Book No: 60
Author: Dan Simmons
Genre: Historical Fiction
No. of Pages: 782
Six months after starting this book I am finally finished. I’m not a stranger to big chunky books, I’ve read quite a few and in much shorter time. This book just seemed to drag on and on without actually getting anywhere. A good editor was desperately needed to make this a faster paced and more enjoyable read.
This book is ostensibly a story about Charles Dickens and the character of Drood, which haunted Dickens for the last 5 years of his life, after his near fatal train accident. I thought it would be a fictional look at Drood and what influenced Dickens to write this mystery, something he hadn’t really attempted before. Unfortunately this book was really about Wilkie Collins and his love/hate relationship with Charles Dickens; his friend, competitor and perceived enemy.
It is really difficult to enjoy a book where you dislike the main protagonist so much. Wilkie Collins as depicted here is a completely unreliable narrator. He is an abuser of both morphine and opium and beyond that a man so eaten alive by his jealousy of Dickens that you cannot believe any of his retelling of events This book is told entirely from Collins point of view and there are literally hundreds of pages taken up with his life with two women, the meals he ate, the long walks and talks he had with Dickens about projects they were working on, ad infinitum; my eyes glazed over more than once. For a story entitled Drood, although his presence permeates the book, I don’t think the character was actually in 50 pages of the book.
There were some parts of this book that were really creepy and scary, but these scenes were interrupted by other scenes so tedious I couldn’t wait for them to be done. Half the time you are reading this book you are questioning Collins’ sanity or wondering if what you are reading is one of his drug induced hallucination. In point of fact the final answer to this question comes in about the last 50 pages or so and is a complete let-down. Mr. Charles Dickens does not fare too well in this tale either, making me wonder what the whole point of this book was, in the end I think it was really about the destruction that jealousy can cause in a person’s psyche.
Another aspect of the book that I found annoying were the very many plotlines that were left unanswered, what really happened to Agnes and Joseph Clow? What occurred during Wilkie’s many excursions and conversations with a myriad of people – were they all hallucinations? There were just too many plotlines left dangling.
There were so many glimmers of excellent writing in the story that I rated it a bit higher than I normally would. I do have Simmons’ The Terror in my reading stacks, another large book, but after this it maybe a while before I have the strength or desire to read it.