Saturday, 9 April 2011
Drood by Dan Simmons
Following the railway accident Dickens tells Collins that at the scene he had met a grotesque figure named Drood. He believes that Drood was responsible for the crash and is determined to find him and bring him to justice.Collins, a sickly, fragile man, who cannot match Dickens' energy, doesn't want to get drawn into this quest, but seems to find it impossible to refuse Dickens
We see the whole story through the eyes of Wilkie Collins. He is a bitter, resentful and self-absorbed man whose overwhelming jealousy of Dickens informs almost everything he does. The hunt for Drood takes them to Undertown, a shadowy maze of sewers and crypts where a vast community of outcasts and criminals live. This descent into darkness reflects Collins' weakening mental state. He is hopelessly addicted to laudanum and we are never sure the things he sees or says are real or the result of laudanum visions.
The novel is peopled with characters from real life. Catherine Dickens and Ellen Ternan are there, as well as Dickens children. Wilkie Collins' convoluted personal life is described. One of the main characters is Inspector Field, the real life policeman on whom Dickens based the character of Inspector Bucket in Bleak House. I couldn't say how accurate the historical parts of the novel are, but there is certainly a lot of detail.
At almost 800 pages this is a huge book, but it kept my attention throughout and I would recommend it.