Let’s use the words of the narrator, one Wilkie Collins, to describe what we’re talking about here:
This story shall be about my friend (or at least about the man who was once my friend) Charles Dickens and about the accident that took away his piece of mind, his health, and some might whisper, his sanity
The story kicks off with the Staplehurst railway accident that Dickens was involved in while travelling home from Paris with his mistress Ellen Ternan. While trying to assist those injured in the accident Dickens comes across a mysterious and rather ghoulish figure who becomes known to him as Drood. Dickens then drags Collins into his obsession, which leads them to investigate the underworld of London, with all the crime, squalor and danger that involved. And not a little madness. And quite a lot of death.
Why did I want to read it?
I’ve had mixed fortunes with the works of Dan Simmons. I read The Song of Kali in 2009 and really struggled with it, finding it a little too grim for my tastes. But I had also read The Terror the year before and absolutely loved it. The combination of real literary figures and a Gothic sensibility promised by Drood was very attractive.
What did I think of it?
Well. I finished reading this in the middle of September and I’m still not sure what I think. I was drawn in by the early part of the book and cracked on with the story which promised a great deal, but somewhere around the middle, when the focus shifts almost entirely to Collins and his problems I began to get a bit bogged down and actually stopped reading it for a bit. But I was determined to finish it and it did pick up again in the last third. It is completely mad. Although I have to say that it seems pretty authentic in its representation of both the central characters and all levels of society at that time.
There is a quote towards the end of the book where Collins says:
You never cared about my part of this memoir. It was always Dickens and Drood, or Drood and Dickens, which kept you reading
And maybe that is the problem for me, insufficient Drood. So fair to say that my response to the novel is ambivalent; glad I read it but not a favourite and *whispers* too long.
It has made me want to finally read Armadale though.
For a more positive review you should visit Roxploration who discusses the book here.
This was a read for RIP VIII.