I had noted a few books that I wanted to read. They were stored in my phone for months, they were The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, The Last Dickens and finally Drood. I found myself at the library remembering that I had this list of books and I systematically went to each authors shelf in alphabetical order, of course by last name. I get the first two books then arrive at Simmons and find Drood. I look at the book, its considerable size and heft and I wonder aloud, “Why did I want to read this?” The book was the size of a dictionary and I was quite intimidated.
Once I finished The Last Dickens, I wondered if I wanted to read another book about Dickens and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Did I mention the book was enormous? Putting my wavering aside, I started the book and was hooked. When reading, I have a personal page count goal to read 100 pages per day, this allows me to get through books quickly and not lose interest or put it off. So I calculated that I would be able to finish this 771 page book in about 7 or 8 days. I could do that.
Drood suffers it’s ups and downs. Drood is a fictional memoir by Wilkie Collins, an English novelist and close confidant to Charles Dickens. I got the sense their relationship, from an outsiders perspective, was not unlike that of Mozart and Salieri from the movie Amadeus. The novel doesn’t really begin until we read about Dickens and his involvement in the Staplehurst rail crash in 1865, which had the train Dickens was travelling on plunge of an iron bridge under construction. Dickens, while helping those injured comes into contact with a mysterious stranger named Drood.
From there, Wilkie Collins enlightens us in great detail about what he believes Drood is a figment of Dickens imagination. That is until Wilkie becomes closely aware of his presence in his own life. One wonders throughout the story whether, Drood is a living, a ghost, a figment of Dickens imagination, or an opium induced hallucination of Collins. That is the mystery in which the story is centered.
Along the way we delve into the personal lives of each of the main characters, their flaws, their successes, their jealousies and their ultimate failures and betrayals. Whether you want it or not, you get it all. I can’t say that this is where the story falters, but there are times when you could get tired of Wilkie Collins complaining about his rheumatical gout. Yes Wilkie, we know you have gout. Yes Wilkie, we know you’re in a lot of pain. Yes Wilkie, we’re fully aware that you drink two glasses of laudanum. It all gets a little repetitive at times, but, at least for me it didn’t damper my overall enjoyment of the story.
While I may have thoroughly enjoyed the story, there was a rather gaping plot hole that begins and ends in Chapter 25. What the heck was going on there? Why did it happen? How was it pulled off? There is absolutely no explanation, if there was Dan Simmons sure didn’t hit me over the head with it, and by page 700 I need some recap. I understand from a story perspective why it needed to happen, but while so much of the horror in the book was mental, this chapter read too real.
There were a few other instances in the story that he left hanging. That, my friends I guess is the mystery and shall remain a mystery. I’m hardly upset that all my questions weren’t answered. As someone who for 9 years watched The X-Files, I’m used to unanswered questions and have learned to live with them. This too, I feel I shall live with.
If you are in the mood for a dark, historical fiction mixed with fact and don’t mind lugging a book the size of a dictionary around, then I think this is a great read. I was thoroughly engaged from the beginning to the end and any of the faults the story may have had, I was able to overlook them. You’ll finish each chapter wanting to know what happens next and ultimately desire to finish the book just to see how everything comes together.