My friend S and I are both stressed-out doctoral students who wanted to do some “fun” reading over Christmas break that didn’t involve anything related to our respective research areas. We both enjoy Victorian novels, so we chose The Moonstone. I may or may not be questioning my love of Victorian novels after my experience with Jane Eyre and this novel.
So, in short: greedy colonialist soldier steals sacred (and ginormous) Indian diamond, known as the Moonstone, and wills it to his heirs. It ends up with a no-good scoundrel, whose name I have already forgotten and am too lazy to look up, who decides to leave it to his niece, Rachel Verinder, on her 18th birthday. Rachel is a Mary Sue and oppressingly boring. Rachel’s mother, Lady Julia Verinder, is convinced that the diamond is a curse and is a last middle-finger from her brother’s grave. As the Diamond makes its way to England, we learn from our first of several narrators, that three suspicious-looking men from India are looking around the estate. It must be an omen. Sidenote: I was interested in the story, but Collins’ first narrator (Gabriel Betteredge) is a servant who is absolutely Jonesing for Lady Verinder. It’s so pandering and B.O.R.I.N.G. We get about 190 pages of his absolutely sickening devotion to the family. Dude, we get it. Julian Fellowes probably read your part when he created most of the Downton Abbey servants.
Ahem. Back to the story. The Diamond arrives via Rachel’s cousin, Franklin Blake, who is in love with Rachel. A servant girl, formerly a thief and found in a Reformatory (which means she was probably also a prostitute at one time) is in love with Franklin. On top of these hijinks, Rachel’s other cousin, Geoffrey Ablewhite, arrives and is *also* in love with Rachel. Apparently, England ran out of rich women.
There’s this birthday party, in which Rachel is determined to wear the Moonstone proudly, which makes me think she probably just discovered her boobies and is even more eager to show those off, but I digress. Weird conversations happen, the party is ruined, and Franklin makes a fool out of himself. The next morning, the Moonstone has disappeared from Rachel’s bedroom. And then the mystery begins.
It’s actually a halfway decent mystery, but the setup takes forever, and Gabriel is a profoundly self-important narrator who almost had me quitting the book entirely. The resolution is interesting and not entirely out of the realm of possibility. I just may have reached the limit of my enjoyment of Victorian novels. Or maybe it’s just that I like George Eliot too much to like other Victorian novelists.
You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.