It looks like I, Agatha Christie ‘are not meant for each other’

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Back in last December, I asked for my best friend, Erwida, to lend me any titles by Agatha Christie because I know Wida is the big fan of Christies’ books. When we met early this year she asked for my intention reading her books because, this time around, she knows I don’t really into any detective stories.
I told her I wanted to read Christie’s stories because I have planned creating my own fiction about mystery so I wish I will learn how Christie develops her plots. In addition, I once planned to watch “Murder on Orient Express” movie version after I saw its ads in one of the cinemas in Tangerang last year. It looked like the movie was good. I then realized the title was from Christie’s best-selling fiction of the same title.
Since I have planned to write the fiction of my own then why don’t I read books about detective stories? For how many years I barely remember most fans of detective stories have applauded Christie as the queen of mysterious or crime stories. So my mind quickly shifted to her books as, you may say, ‘source of inspiration’ in writing technique.
That very day, in a busy shopping mall in the heart of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, I and Wida had a very nice time to chat and laugh, as usual. She brought me “Murder in Mesopotamia”, one of her most favorites from the author. I had a chance to have read the book a month later after I had completed reading “The Moonstone”. While The Moonstone was mind blowing as you read from some number of posts in this blog, reading “Murder in Mesopotamia” was a disastrous for me (I’m sorry Wida, we just have different taste)
Let alone I was able to obtain something about Christie’s technique, I felt like I was in a speedy ride for the story that wasn’t supposed to be told in such a rush. I was actually curious with the name of the lady who becomes the subject of ‘being taken care of’ in the novel but how was I supposed to get to know her if the way of getting there was so forceful?
Sentences are relatively short. Descriptions about people and places are very clear. Christie doesn’t invite me to imagine the characters’ souls in the book. The movement from one scene to another is clearly directed. It goes like “after this, she does that then goes from here to there… “ Something like that.
No rooms for imaginations. No chance to create suspense atmosphere within my body and my mind. How was I supposed to enjoy that kind of story? Again, I find it very hard to read fictions that apply ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’ kind of method.
This is completely different with Wilkie Collins when he writes “The Moonstone”. Taking the same genre about detective stories, Collins puts a lot of descriptions about places, characters, histories. With his very smooth plot, the scenes leading up to the novel’s climaxes are fruitful thus leaving me with very impressive marks until now.
I don’t mean to insult Christie though. She is the best-selling author in terms of mysterious and crime books until now, and who am I by the way? I think it is all about a matter of reading and writing style preference. So for all Christie fans who happen reading this forgive me if this post sounds harsh to you all.
Anyway, I gave up reading “Murder in Mesopotamia” when I was at the page of 39 0ut of 351. Still a very long way to go but sometimes quitting a journey that bores you to death is the best thing you can do.

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Fly me to the UK for a literary adventure I’ve always dreamt of

Quoting famous speech from Martin Luther King Jr, ‘I Have a Dream’, well, I have a dream, too, which is to launch what I call as a literary adventure to say hello, take inspiration for writing then say thank you for these literary genius whose works not only entertain my soul but their imaginations and voices have helped me finding my own place in this hectic cum wonderful modern life.
Thomas Hardy
I have been longing for paying a visit to the places that play significant roles in the works of Thomas Hardy, one of my most-beloved authors. If you have bumped to this messy blog then you realize how much I admire his works as his name becomes the most-tagged word in this place, hehe..
If you ask me why do I love Hardy so much, one of my answers is because he knows how to appreciate nature then put them into beautiful words. Reading his novels soothe my heart because his words are indeed pieces of arts, beautifully-crafted.
I would really love to go to the house he was born in a house in Stinsford, a village and civil parish in southwest Dorset, one mile east of Dorchester. Stinsford is the original ‘Mellstock’ in his ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ and ‘Jude the Obscure’. I haven’t read ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ but I have enjoyed ‘Jude’.
The first site I wish I can visit is Hardy’s cottage as you can see from the below picture. This is where the poet was born in 1840 then writing ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ in 1872 and ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ in 1874. I can fancy how peaceful it was when he was working by looking at the cottage and its surroundings. No wonder he was able to produce very fascinating words as its neighborhood was providing him a lot of inspirations to write. Hardy was staying in the cottage until he was 34 years old.

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He once moved to London but never felt at home in the big city. As such, he built a house namely Max Gate, which is just a few miles from the cottage where he was living before. He and his first and second wife inhabited the house, which I think is quite large and exquisite, from 1885 until his death in 1928. This is the house where he was creating his best fictions; ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, ‘Jude the Obscure’ and ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ as well as most of his poems. While general fans mostly applaud ‘Tess’, ‘Far’ or ‘Jude’, my most favorite fiction is yes, ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’. I really really admire the book. Anyway, this is Max Gate.

