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Tony Grist

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The Mystery Of Edwin Drood [Jul. 13th, 2007|09:57 am]
Tony Grist
A curious thing about the Mystery of Edwin Drood is that it isn't particularly mysterious. 

Dickens dropped enough clues in the completed half to make the solution obvious. Drood is dead and Jasper bang to rights.

Unless, of course, the clues are red herrings- or more subtly misleading.

Nothing in Dickens' earlier work suggests he would ever have been able to misdirect his readers with the skill of a 20th century detective story writer.

But with Drood he was trying something new. He guarded the plot scrupulously-  leaving no notes, confiding in no-one, getting jumpy when he thought his illustrator, Luke Fildes, was guessing too well.  Everything suggests that this was to be the first of his books in which plot really mattered.

So could there be another mystery underlying the murder mystery? Something to do with Jasper's backstory, perhaps?

We'll never know.

But Drood is more than just an unfinished detective story. There are many new beginnings. Dickens is extending his range-  the ecclesiastical setting, the opium smoking,  the interest in Empire and race. He was tired and sick and failing, but not as an artist. The brokenness of Drood is a crying shame not just because we'll never know the ending but because it was shaping up to be a very great book.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: currawong
2007-07-13 02:22 pm (UTC)
i read a book a while back, i forget its name, but it included the complete "Drood text' and set all the famous detectives, Marlowe, Poirot, Holmes, etc the task of solving the mystery while they were attending a literary conference about "Edwin Drood' ... lightweight and amusing but also some good insights into aspects of the book ... I'll try to track down the title and authors, (I think it was Italian).

It was a new departure, (was he still talking to Wilkie Collins at that stage? i seem to remember that he wasn't, but Collins was definitely an influence).

For all that, my favourites are, in order 1) Bleak House 2) Great Expectations 3) Our Mutual Friend
... for some maddening reason I can't get very far into "Little Dorrit, despite its reputation, it seems to induce some sort of intellectual claustrophobia in me.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-13 03:18 pm (UTC)
I believe I've come across references to that book online. Fruttero and Luccentini- would that be it?

Little Dorrit is my favourite- probably because I read it at an impressionable age- but I know what you mean; it is, after all, a book about prisons.

I've just started David Copperfield. The opening chapters- I can't answer for the rest- are tremendous.
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[User Picture]From: currawong
2007-07-13 10:23 pm (UTC)
That would be the one ... of the early novels, "MartinChuzzlewit" is the most under-rated, I think.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-13 10:32 pm (UTC)
Martin Chuzzlewit is very good. The American section especially. I must read it again.
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[User Picture]From: currawong
2007-07-14 12:19 am (UTC)
Do you have much Dickens on DVD? ... some of the BBC adaptations are very good.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-14 08:38 am (UTC)
I don't- unless you count the David Lean movies- but I watched the recent Bleak House and- after initial reservations- became a big fan.
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[User Picture]From: currawong
2007-07-14 09:10 am (UTC)
The previous one with Diana Rigg as Lady Dedlock was fine too.We got the BBC Dickens Box with dramatizations of eight of the major novels.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-14 10:32 am (UTC)
I grew up with Dickens on the box. I have memories from the 50s of David Troughton playing Quilp and of a version of Oliver Twist so violent that my dad went and stood in front of the screen to shield me from the horror.

Knowing how the BBC used to cavalierly wipe tapes I don't suppose any of this material survives.

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[User Picture]From: currawong
2007-07-14 11:03 am (UTC)
Some surprising material has survived ... the brilliant early performance by Judi Dench in the 4 part drama, "Talking To A Stranger" recently turned up on a Judi Dench Box set of DVD's recently. this still stands as one of the finest things I ever saw on TV.
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