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  1. I have just finished this book. It is the fourth book by this author that I have read and probably my favourite. It was recommended by a friend who stated that although not so well known as others by Wilkie Collins it was one of his best. It is an unusual murder mystery story although I would have to say that the real appeal of the book lies within the characters themselves. The positions of the hero and villain tend to move about a bit and compassion has to be felt for all those involved. The character of Misseremus Dexter in some ways reminds me of Miss Haversham from Great Expectations. He really is an extremely odd as well as a sad character and although he would probably be considered the villain this does not really tell the whole story. Having now read four novels by Wilkie Collins I think that I am really coming to appreciate the great ability he had for producing such wonderful personalities. Some of his characters I have really loved, some I have pitied, some I have thoroughly disliked and one or two I would have liked to have given a good shake! All in all I would have to say that this has been a book well worth reading. Once having started I found it very difficult to put down.
  2. The narrator is an American invited, with his wife, to dine with a recent English acquaintance and his new wife. Two or three local couples are also invited, but the men turn up without their wives, just excuses - in C19, a very serious snub on their part to the wife of the host. The American couple are puzzled by this, they find their beautiful hostess perfectly charming and go out of their way to be kind and considerate to her. When they leave their host thanks them for their forbearance, and offers them a portfolio which contains an account of the story behind the uncomfortable evening. The couple, George and Mary, had been childhood sweethearts, but Mary's father was employed by Georges father, so they were of different stations in life. When George's father learned that they were planning a future together he separated the pair, accusing the family of ensnaring his son. Mary's father quit his job and their tied house, leaving that night for an unknown destination. Before they were separated Mary's Grandmother, a bit of a mystic, told them that they were kindred souls who were destined to be together and, whatever and whoever else might come between them they would end up together. The rest of the book is the story of how those destinies were played out, and the things that happened to them that cause their upright neighbours to snub them. This is a Gothic Romance with attempted suicide, a mysterious house where all are welcome, but the host is reclusive, a strangely veiled invalid and telepathic messages with visual manifestations. It was only spoiled by the number of times the couple, both of whom had changed their surnames, came close to discovering the identity of each other - but didn't. The reader is perfectly aware of their identities, so this is very, very irritating! Apart from that flaw it is fun to read (or listen to on audiobook, in my case), although not nearly as good as The Moonstone or The Woman in White
  3. This is probably my third or fourth time of reading it. The thrill and expectation of wondering whodunnit remains. I love the different narratives, Betteredge is certainly my favourite and I would love to know more about Mrs Betteredge. Very strong narrative drive, and wonderful characters. Not one soppy woman anywhere. Even Ms Clack's voice is fun to read, particulary her 'generosity' with her pamphlets. Poor Ezra Jennings - what are we supposed to understand from his illness and his past. Does anyone have any ideas?
  4. I'm just about half-way through The Woman in White, and while I'm generally very fond of both 19th-century novels and sensation literature, I can't really get into this one. I don't really know what it is... I like most of the characters well enough... I find the secret interesting... I want to know what really happened before the story set in... And yet I repeatedly find my mindn wandering while trying to concentrate on the plot. Is it only me? Or did anyone else find think this, too?
  5. Restored Thread [this was actually a BGO Book Group thread, but the container folder is missing] 12th November 2011, 11:46 PM Ailecornum I confess I enjoy Wilkie Collins. And one of the things I admire about his writing is that his ability to write suspense still works. True, I find the setting of the 'mystery' a bit drawn out but nonetheless like his original readers I find myself dithering as to the secret and enjoying piecing it together. Mrs Jazeph is a little annoying but still, for me the magic continues to work. I like his characters too. I love reading Dickens' odd ball characters but Collins does them with less drama and more immediate reality: I swear I'm related to two of the characters in this book! The foibles are more easily recognized in everyday life. Very much enjoying this so thanks for both the recommendation and voting it in as first. Anyone being driven mad by the pace? #2 13th November 2011, 03:21 PM momac Still sitting on the table near my chair asking to be read - haven't quite got around to actually picking it up. #3 13th November 2011, 04:34 PM lunababymoonchild Will be picking mine up soon since I've just finished my last one. #4 19th November 2011, 05:00 PM Lectora I read the Moonstone many moons ago but don't know The Dead Secret. I've just down-loaded it on to the Kindle. If this is a Book Group Read, do you have a time limit to read the book before discussion proper begins? As you will gather, I'm new to all this. #5 19th