Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Moonstone Week 4: It's guy love, between two guys

Woman in White was all about the ladies . . . and sure, there's a little of that in The Moonstone (Lucy + Rosanna FOREVER eventually). But can we talk for a minute about the varying degrees of manly affection that are RAMPANT (like a spinster) in this book?

We have the sweetly sentimental relationship between Betteredge and Franklin.
"There he wasthe dear old friend of the happy days that were never to come againthere he was in the old corner, on the old beehive chair, with his pipe in his mouth, and his Robinson Crusoe on his lap, and his two friends, the dogs, dozing on either side of him! . . . My own eyes were full of tears. I was obliged to wait for a moment before I could trust myself to speak to him." (p. 309)

Then there's the father/son dynamic between Sergeant Cuff and Gooseberry (aka Octavius Guy).
"In our modern system of civilisation, celebrity (no matter of what kind) is the lever that will move anything. The fame of the great Cuff had even reached the ears of the small Gooseberry. The boy's ill-fixed eyes rolled, when I mentioned the illustrious name, till I thought they really must have dropped on the carpet." (p. 448)
"'One of these days,' said the Sergeant, pointing through the front window of the cab, 'that boy will do great things in my late profession. He is the brightest and cleverest little chap I have met with, for many a long year past.'" (p. 449)
And let's not forget Godfrey's undying love for . . . Godfrey.

But my personal favorite is the complicated feelings Ezra Jennings harbors for Franklin.
"What is the secret of the attraction that there is for me in this man? Does it only mean that I feel the contrast between the frankly kind manner in which he has allowed me to become acquainted with him, and the merciless dislike and distrust with which I am met by other people? Or is there really something in him which answers to the yearning that I have for a little human sympathythe yearning, which has survived the solitude and persecution of many years; which seems to grow keener and keener, as the time comes nearer and nearer when I shall endure and feel no more? How useless to ask these questions! Mr. Blake has given me a new interest in life. Let that be enough, without seeking to know what the new interest is." (p. 407)

And a more beautifully tragic character than Ezra has never been written (by Wilkie) (I don't think). Falsely accused of . . . something really quite bad (WHAT WAS IT, WILKIE?). Forced to give up the love of his life to spare her the infamy of his name. Overcome by a deadly illness. Dependent on opium (500 drops!) just to function from one day to the next. Wracked by nightmares (again, the opium). Grateful to be instrumental in the reunion of Rachel and Franklin (or so he SAYS). Buried in an unmarked grave, the only way to be free of the rumors that follow his name.
"God be praised for His mercy! I have seen a little sunshineI have had a happy time." (p. 439)

And now, I'm gonna pull a Julie and hit some numbered points to close out this magical Moonstone journey we've been traveling together.

1. IT WAS GODFREY ALL ALONG (and also drugged Franklin, of course). And he wore an elaborate DISGUISE. (Alley wasn't far off with her Mission: Impossible guess.)

2. Is anyone at all concerned about that poor boy NEVER getting the money from his trust now that Godfrey spent it all and then conveniently died?

3. Was it just me or did Betteredge sound far less educated when he was being quoted by Ezra? He used the word wrostled. I just don't know.

4. "You have caught a Tartar, Mr. Jenningsand the name of him is Bruff" (p. 423). I had lofty plans to look this up, but now I'm tired. What is a Tartar in this context, readalong hive mind?

5. Of COURSE Franklin has Pamela and Man of Feeling in his room. Of course he does.

6. The Indians were finally rewarded for all their lurking about in obscurity. They may or may not have killed Godfrey (they definitely did), but the important thing is that the Moonstone has been restored to its rightful place in a lifeless deity's forehead.

And now The Moonstone readalong is over, and life is meaningless.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Moonstone Week 3: The Telltale Nightie

I would just like to preface this post by saying I WAS TOTALLY RIGHT ABOUT GODFREY. I AM VINDICATED (even though no one really disagreed with me).

He was just pretending to love Rachel because he wanted her moneys, putting on a variation of the show he had perfected with the charity ladies. But Rachel (God bless her and forgive me for ever doubting her) refused to marry Godfrey when she found out that he inspected her mother's will. And of course he went right along with calling off the engagement because he knew marrying Rachel wouldn't get him a large enough chunk of money to pay off his debts.

