The Moonstone

From Academic Kids

The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins is a 19th-century sensation novel, which is as well now sometimes considered to be the first mystery novel in the English language.

It tells the story of events surrounding the disappearance of a mysterious yellow diamond, upon which a curse was placed.

The novel is told the story in the view of a first person narrative. The responsibility of narrating, however is passed to several characters throughout the book. This lends to many different viewpoints creating an enthralling novel.

The book is widely regarded as the precursor of the modern mystery and suspense novels. T. S. Eliot called it 'the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels'. It contains a number of ideas which became common tropes of the genre, including a crime being investigated by talented amateurs who happen to be present when it is committed, and two police officers who exemplify respectively the 'Scotland Yard bungler' and the skilled, professional detective.

One of the things that made The Moonstone such a success was its sensationalist depiction of opium addiction. Unbeknownst to his readership, Collins was writing from personal experience. In his later years, Collins grew severely addicted to laudanum and as a result suffered from paranoid delusions, the most notable being his conviction that he was constantly accompanied by a doppelganger he dubbed 'Ghost Wilkie'.

The novel is also examined nowadays from a post-colonial viewpoint, as its portrayal of three mysterious Indians who play an integral role in its plot seems unusually positive for a book of its time.

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