The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens

August was a mont for the fabulous Victorian Sensation Book Club. This is always a highlight of the buddy reads as we enjoy some of the classics together. This month, the ‘unfinished’ novel of choice came from the pen of Charles Dickens – ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’.

This is quite a strange novel to read, as at the back of your mind all the time is the fact that Dickens never finished it. However, this story has all the elements of a Dickens tale – creatively named characters, excellent atmospheric setting and beautiful writing. However, for me, this was an interesting but slightly difficult novel to read. For quite a long time, and possibly until the end, it is not entirely clear where the story is going. It was obviously supposed to be a longer book. Yet, there was a great sense of mystery surronding many of the characters. Mr Jasper, choir master, was brilliantly complex and, even with what Dickens left us, we still do not really know if he is good, bad or completely misunderstood.

You can really feel that this is a sensation novel. You can recognise that there was a mentor and student relationship between Wilkie Collins and Dickens. However, I really wish that this had been completed because, for me, it is a confused book that doesn’t quite find its way.

Although, I am now going to read and research all the ideas that different scholars and literary critics have about how this may have endedm and see if it connects with any of my own ideas.

Armadale by Wilkie Collins

I think – well I know – I have a book hangover from this glorious novel. Read as part of a buddy read-along, I actually finished ahead of the game, because I could not put the book down. In fact, at the moment, this may be my favourite book from the pen of Wilkie Collins.

Collins’ characterisation in this novel is outstanding, which is a key reason that I found the book engaging. The characters embody the narrative, each so clearly individual and representative of the role they are going to play. The villains are fabulously villainous although, as the tale progresses, Miss Gwilt (if that is who she really is) starts to become a little conflicted.

This book, some may say, could have been ahead of its time, as the strongest, most determined character in the book is a female. We all know that there is a continuous debate about females being represented in fiction, but Collins packs no punches with his character Miss Gwilt. Strong, determined, independent – she is fabulous (although you are probably not supposed to be a fan of her).

The tale is excellent, as with many of Wilkie Collins books. There is mystery, intrigue, mistaken identity, scandal – the list goes on. It is all just wonderfully thrilling from the word go (No Spoilers!).

If you have not read a book by Wilkie Collins or a Victorian sensation novel, then this could be a great place to start.