Rewarding, engaging, and yet bewildering.
Wilkie Collins’s writing style is unique. At the start of this very long work of fiction and mystery, he addresses a reader so very often that it’s simply distracting. And, he does so to apologize for diversions, digressions, that he introduces into the story. Now isn’t that a mite facetious? Doesn’t that appear insincere? It gave me pause, enough of Mr. Collins’s creative writing techniques and this work thought I, but I’m glad to have persevered on through. The work is indeed engaging, with all sorts of twists and surprises, and ultimately rewarding to the diligent reader.
As the long story unfolds, he springs another novel technique, surprising (and distracting) even a seasoned veteran. He changes the voice – by moving the story forward through the very distinct perspectives of his interesting characters. He yanks a reader from one perspective, somewhat jarringly, into that of another…and the narration, the attention to detail, the musings and judgments all change. One feels much the same as his principal protagonist, who, having gained learning and experience in the German, Italian, French, and his native English cultures, displays a bewildering variety and transitions in his movements through the complex story. Yet, somehow, Mr. Collins makes all this seamless, more or less. It did not seem to help that the various narrators all seemed to know what others had conveyed.
And yes, Mr. Collins does tell a lot more than he shows. Perhaps this was one of his more contemplative works.
The story does take an incredulous turn, toward the end, bordering on metaphysical hocus-pocus, which he does introduce early in the work as well. It is hard to suspend disbelief in such matters, and this work is no exception.
One more curious instrument with which Mr. Collins shaped this work. He ages a voice, one that he employs to bring closure, having begun the story in the same. I thought he did that exceptionally well.
A very long, complex, convoluted work of mystery and fiction that may exhaust most contemporary readers, but will surely reward aspiring writers.
I enjoyed it!