Saturday, 9 April 2011

Drood by Dan Simmons

I love the premise of this book. It is narrated by Wilkie Collins, author of The Woman in White and The Moonstone and friend of Charles Dickens. It spans the five years from Dickens terrible experience at the Staplehurst Rail Disaster in 1865 to Dickens' death in 1870.

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.


  1. Thanks, Joanne. This is sitting on my shelf and I was wondering whether the length was going to be worth the endeavour of reading. You've convinced me it is. I'll move it up the pile.

  2. This one has been sitting on my shelf for a while too. I started it but it wasn't the right moment and I put it down again. Then I wondered if the time taken to read this huge volume might be better spent with the works of Mr Collins and Mr Dickens themselves. I'm encouraged by your words and I will give it another try one of these days.

  3. Annie, I hope you enjoy it.

    Jane, I wouldn't claim that it's as good as Dickens or Collins! But I thought it was a good read.

  4. Great review. I'm a modern reader who loves classics, so this book sounds perfect for me. I'd never heard of it before coming across your blog. I'm definitely going to check this one out. :)

  5. Darlyn - do check it out. It might provide a nice counterpoint to all your classics.