Houses in London...houses in Yorkshire...a handsome income.
And then?

And stupid Clack still thinks he's a religious icon, which contributes to probably the skeeviest scene in the book, when he moons all over her and calls her his "best and dearest of friends" to get back in her good graces and, in so doing, into the coin purse of her wealthy acquaintance on the charity committee.
"He pressed my hands alternately to his lips. Overwhelmed by the exquisite triumph of having got him back among us, I let him do what he liked with my hands. I closed my eyes. I felt my head, in an ecstasy of spiritual self-forgetfulness, sinking on his shoulder. In a moment more I should certainly have swooned away in his arms." (p. 269)

Oops...I've forgotten myself spiritually.

And speaking of ulterior motives. Clack is only concerned about redeeming Rachel's soul, right? RIGHT?
"When I had converted her, she would, as a matter of course, have no concealments from Me. I should hear all about the man; I should hear all about the Moonstone." (p. 270)
Which makes it all the more satisfying when Mr. Ablewhite gets all red in the scalp and rages at her. True, he doesn't have much to his credit in this situation, but anyone who can call Clack an "impudent fanatic" and a "Rampant Spinster" gets bonus points . . . at least 5 bonus points for Mr. Ablewhite.

But THEN, as we depart from Clack's narrative at last, Wilkie has to give us a hint that she isn't quite as immune to worldly opinions as she would have us believe. And damn you, Wilkie . . . you made me feel sad for her, for the briefest of moments.
"I was left alone in the room. Reviled by them all, deserted by them all, I was left alone in the room." (p. 280)

These feelings...they're entirely unwelcome.
I'm realizing more and more that Rachel is a pretty decent human being. I can get behind a lady who's self-dependent (like a man . . . dare I say, like a Marian?) and puts more stock in her own opinion of herself than in anyone else's opinion of her. And all her earlier bratty behaviors are justified beautifully by her selfless desire to protect Franklin (whom she saw steal the Moonstone WITH HER OWN EYES) and her willingness to bear the burden of everyone's suspicion (including ours at times) as a result. And I think it's important to note that she loved Franklin enough to keep his secret but wouldn't compromise herself by continuing her relationship with him, even as much as she loved him. That's commendable.

And SPEAKING of Franklin, let's talk about Rosanna. HOW disappointed are we that she really IS dead and really WAS pathetically in love with Franklin? I kind of like the guy myself, but she didn't know enough about him to warrant such an all-consuming obsession. Limping Lucy knows what I'm talking about.
"'No,' said the girl, speaking to herself, but keeping her eyes still mercilessly fixed on me. 'I can't find out what she saw in his face. I can't guess what she heard in his voice.'" (p. 318)
Poor Franklin. He gets insulted by a bitter Lucy, and then he learns that he's in some way responsible for Rosanna's death. He never meant to hurt her feelings. In fact, he was trying to spare her in every instance when she thought he was shunning her. And then she KILLED herself because of those things he did that she thought meant something they didn't MEAN.

And Rosanna stole Franklin's paint-smudged nightgown and hid it in the same quicksand where she hid herself, which is a little weird. You know what else is weird? The fact that everyone in the house wore the same nightgown and wrote their names inside with Victorian Sharpie. You know what ELSE is weird? I just realized that the Shivering Sand is basically the Swamps of Sadness.


There's more (there's always more), but I'll let everyone who took notice of Ezra Jennings waaaaay long ago talk about the fact that HE'S BACK . . . and suspiciously Indian in appearance.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Moonstone Week 2: Enter the Clack

We get a pretty good description of Rachel's appearance, and except for the fact that her face isn't HIDEOUS and her backside is mentioned not even once (which is probably a good thing since old Betteredge is narrating), she kind of sounds like a Marian clone.
"In a minute more, Miss Rachel came downstairsvery nicely dressed in some soft yellow stuff, that set off her dark complexion, and clipped her tight (in the form of a jacket) round the waist. She had a smart little straw hat on her head, with a white veil twisted round it. She had primrose-coloured gloves that fitted her hands like a second skin. Her beautiful black hair looked as smooth as satin under her hat. Her little ears were like rosy shellsthey had a pearl dangling from each of them." (p. 169)
But is it weird that Betteredge remembers exactly what Rachel was wearing on this particular day? I mean, the man is 70 . . . and also a man.

