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The Moonstone (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

The Moonstone (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

3.9 157
by Wilkie Collins

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The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics


The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.
Alongside Edgar Allan Poe in America, Britain’s Wilkie Collins stands as the inventor of the modern detective story. The Moonstone introduces all the ingredients: a homey, English country setting, and a colorfully exotic background in colonial India; the theft of a fabulous diamond from the lovely heroine; a bloody murder and a tragic suicide; a poor hero in love with the heroine but suspected of the crime, who can’t remember anything about the night the jewel was stolen; assorted friends, relatives, servants, a lawyer, a doctor, a sea captain—suspects, all; and, most essentially, a bumbling local policeman and a brilliant if eccentric London detective. Adding spice to the recipe are unexpected twists, a bit of dark satire, a dash of social comment, and an unusual but effective narrative structure—eleven different voices relate parts of the tale, each revealing as much about himself (and, in one case, herself) as about the mystery of the missing Moonstone.

Filled with suspense, action, and romance, The Moonstone is as riveting and intoxicating today as it was when it first appeared more than a century ago.

Joy Connolly teaches in the Classics Department at New York University. Her recent research includes the history of rhetoric and political thought, and the relationship of literature and ethics. She writes book reviews for the New York Times and other publications.

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From Joy Connolly’s Introduction to The Moonstone

“King of inventors” was the title given to Wilkie Collins at the height of his powers, and popular opinion has since ranked The Moonstone (1868), rivaled only by The Woman in White (1859–1860), as Collins’s greatest masterpiece of invention. Mystery buffs know it as the first detective novel in English; fans of nineteenth-century literature prize its blend of sensational thrill, social criticism, and romance. Set by turns in the country comfort of Victorian squiredom, London townhouses, seashore lodgings, and in exotic landscape of India, the novel retains the page-turning suspensefulness that captivated its first generation of readers. “A very curious story,” wrote Charles Dickens, Collins’s close friend and mentor, “wild, and yet domestic—with excellent character in it, great mystery. . . . It is prepared with extraordinary care, and has every chance of being a hit” (Letters of Charles Dickens, vol. 3, p. 660; see “For Further Reading”).

A hit it certainly was. The story first appeared in 1868 as a thirty-two part serial, beginning on January 1 and ending August 8, in Dickens’s weekly magazine All the Year Round. In the summer, as the final segments unveiled the solution to the mystery of the theft of the Verinder family’s Indian heirloom, avid readers packed the streets outside the magazine’s offices in the hope of securing copies, and bets were placed on the outcome of the plot. Sales records of the magazine, as well as the hardbound edition, and the popularity of the stage play that quickly followed, suggest that fans were not disappointed. An appreciative reviewer for the London Times declared Collins an unrivaled master in the business of sensational novel-writing. Geraldine Jewsbury, a well-respected critic and also a friend of Dickens, praised Collins’s achievement in stronger terms. Her admiration for his sympathetic portrayal of characters on the margins of society, especially women, the poor, and people of color, in part anticipates the novel’s appeal to the diverse readership of the present day. As for Dickens, whether from an honest change of heart or sheer jealousy (The Moonstone outsold Great Expectations), he ultimately dismissed the book, complaining sourly in a private letter that its construction was “wearisome beyond endurance.”

Today, as then, Dickens is contradicted by a host of admiring readers. Unfolding in twelve separate voices in fourteen blocks of narrative during which the great yellow diamond of the title is stolen no less than four times, the novel’s construction is an extraordinary feat. The expertly timed switch from voice to voice (a favorite novelistic device of Collins) gives a democratic, upstairs-downstairs feel to the book. Collins’s sensitivity to social injustice, a lifelong theme of his work, makes itself felt in the contrasting perspectives of the intensely sympathetic, tormented Doctor Ezra Jennings, and the cheerfully self-absorbed Franklin Blake. Blake is the cousin and suitor of Rachel Verinder, heir to the stolen Moonstone, and it is he who collects the narratives more than two years after the diamond’s theft, “in the interests of truth, to be placed on record in writing”—a fictional echo of Collins’s own habitual protestations that his novels were based on real events and careful research.