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George Eliot
Mary Anne Evans or mostly popular as George Eliot (12 November 1819 to 22 December 1880) is my second most-adored Victorian novelist. Until now, I don’t know how Eliot produces such an extensive, rich in terms of issues, imaginations and characterizations as in Middlemarch. By the way, my personal favorite is ‘The Mill on the Floss’ as it becomes my first ‘real’ experience reading her works. I read ‘Silas Marner’ back when I was a university student but I don’t consider it as a ‘concrete’ experience because the book that I was savoring was its simplified version. I don’t want to read the unabridged version of ‘Silas Marner’ though because the story is really sad.
So this is Arbury Hall estate. In its South Farm, the very smart baby girl namely Mary Anne Evans was born in 12 November 1819. The estate was belonging to the Newdigate family where which her father was working as a land manager there.

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In early 1820, the author family moved to Griff House where Mary Anne was living for 20 years. After that, she was travelling and moving to some places. Here is the Griff House:

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Elizabeth Gaskell
For any Victorian enthusiasts, you should try Gaskell’s books, which move very soft and smooth. ‘Mary Barton’ is my favorite book from her. No wonder she is able to produce elegantly-made words. Gaskell is described as a lady-like person, tidy, well-mannered one. Oh, I can totally associate with her writings, in terms of word choice and placement, characters (esp in ‘Wives and Daughters’) and issue selections. If I have a chance, it will be delightful to stop by in this house, where the author and her family were living for some years. Let me put the address here: 84 Plymouth Grove, Manchester. Oh I love the building. What a lovely sight!images (3).jpeg

The Bronte sisters
Of course, the Bronte Parsonage Museum must be in the list! This is the house where the Bronte family was staying which is in Haworth, West Yorkshire. Looking at the building, I think the family is quite wealthy. My favorite Bronte is Anne because her traits much like mine, hehe. Who is your beloved Bronte, my friend?

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Charles Dickens
So far, I have read ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. I honestly say I’m not really into his works which is a matter of writing style reason. But if I were in UK, this Charles Dickens museum as you can see below is a temptation I can’t resist, hehe.. The address is on 48 Doughty street, Holborn, London. It became the home for the author from 25 March 1837 until December 1839. Though it was relatively short, the house saw him producing best fictions, ‘The Pickwick Paper’ in 1836, ‘Oliver Twist’ in 1838, ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ between 1838 and 1839 and Barnaby Rudge in 1840 and 1841. How prolific Dickens was!

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Jane Austen
And here is the queen of all romantic women out there, I included, is the one and only Jane Austen. The picture shows Jane Austen house museum in the village of Chawton, near Alton in Hampshire. She and her family were occupying the house for the last eight years of her life. It is assumed she was revising the drafts of ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’ here. Austen also wrote ‘Mansfield Park’, ‘Emma’ (I love Emma!) and ‘Persuasion’ here.
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Wilkie Collins
And the last author who recently spurs my adrenaline is Wilkie Collins. He is chubby anyway by looking at his picture. Collins and his wife, Caroline Graves, were occupying Harley Street 12, Marylebone, in the central of London, from 1860 to 1864. I’m not really sure whether he owned the entire building or just rented some rooms of it. Collins is said to have written most parts of one of his best mysterious novels, ‘The Woman in White’, here. I currently look for reading the title after I am so immersed with ‘The Moonstone’. images (5)
So, those are a number of sites that completely attract my desires to go there. I think my bucket-list is already full even before I have enough money to make it, hehe.. Well, never mind. Hopefully the bucket will be filled. Till then, let’s dream again!
Thank you very much for Wikipedia, Wikimedia and Wilkie-Collins.info for providing all the lovely shots.