November 2011, 06:47 PM lunababymoonchild No time limit at all Lectora, read as and when you can. Check out the thread on Book Groups here: BGO Book Group #6 19th November 2011, 07:44 PM Barblue Started reading last night in bed and found it difficult to put down. Read all the intro stuff before starting the actual story and got through about 50 pages which is quite something for this slow old reader in one go. Decided at 1 a.m. that I ought to put the light out. Loved the character descriptions and the pace of the first few chapters was almost breathtaking. Knowing there is a secret is so tantilising. Can't wait to pick it up again. #7 19th November 2011, 09:11 PM lunababymoonchild I've started this too and only gotten a couple of chapters in. It's compelling though. #8 20th November 2011, 12:22 AM momac I'm glad you and Barblue are enjoying the book - I find I'm avoiding it and reading other books instead - almost seems like homework to me, something I have to do and the child in me is rebelling. How silly is that! Will get to it at some point. #9 20th November 2011, 04:11 PM Lectora Thank you for the encouragment, Luna. I started The Dead Secret last night and read the first "book". It is certainly proving a compelling read. There is something almost melodramatic about the meticulous attention to detail in the description of character and surroundings which heighten the atmosphere of suspense without giving away a clue as to what the " dead secret" maybe. One does have a suspicion of course, that it is something to do with the child Rosamund. One good thing about reading from a Kindle is that it is an effort to break the suspense and look up the ending. I have a bad habit of doing this with "paper" books, if the suspense gets unbearable! Wilkie Collins of course, is a master of this kind of writing. He also has the Victorian writer's habit (Eliot, Charlotte Bronte and Dickens too), of jumping into the text and addressing his "dear reader" from time to time. Until I've finished The Dead Secret, I doubt if I'll be tempted to resume reading the other books I'm part way through. They are a mixed bag, 2 paper, one e book - Margaret Barker's An Introduction to Temple Mysticism (MB, one of the most exciting, orthodox British Biblical theologians), Candace Robb's The Lady Chapel, a medieval murder mystery, second in the Owen Archer series and Mary Kingsley's Travels in West Africa. (free Kindle download). I'll review those in due course, but back to the Dead Secret. #10 21st November 2011, 05:46 PM bobblington I started it last night too, and unlike the moonstone which is my favourite book of his and a top 10 contender of my all time best ever read. It didn't have a voice that took me on immediately. However I did find myself 80 pages in and lying next to a husband fast asleep for a good couple of hours before I stopped. I approached this book with the worry of a person who knows they love other work by the author and don't want the bubble burst. I don't think this will been the needle to prick the bubble, which is a relief, but equally I don't think it will grip me like Moonstone and the Woman in White did! I will post more as I continue to read. #11 22nd November 2011, 05:17 PM Lectora The Dead Secret is Wilkie Collins' first novel and I don't think it will push the Moonstone into second place. One can see however, the beginnings of greatness. These are sufficient to hold one's interest and encourage the reader to keep on going to find out how all the intrigue is resolved. I have now read just over 60% of the novel and have stopped at the beginning of Book V Sarah Leeson reappears as the widowed Mrs Jazeph sent to nurse Rosamond Frankland (neé Treverton) and her baby. There is an extraordinary atmosphere of tension and foreboding in the bedroom which is cleverly managed by the author, and which culmnates in Mrs J. uttering words she should not have uttered in Mrs F's ear and which result in Mrs J's expulsion. Had she not done so the novel would have soon fizzled out. Enter some Dickensian characters, the horrible, Scrooge-like Andrew Treverton (he must have a crucial role later) and the delightful and wholesome Uncle Joseph, uncle of Sarah Leeson who now as a character, is beginning to irritate me. Did she really have to have such a weight of misery hanging perpetually round her neck? Her constant tears just about equal the water in Windermere! I think Collins has gone over the top here with her character but then I'm not a Victorian woman reader. However, The relationship between her and uncle Joseph is delicately and poignantly drawn. His music and cheerfulness make up for her dolefulness and of course, she has a reason for being so utterly miserable. She is the book's "tragic character" after all. Uncle Joseph and she set off to find the fateful letter hidden by Sarah some 16 years earlier in Porthgenna Tower. The exchanges between the two of them and the staff of the house, who were forewarned about Sarah's arrival, is long-drawn out, tense mostly, but also frankly funny. I do not think Collins intended it to be quite so humorous. Just my 21st century re-action. I'm now at the point where Uncle Joseph has gone home and Sarah is on the London coach to hide herself with friends in the city. Now we are back with the Franklands and their return to Cornwall. Will Rosamond find the fateful letter hidden in the Tower? I shall read more on another day. #12 23rd November 2011, 06:30 AM chuntzy I've purposely not read the previous comments as I've only read a few pages so far. It's rather Gothic at the moment. ETA: Another chapter and obviously not 'Gothic'. Last edited by chuntzy : 24th November 2011 at 06:35 AM. #13 25th November 2011, 08:38 AM