12 December 2011

Drood by Dan Simmons

Drood -- Four Stars

I picked this up at Borders when they were having their final farewell. I do enjoy reading Dickens' novels, like most literary people, so I was attracted to this book because of that aspect. I was not prepared for a book that was such an in depth telling.

The story starts with the Staplehurst accident on 9 of June 1865. Charles Dickens was a passenger along with his pretty, young mistress when the train derailed and fell into a ravine. When Dickens starts to help the wounded and dying, he sees a fantastic man in a theatre cape. His name is Drood and he haunts the rest of the story.

The book is written in a fashion of a memoir, the narrator being a friend and contemporary of Dickens, one Wilkie Collins. He starts as a side character to entire Drood affair, but all too soon finds himself wrapped in the centre of a world of mesmerism (hypnosis) and  opium. The novel covers several years, from 1865 to Dickens' death in 1870. While we watch Dickens' age we also watch the narrator, Mr Collins, fall into his own madness.

I have to give Dan Simmons applause. He wrote a novel in the modern age using language that was common to the Victorian English age. No mean feat, let me assure you. Drood is also the first Simmons novel I have ever read and was notably impressed. I was also pleased by the level of research that went into the novel. Wilkie Collins had his share of success in the 1800's, but I had never heard of him and thought the character pure fiction. Imagine my surprise when I happened upon his most famous novel, The Moonstone, in a book shop the other day.

While a mammoth novel of over nine-hundred pages, it was well worth the read. I am so glad I picked it up that day.