‘The Moonstone’ Madness: the Disturbing Miss Clack

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A sense of horror struck me when I was reading the last sentences of the narration of Miss Drusilla Clack. The character that I firstly think as honest, modest and innocent starts becoming so aggressive when she was trying to persuade Rachel Verrinder staying with her after the teen’s mother passed away.
The scene was Rachel decided to go with her lawyer, Mr. Bruff, after she cancelled a planned wedding with Mr. Godfrey Abblewhite. Prior to the moment when she was about to leave with the lawyer, the father of Mr. Godfrey Abblewhite confronted her. He was absolutely disappointed with Rachel’s decision then recalled memories concerning him and Rachel’s aunt.
As the confrontation was becoming weary, Miss Clack was trying to calm the situation down by citing religious verses from the Bible. Instead of cooling this down, Mr. Abblewhite got angrier. I had felt something strange about Miss Clack and my assumption was affirmed when she was attempting to force Rachel staying with her. Miss Clack wished she could make Rachel ‘a Christian’. But her way of making Rachel closer to God was a little bit forceful and improper.
Her narration ended when Miss Clack was saying she forgave Rachel for insulting her while as a matter of fact it was actually Rachel who was afraid of Miss Clack’s method of approaching her.
Days before that, Miss Clack had actually been acting a bit too much in relation to Lady Verrinder. When the Lady was severely ill, Miss Clack, again, wished she could ‘escort’ her relative resting in peace. As such, she was attempting to put some amounts of religious books to her. I think her effort aimed at making Lady Verrinder closer to God and be purified from her sins.
Miss Clack put books in several spots in the Lady’s house in hope that she would find then read them but until the day she was dead the books remained unread. They were returned to Miss Clack instead.
Throughout The Moonstone, this particular person completely confuses me. First, it is quite strange that Wilkie Collins selects her as one of the narratives in the book since she wasn’t present in the birthday dinner of the Rachel Verrinder which later saw the Moonstone went missing.
Miss Clack is, by the way, the niece of Sir John Verrinder, Rachel’s father. Her narration becomes sort of ‘entrapment’ for me after I resume reading the book. I can feel her strong admiration to Mr. Godfrey Abblewhite. She was spying his conversation with Rachel Verrinder on the day he proposed her. Following Miss Clack’s narration of the tale makes me despise Rachel even more (since she is a stubborn girl since the beginning of the book) and put sympathy to Mr. Godfrey Abblewhite. I think the reason why Collins places Miss Clack is to ‘deceive’ readers, at least that happens to me, LOL. You know that I get my guess completely wrong for Mr. Godfrey Abblewhite is the villain of them all because of his huge debts.
Thank God Miss Clack emerges briefly in the book if not, I can’t imagine how ambiguous the novel would be.

‘The Moonstone’ Madness: Homecoming as way to solve problems

I love the ways the story begins and ends in the same place. The Moonstone is firstly seen in a shrine surrounded by Hindoos and as the novel ends, it comes back to where it belongs.
Interestingly, Mr. Franklin Blake returns to his aunt’s residence to investigate on the missing gem on his own given his intention to clear up all the mess between him and Rachel Verrinder. To the Yorkshire the indebted man goes back, almost one year after the incident occurs. One year being in the East doesn’t help him taking the mystery out of his head.
With the help of Ezra Jennings, he is able to restore his good name, especially in front of Rachel. He is capable of explaining what exactly happens after Rachel’s birthday dinner. I’m sorry to put a lot of spoilers here for writing this part is inevitable. It is true that Mr. Franklin Blake is the one who steals the diamond with the knowing of Rachel.

That explains her attitude to the man whom she really loves is 180 degrees in contrary to what she used to do to him.
But Mr. Franklin Blake does that unconsciously. He falls under the influence of laudanum, a mixture of opium and alcohol, put by Mr. Candy, a doctor who is upset with Mr. Franklin Blake’s harsh words toward his profession as a doctor. So the mess starts from Mr. Franklin Blake’s jokes to Mr. Candy that later turns to his laudanum consumption. Since he is overwhelmed with the Moonstone, Mr. Franklin Blake goes to the Rachel’s room then takes it in order to put it in a safe place.
Readers will find this out as the novel progresses toward its finale. One by one all riddles are put to the surface but first of all readers must dwell so long upon clues, opinions, ideas that come up throughout the book. Thanks to Wilkie Collins’ sophisticated writing technique, the story moves fast that barely leaves readers get bored.
In an attempt to reveal all riddles, such as the smear of the nightgown hidden by Rosanna Spearman, Mr. Franklin Blake has to come back to where the late hides the box carrying the gown. Also, Mr. Franklin Blake has to meet Rachel and Sergeant Cuff to gather their statements. Plus, the gentleman has to invite Mr. Candy who falls so ill because of the fever and fatigue he suffers after the birthday event.
It is quite surprising that Ezra Jennings, much like Rosanna Spearman, emerges when the book starts getting complicated. The figure that I think will play a minor role turns out to the savior for Mr. Franklin Blake and Rachel. This is because Ezra Jennings initiates to put laudanum into the body of Mr. Franklin Blake, orders things as the way they were one year ago, invites Mr. Bruff as a witness then starts the experiment.
From his crazy idea it turns out that Mr. Franklin Blake does what he exactly does when the gemstone goes missing. While the characters are busy solving the riddles, the Moonstone for about one year is on the bank in London under the hands of Mr. Septimus Luker. During that time three Hindoos hunt it down. They are finally able to get it back then they give it to the caretaker of the gemstone in the shrine of a sacred city called Kattiawar in India.
I am myself so drown with the idea of starting things from the very beginning to solve problems in Mr. Franklin Blake’s life and the people concerning the Moonstone. Taking this story into my personal opinions, the idea of tracing things from the very roots are very challenging yet so worthy of trying to do in one’s life. Doing this requires bravery as Mr. Franklin Blake does. Sometimes, doing this will be fruitful or will not be.
While getting back to where the problems come may face us with painful memories, failures and nostalgia, our hearts are purified along the processes. All scars, heartbreaks will somehow be cleaned up while we battle to find solutions or answers. Much like walking on two sides of completely different views; one is full of tears or mess, the other one starts providing us with crystal clear outcomes. This is one of the wars one so worthy of trying.
And Mr. Franklin Blake succeeds in doing that. Not only the mess concerning the Moonstone is over, he and Rachel eventually gets married. I love Collins’ idea of bringing things back to start something new and fresh, as what happens to Mr. Franklin Blake. We can associate his experiences with our lives in whatever problems or trauma we encounter.