And then Rachel took her primrose-coloured hand and "unmanned" Franklin with it. Poooor Franklin. But is he the doomed love she was talking about when she finally agreed to marry Godfrey? I think he is. Which means he did something VERY naughty and made her never want to see him again. What did you DO, Franklin? I don't think even he knows.

I know we have our qualms with Betteredge's old-fashioned ideas, but who didn't love him after his reaction to Rosanna's (alleged until I see a body) death? And then this too:
"I don't think I ever felt what a good dutiful daughter I had, so strongly as I felt it at that moment. I took her and sat her on my knee and prayed God bless her." (p. 178)
So you're thinking about taking a woman on your knee . . .

I think this might be scandalous, but I'm not sure:
"I left him, miserable enough, leaning on the sill of my window, with his face hidden in his handsand Penelope peeping through the door, longing to comfort him. In Mr. Franklin's place, I should have called her in. When you are ill-used by one woman, there is great comfort in telling it to anotherbecause, nine times out of ten, the other always takes your side. Perhaps, when my back was turned, he did call her in? In that case, it is only doing my daughter justice to declare that she would stick at nothing, in the way of comforting Mr. Franklin Blake." (p. 180)
She would stick at nothing, you say?

Lately, I'm suspicious of Lady Verinder (may she rest in peace). She frequently spoke with Rachel behind closed doors during the investigation, when Rachel wouldn't talk to anyone else. And when Cuff wanted to see Rachel's reaction to the news of Rosanna's death, Lady V insisted on going and delivering the news herself, alone. Plus, Rachel IS protecting someone in all this moonstone business. I don't think it's Franklin, because he commissioned all these narratives and because she appears to HATE him at this point. But as close as she is to her mother, she would protect her at all costs, right? I choose you, Lady Verinder! Don't think being dead gets you off the hook, missus.

Are we thinking there's a bit of a Sherlock/Watson dynamic between Cuff and Betteredge? Maybe a smidgen of guy love?
"'I declare to heaven,' says this strange officer solemnly, 'I would take to domestic service tomorrow, Mr. Betteredge, if I had a chance of being employed along with You!" (p. 195)
"I looked with righteous indignation at the Sergeant to see what he thought of such a testimony as that. The Sergeant looked back like a lamb, and seemed to like me better than ever." (p. 186).
Stop looking at him like that, Cuff. It's weird.

 Three words regarding Limping Lucy's speech after Rosanna's death: UNREQUITED LESBIAN LOVE. Thank you, Wilkie. Just thank you.

And you GUYS . . . Miss Clack's first name is DRUSILLA.

Miss Rachel speaks out of turn.
She's a bad example, and will have no cakes today.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Moonstone Week 1: The Finger Pointening

For the briefest of moments, I thought Rosanna might be our Moonstone Marian. When Betteredge was explaining how really quite unattractive she is, I let myself hope. But I should have known Wilkie wasn't setting her up to be a Marian, because there was absolutely no mention of a well-formed backside. And then Marian was never this morbid.

"Something draws me to it," says the girl, making images with her finger in the sand. "I try to keep away from it, and I can't. Sometimes," says she in a low voice, as if she was frightened at her own fancy, "sometimes, Mr. Betteredge, I think that my grave is waiting for me here." . . . 
"It looks as if it had hundreds of suffocating people under it---all struggling to get to the surface, and all sinking lower and lower in the dreadful deeps! Throw a stone in, Mr. Betteredge! Throw a stone in, and let's see the sand suck it down!" (p. 50)

Look, Rosanna! A dog kissing a bunny!