Staking claim to authenticity is a staple of Collins’s professional specialty, the Victorian subgenre of sensational fiction—denounced by high-minded clergymen and critics as a corrupting influence on public morals, and embraced by the British middle class for its racy pleasures. Sensational fiction was part of the historic explosion in mass culture that emerged in its modern form in the Victorian era. Industrialization and urbanization, the double-edged achievements of mid-nineteenth-century Europe and America, were opening up unprecedented stretches of leisure time that could be whiled away in zoos, public gardens, Turkish baths, music halls, amateur sports, charity work, literary societies, lectures on everything from magnetism to the causes of poverty, and reading. Novels like Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret and Ellen Wood’s St. Martin’s Eve terrified and entertained readers with the tragic undersides of this modern society—especially the workhouse, brothel, and lunatic asylum—and with the hidden crimes of domestic life, from abuse and illegitimacy to suicide and murder.

More often than not, these tales are moralistic in the simplest sense, making the bad end badly and the good end well, and though the bad occasionally escape the reach of human law, the authors make it clear that they will not escape God’s. If they strike modern tastes as more exploitative than improving, it’s worth recalling that sensational tales helped make everyday human suffering a central concern of British popular culture. Unlike their modern counterparts in the televised melodrama or pulp novel, many of them back real and realizable goals of social reform. Collins’s The Woman in White is often said to lead the genre, with its chilling portrayal of the prison-like terrors of the madhouse and the desolation of unmarried mothers and illegitimate children. The Moonstone, though it owes much to sensational literature and was certainly marketed as such, is more difficult to classify. Readers tend to hail it instead as anticipating a new mode of writing, as T. S. Eliot did when he called The Moonstone “the first, longest, and greatest” of all English detective novels—a sentiment echoed by mystery writers Dorothy Sayers, P. D. James, and many others since.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 8, 1824
Date of Death:
September 23, 1889
Place of Birth:
London, England
Place of Death:
London, England
Studied law at Lincoln¿s Inn, London