 

The Moonstone Madness: Collins’ sophisticated way of storytelling

Something new happens as I turn every leaf of The Moonstone. For 430 pages+ my mind has to be in a full concentration reading the book because the mystery surrounding the missing jewel presents me with new twists, evidences, opinions and ideas from characters in the book I mustn’t miss unless I don’t savor the core joy of the masterpiece.
I find it so fascinating that the book runs fast given how it presents readers with riddles, surprises, theories and assumptions along the way concerning who takes the jewel and where the hell it is. Wilkie Collins is indeed a rare Victorian novelist who does what he accomplishes in The Moonstone.
Though the story is all about the missing diamond, you mustn’t guess the plot is simple. In fact, it tells readers more complicated ideas representing Collins’ perspectives. What I once think as mere personal obsession concerning the diamond and history cum superstitions about the precious gem is a first layer on the surface. Because beneath it there lay problems about family conflicts, debts, inheritance issues, stories on estranged people, love and money, reputation, health, drugs and personal disguises. So many themes, right?
And Collins wraps them all so smoothly in the book so you can understand how the book runs so quick to speak them all to readers. I will divide my reviews and opinions and things that bother my mind after reading in several posts. The book is very interesting to be talked about and this is my first post that makes me wonder on how Collins weaves his story.
First and foremost, this is my first experience reading a book from several points of view. I think the story will be from Gabriel Betteredge only as the first person who knows from the start of the pricey gem from Colonel John Herncastle until it eventually be found.

The truth is, Gabriel voices about one third of the overall tale. He tells the readers the past story of the Moonstone until it arrives at the hand of Mr. Franklin Blake, how it goes missing on the night after the 18th birthday of Miss Rachel Verrinder then some attempts to find it by the brilliant Sergeant Cuff.
Just when I think I believe it is Rachel Verrinder is the one who steals it as believed by the Sergeant, the novel completely shatters my opinion. At that time, the novel is only 100 pages long so that means so many things left mysterious as it goes on. This what makes this book starts ‘deceiving’ my mind and triggers my curiosity even more.
As the book enters the one third part, there comes narrative from Miss Clark, one of the relatives of Miss Rachel. Again, Collins deceives me. What I once think Miss Clark as someone so modest, honest and highly spiritual but as her narration moves forward I find myself so irritated by her personality. I will later discuss about her in another post.
Then, another narration comes from Mr. Franklin Blake itself which really shocks me as the reader of the book as much as it rattles the gentleman’s logic. His narrative becomes the most important one throughout the tale as many proofs are eventually revealed to make things even stranger than they already are.
The following of the story are contributed by Ezra Jennings, the assistant of Mr. Candy, a doctor living nearby the residence of the Verrinder family. It is from the assistant that the riddles are slowly answered. From then, one big question on who takes the diamond is discovered. But there remains another big one, who the hell is it now?
To answer this, the narration comes back to Mr. Franklin Blake. Not only the readers will find the whereabouts of the Moonstone but also they will be shocked finding who the real antagonist in the story is.
As all are settled, the narration returns to Gabriel Betteredge who bids farewell to all who enjoy the story. The last part of the book is told by Mr. Murthwaite in a letter to Mr. Bruff, the Verrinder’s family lawyer, as what finally happens with the most-wanted jewel in the masterpiece.
So you can feel how complicated Collins’ way of telling by looking at a number of different people who narrate the story. Different story tellers mean readers are invited to look into their minds and feelings, which, of course, are various. This makes me really admire Collins’ writing technique. It isn’t easy to write from so many angles. His chosen method makes the story even more difficult to lose track of amid reading it.