But what ABOUT that Shivering Sand? There's much alluding to its potential for disposing of things, which makes me think it's only a matter of time before someone chucks something important right in there (oh PLEASE, can it please be Rachel and her stupid painted door?). But remember in The Woman in White [minor spoiler if you haven't read it] there was that murky, swampy lake where many important conversations took place and Wilkie totally convinced us someone was going to be murrrrrdered there, and then he used Fosco to MOCK us for ever being stupid enough to think that would be a good place for body-hiding? [end spoiler] So, yeah . . . all this deliberate foreshadowing gives me suspicious face.

Nice TRY, Wilkie.

Something that's really been bothering me and making it hard to side with ANY of the characters (even Betteredge in all his Robinson Crusoe-devoted, self-deprecating lovableness) is their behavior with this diamond. Pretty much everyone (except maybe Rachel) knows how Herncastle got it in the first place (thievery! and murder!), and Lady Verinder had the good sense to shut out her scandalous brother. It's no secret that he's awful (Betteredge's descriptions of him are the BEST). So now they have this cursed diamond. Franklin and Betteredge are convinced that a group of heathen Indians have given up everything and crossed oceans (just one ocean?) to retrieve it and will KILL at the drop of a turban . . . and their first idea is to send it to Amsterdam and have it cut into pieces the way Douchecastle was planning to before he decided to punish his sister with it. Why would they sink to his level? WHY NOT JUST GIVE THE DAMN THING BACK TO THE INDIANS? It belongs to them. It was stolen by an evil man. Stealing religious relics is BAD. BAD things happen to religious-relic stealers AND their accomplices.

Have the Nazis taught us NOTHING?

So the Indians as a whole have been thrice victimized here, by my count. One time when Herncastle stole the sacred stone, a second time when they sacrificed their caste to come after the diamond (allegedly), and a third time when they were falsely imprisoned under suspicion of stealing the diamond even after it was decided they couldn't possibly have done it. On the surface, they're being set up as the major villains of the story. They make somber inquiries and lie about being jugglers and skulk around in the bushes and creepily keep company with a pretty English boy.
"In the country those men come from, they care just as much about killing a man, as you care about emptying the ashes out of your pipe. If a thousand lives stood between them and the getting back of their Diamond---and if they thought they could destroy those lives without discovery---they would take them all. The sacrifice of caste is a serious thing in India , if you like. The sacrifice of life is nothing at all." (p. 96)
And who is saying this about Indian men in general? An Indian man. Seems a little reminiscent of the way Marian would make occasional pronouncements against the capabilities of womankind, no?

So I think it's possible that this is another instance of Wilkie's opinion coming through in that backwards way of his. He did it with feminine stereotypes in Woman in White, and now he seems to be doing it with xenophobia. And I LOVE this man. I love him for his tricksy brain.

I have many more opinions about this tiny section of the book, but I have to save something for our discussions, right?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Moonstone BEGINS, with forehead-sized expectations

It's AUGUST already. I can't . . . I don't even know how that happened.

But August brings with it another Reading Rambo read-along (I use a hyphen here even though no one else seems to. Sing-along has a hyphen, doesn't it? *consults dictionary* Oh NO. It's singalong WITHOUT A HYPHEN. But readalong isn't a word! This is not a good start.).

For most of us, Alice's last read-along readalong? read-along was our first encounter with one Wilkie "The Forehead" Collins.

Close enough

Generally, all the introduction posts for The Woman in White were variations on, "The Internet informs me that Wilkie Collins was bosom friends with Charles 'Douche-Canary' Dickens."

But then Wilkie took us gently by the hand and led us on a winding journey of mystery and intrigue, and gave us Pesca ("deuce-what-the-deuce!") and Fosco (aka The Fat Man) and Marian (Mariaaaaaaaaan!). And by the end, we were ALL devout followers of the Wilkster.

Fast-forward to Laura reading Armadale (WITHOUT US) and telling us how amazing it was, triggering our collective yearning for more Group Time with Wilkie. Then when Alice said, LET'S READ MORE WILKIE, we were like . . . 

And that's what's happening. We're reading The Moonstone. And I have no idea what it's about or if there will be ghosts or men in turbans or, as my book cover suggests, an ordinary room with absolutely no one in it. And I don't particularly care, because it's going to be AMAZING.

But seriously . . . is someone hiding in the curtains?