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The Moonstone 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 157 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started reading this story about a month and a half ago. For the first 40 pages, I wasn't sure if I could stay interested in the first narrator's tale. But as the story went on, I realized that everything he was saying was key to the mystery. I could hardly put it down even when my eyelids started to droop uncontrollably at night. I was relieved to get sick over the weekend and decided to devour the last half of the book on a Sunday afternoon. It was soooo good, that I even forsook my favorite TV program to finish it. I was BLOWN away by all the events. They got better and better and built up to an amazing finale. The only narrator who annoyed the socks off of me was Miss Clack. But then again, everything she told was key to the story. I was amazed at how each narrator had a voice of their own even though it was all written by ONE person. And when certain evidence was revealed, I gasped from shock as though I was seeing the whole thing with my own eyes. By far, the most incredible, captivating mystery I've ever read. I don't care what anyone else says. The change in narrators keeps you from getting bored with the writing style and I will recommend it to ANYONE and EVERYONE who truly appreciates British literature. Thanks to this book, I'm now going to pursue the rest of his works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very entertaining book and despite how long ago it was written seemed more modern at times than it actually is. The book is written in a series of letters that give each character's viewpoint of the story and how it progressed concerning the Moonstone. I only found one character's account a bit trying but I think that was the point as she was a most pompous and sanctimonious individual. Well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! This is a really great story told from several different viewpoints which makes it more interesting. Fans of Victorian literature will not be disappointed!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
O My Gosh. You just love the narrators in the story. Especially sweet, sweet Betteredge!! At first in the mystery i started to hate Lady Verinder and thought that Sergeant Cuff was figuring out the mystery when BAM!!! Sergeant Cuff, the GREAT Sergeant Cuff, had it all wrong!!! It made you want to read on and on and on! But at the same time if you had to stop reading you sort of could-like even though it was soooo annoying as to find it all out you weren't always thinking about it once you had to stop reading it. And then only to think that the actual person who had stolen it was that certain person(totally can't say who!) was astounding!! I mean, they mentioned suspicions towards the person and i myself had had some too but not strong ones so it was it was still sort of hard to believe, and not only that but the person in which the stone was passed onto was also unexpected--and that person's true character was yet also surprising!Gosh, i LOVE THIS BOOK. And heck yeah!!! You better darn read it!! This book is my wonderful treasure---My Moonstone!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Moonstone is a long and very well written and presented detective mystery which failed to engage me very much: A well written tale about people who are all decidedly uninteresting. I could have put Moonstone down at any given point and not thought about it further. Collins's Moonstone lacks both the genius, flare and humor of Dickens and the warm, personal and utterly engaging style of Conan-Doyle's Holmes stories. Consider the three stars "Style Points".
Nicole Sheldon More than 1 year ago
I love novels from this era, but at points it was difficult to keep reading. I had to remind myself that Collins is the godfather of mystery crime novels and they have come a long way since this one! Knowing that about this story gives you great appreciation for his skill and inspiration this has given others to push the envelope a little farther.
e_flaig More than 1 year ago
The Moonstone is dated. That's not surprising; it was written over a hundred years ago. But this is the father of all mystery novels, so there's no better place to start than here. A classic, and one every mystery fan should read.
var More than 1 year ago
Reading this mystery was a pleasant surprise. The plot had all the undertones of England in transition. The characters were unforgetable. The B&N presentation was excellent. Thank you very much for offering this very enjoyable and quick reading novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
More typos than you can imagine. Some clearly automated this job and never proofread the results. Fantastic book, though. Worth finding a readable edition.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was looking for a great summer read to "take me away" and make me think of something other than my complicated life this summer. After having enjoyed this kind of distraction while reading "The Woman in White" I went in search of another Collins book. This was the second of his books that I have read, and I have to say it was just what I needed! I love Collins' writing style. This book, as was The Woman in White, was narrated from several different perspectives, each written by different characters. I marvel at the author's ability to write each narrative with such different personalities...I began to believe that each was written by a different person! And each is written in so likeable a style that I dreaded the end, thinking, "surely, I wont like the next character's narrative as well as this one." Yet within a page or two I was once again drawn in and connecting to the new voice. This is a 415 page book, and on at least 4 occasions the conclusion seemed so near I couldn't fathom what the author was going to do with the rest of the pages. This was the result of each narrator telling the story from his or her perspective nearly to its conclusion, then handing the pen off to the next narrator, to start at his or her own beginning and do the same. The resulting story had me on the edge of my seat, confident I had figured out "who done it" and speed reading to see if I was right! I spent numerous nights reading past my bedtime, and allowed myself to read away more daytime hours than is respectable, all in the hopes of proving myself a cunning detective, able to outsmart the author! (An honest report would indicate that was right, sort of, and wrong, sort of, more than a few times over the course of reading this book!) And I am glad, now that I have finished it, that I had the foresight to grab a couple of his other works, which are now at the ready to fill the time void left by finishing this one! As to the quality if the ebook itself, I think nearly every page had at least one OCR error on it, but the errors were rather consistant, and it didn't take me long to figure out the correct text. Most of the time I just read right through them without hesitation. And since I didn't pay for this copy, I suppose I should't be too upset by a few errors. Dont hesitate to grab up this ebook and get to reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found Wilkie Collins quite by accident on the B&N online shop...well, what a wonderful find. Look for some of his other books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sorry! Can not read thie gray version of this free book. The typos, etc and lack of punctuation suck the enjoyment of reading from this. Maybe, there is an edited version of this classic out there somewhere.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed reading this for a second time and was impressed by the plot development. Be sure you give yourself enough time to savor the experience and you will enjoy this classic.
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I liked this one.
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I don't generally like different narrators, but this was done very well. Good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Wonderful classic.
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