 

 

 

A splash of fresh joy in reading ‘The Moonstone’

Anter years reading works from Victorian Era that mostly talk about feminism, gender gap, poverty, societal mockery and romance, savoring ‘The Moonstone’ has so far becoming a very rare pleasure for me.
Dubbed as the first detective story in world literature, ‘The Moonstone’ is a smart, witty, silly and yes, funny as hell. The core of the fiction lays on a valuable jewel namely the moonstone coming from the 11th century of the Christian era. It isn’t only a grand, precious metal but it carries stories about religions, legends, superstitions held by its believers for centuries.
The main protagonist of the novel is Gabriel Betteredge, a 70 something old man, who works as the servant head of the Verrinder family. His role in the fiction is greater than what a top servant does for he knows about the costly stone for decades. He comprehends what happens with the stone after it is stolen by one of the Verrinder’s family members until how it reaches the hands of Ms. Rachel Verrinder on her 18th birthday.
The moonstone draws much attention from many people, especially Indian jugglers, the country from where the stone originates. So when the stone goes missing a day after the party, everyone in the house is suspected to have taken it. By the page of 110, two police officers come to the house to investigate the missing stone and so far none is proven to have stolen it.
Wilkie Collins invites me to read his work in full concentration not because his words are wrapped in layers or it conveys deep meaning behind the story but due to his fast-paced plot. Certainly, ‘The Moonstone’ isn’t the type of Victorian novels written by his peers who explore much about emotions and interactions. Collins certainly does sell riddles here.
In this book, Collins also brings forth unique characters, those who are strange, stupid and comical. I love the way Collins injects spontaneous element here and there. The figure of Betteredge himself is an interesting person to explore. Of course, his heart is very kind and attentive to people around him. He learns so much about the inhabitants of the residence. As an old man as he is, Betteredge has eyes and ears all around the mansion. He has only one daughter, Penelope, who also works in the house as the caretaker of Ms Rachel. He is a trustworthy person yet insensible to women’ feelings.
When I come to the page of 110, I am puzzled by the behavior of the young lady of the house, who is Ms Rachel. Well, from the start, her description raises my eyebrow. Unlike most young girls at her age who loves sharing stories with her friends, Rachel is the sort of person who completely depends on herself. In shorter words, she knows about herself so much that it seems she doesn’t need anyone from whom she will gain perspectives or advices.
As firm as she is, I am so surprised to have known she looks hysterical when the stone is gone. She locks herself inside her room and doesn’t want to talk with the officers. Her countenance looks pale when she faces her servants talking about the moonstone. In my words, I can conclude ‘the moonstone absorbs Rachel’s independence so she highly depends on the jewel that she doesn’t know what to face the life anymore’.
Those are only two brief descriptions on the two characters that catch my attention most. As I previously say, I love the way Wilkie Collins inserts spontaneity in many parts of the story. I think this what makes the fiction runs unexpectedly and completely entertaining. In-between spontaneous acts, he puts jokes too, which stimulates my laughter while reading it.
For instance, Collins mentions a lot of Rosanna Spearman, one of the servants who used to be a thief. The woman has a crush on Mr. Franklin Blake, the cousin of Miss Rachel, but the gentleman doesn’t share the same feeling. Rosanna acts so weird just to attract Mr. Franklin’s attention, from taking roses from the room of Miss Rachel (because Mr. Franklin and Miss Rachel loves each other) to spying on him around a shrubbery in the complex of the house, a spot where which Mr. Franklin frequently visits. I pity on Rosanna’s attitude but also I can’t help laughing while imagining her actions when such acts take part.
Another thing that sticks on my mind is when Gabriel Betteredge suggests Mr. Candy to take a carriage on his way home from the birthday party. But the young doctor refuses the advice saying a doctor’s skin is waterproof, LOL! The next day, the doctor is sick.
I look forward reading, and hopefully, finding more sudden, funny acts in the book since it has been really long I hadn’t read such a comical book like ‘The Moonstone’. Very good job, Mister Wilkie Collins! I am the huge fan of ‘The Moonstone’.