, I'm good!

      Actually I got Parasite for review - it arrived along with a load of other books the day after Leeds shopping. Oops. I'll be reading it soonish because it's for review, so I'll let you know :)

      Haha, I know. I was really thrilled when Bex told me how big her's is, because I always see her as quite sensible!

  3. Can I just say how much I am LOVING reading the same book as you and Ellie at the same time? I know that with blogging and Twitter and other fun stuff there's almost always someone there to be like, "I'm reading/have read that book too!" but it's even better knowing that it's you two that are doing the reading!

    I don't really think that I have anything to say to you that I haven't already said in real life and/or texted you about but a recap never hurt, did it? Hurrah for Frizinghall!

    I wasn't totally sold on Miss Clack straight away but her tract-giving won me over eventually. And her little snipey asides with Franklin while she's writing. Betteredge will always be the star of the first half for me, though. Making sexism charming and funny since 1848.

    I couldn't believe how accessible the story was to be honest. I think because he was friends with Dickens, I was expecting something much more serious and...wordy.

    And I can't WAIT to see what everybody makes of the ending!!

    1. I know, me too! I mean, its great reading something that one of you HAS read but reading at the same time feels great. We should do this more often though, with Woman in White or maybe Tess d'Urberville?

      I'm tempted by a Willie Collins biography because it sounds like he had an interesting life -Dickens and opium and such. Then again I should probably read more of his books before I head down that road!

      Oh, me neither. I want to write about it so badly already!

    2. It's brilliant all reading the same book at the same time! It's like reading a review one of you's written of something I've just read and finding we had the same feels, only IN REAL TIME. I super want a Wilkie biography now too - maybe I'll read The Woman in White first then treat myself to a bio or two after that. I love interesting literary figures, they're always so addictive to read about! :D

    3. Exactly! But I think reading a biography requires reading more than one of their actual books :p

  4. You have to go to Fritzinghall and take some pictures!

    I love that everyone reading feels the same way about Betteredge (cute old man, who we inexplicably forgive for his rampant sexism) and Clack (hilaaaaarious.) I wonder what you guys are going to think of Mr. Blake because so far he's kind of boring. I want more Clack.

    1. I actually finished the book the day after I wrote this post and I wasn't that fond of the lawyer's narrative or Franklin Blake's. It gets better though - the ending is PERFECT.

      I want more Clack too! Hey, if there was a spin-off just about her, I'd be reading it already.

  5. Clack is the besssssst and also the worst! I'm only not doing this readalong because I did it last year with other people and to this day, we still send each other tweets that are like 'A Word on Your Bonnet Ribbons' or whatever. IT'S STILL SO FUNNY! God, I love WILKIE.

    I think it's easier to forgive Betteredge his sexism because of t'olden days. Also because WILKIE is sooooo not sexist because OMG MARIAN (who... is in The Woman in White. You may not know her. But she's AMAZING.)

  6. You are basically in this book Hanna! *sigh* I don't think I've ever been able to say "this place sounds cool *google search* oh hey super nearby literary hotspot" and I probably never will. But as long as you and the other English bloggers keep showing me your proximity to castles and scandalous homes of missing diamonds I am all too happy!

    I loved Clack and Betteredge, I'm just up to the lawyer's section now and I can't see myself loving him any more than these two. They're both so ridiculously wonderful AND totally characters I'd probably hate in other books. So bravo Wilkie! I think the chapter that's letters between Clack and Franklin is perhaps one of my favourites, such a perfect encapsulation of her absolute insanity as a character.

    Also, William Hartnell is perfect as Betteredge! I think I imagined him a little more doddery, but now that you've mentioned Hartnell I'll never be able to see him as anyone else.

    1. Well they kept saying 'Frizinghall' and 'Yorkshire,' but I dismissed it as too much of a co-incidence. But then I remembered all the big manor homes and something clicked it my head, and now I am a happy person :)

      I wasn't that fond of the lawyer's section, but it serves A Purpose later on. Oh god, I loved the letters between Clack and Franklin Blake - it may actually be my favourite thing in the whole book!

      Haha, I know! I kept seeing this old man in my head who I knew was an actor from SOMETHING and then had to spend ages trawling through IMDB to work out who it was! :)


Grab my Button

Booking in Heels

Booking In Heels Copyright 2008 Fashionholic Designed by Ipiet Templates Supported by Tadpole's Notez