Lectora Reading concluded You are quite right, Chunzty, not to have read my previous comments, though I tried to be as general as possible so as not to give too much away. I've now finished reading the Dead Secret. All the loose ends are brought together very skilfully to a satisfactory and happy tinged with sadness conclusion. In spite of being occasionally irritated by techniques which would not have troubled the Victorians, I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Dead Secret. Thanks go to whoever chose it as a Group Read #14 26th November 2011, 10:59 AM bobblington This is good as a story but nowhere near as polished as the later Moonstone and Women and White. I knew what was happening very quickly but despite this I still enjoyed it. I would firmly recommed the Moonstone to anyone who enjoyed this book and wants to read more. #15 26th November 2011, 09:29 PM lunababymoonchild Bobblington. I'm not finished yet, but am enjoyingt it. #16 27th November 2011, 01:42 AM Ailecornum I agree with Bobblington that the other two are better reads, but this was very enjoyable and very much in the vein of the others. I did find Rosamund increasingly annoying and one dimensional but the other characters are a delight and often very funny as well as endearing and terribly recognisable. I never fail to enjoy the way Collins works out his plots. Predictable but most satisfying. #17 28th November 2011, 03:55 PM chuntzy On the last lap now and like some of you I had earlier (much earlier) worked out the 'secret' - not that difficult. Despite the grotesquely portrayed Andrew and the irritating Sarah, Wilkie Collins has succeeded in getting me to keep reading. He certainly moved up a level or two in literary achievement with The Moonstone. #18 2nd December 2011, 05:11 PM lunababymoonchild I have now finished this book and I didn't guess the Secret. I enjoyed the book a great deal but, like Momac, had a few "I'm not reading that" days where I just didn't pick it up. I like the Victorian authors and will certainly read The Woman in White which I have on my bookshelf. #19 2nd December 2011, 06:04 PM momac Congratulations luna: The Dead Secret is still sitting in the tbr pile, have read about 25 pages - don't know why I dread the Dead - but I will read it - even if it has to be a New Year's resolution. #20 2nd December 2011, 06:28 PM lunababymoonchild It's a touch slow to start, Momac and a little confusing in the character/scene setting, initially. But it is worth sticking with. #21 8th December 2011, 04:33 PM Barblue I loved this book. Thanks boblington for recommending it. Even though I kind of guessed what the secret was I think Collins still did the right thing by putting us readers in the picture at the beginning. Maybe it's not as good as Moonstone, but that does not mean it was not a good read. #22 18th December 2011, 09:23 PM Ailecornum This book didn't generate much discussion but it seems most of us enjoyed reading it, which is always a Good Thing. I'm certainly glad it was suggested, because somehow or another I'd failed to notice it and it was nice to have a 'new' Wilkie Collins to read. So thank you from me too, boblington.
  6. This is to nudge Katrina into sharing the character assessment she has been making of Gabriel Betteredge. I have been enjoying his narration so much, and his recourse to Robinson Crusoe for guidance. I have a very strong picture of him in my mind, and strangely, when I checked IMDb to see if it had been filmed, I discovered that there was a mid-nineties TV version (which I didn't see) in which Betteredge was played by Peter Vaughan , which actor exactly fits my own visualisation of Gabriel
  7. I think a few of us must be finished this by now, so what did you think? I confess I was mistaken in who I thought had 'dunnit'. I thought it was Betteredge, not out of any sinister motive, but out of a desire to protect the family from what he clearly thought was the curse of the Moonstone and the three Indians. I have a habit of never trusting narrators in stories like this. It did twist and turn very expectedly. I think even people who read detective novels regularly would be surprised. Maybe someone who does could comment? I really was quite surprised at the way it turned out. I kept thinking that Collins had thrown Luker in as a red herring and he didn't really have the Moonstone. As for the curse of the Moonstone, it did seem to enact a terrible revenge on Mr Godfrey. I was a little dissatisfied by the way it was written in places, but I think this is a lot to do with the convention of the time.
  8. FirelightSpirit has confessed to suspecting Betteredge, and I suspected various characters of a hand in the crime. How about telling us who you had on your list of suspects? ...and Tagesmann, as you were disappointed with the explanation of Franklin's behaviour, what was your version of events? I was disappointed in Roseanna! I was sure that the 'love at first sight' story was a blind, and that She had some connection with Franklin Blake in her shady past...one that maybe he was not aware of. I also, briefly thought that someone had put the nightgown on over her clothing to protect it from the paint...but that was a) when I suspected Rachel, and before I knew whose nightdress it was.
  9. I'm about 200 pages in, having just finished the first period of the story. It's very exciting so far and I'm enjoying Betteredge's livley narrative. Sergeant Cuff is a very interesting character - good characterisation by Collins. I'm withholding judgement about whodunnit at the moment. I have my suspicions, but, with Collins' skilfull writing anything could happen. I'm intrigued. How 'bout you?
  10. I have a feeling that he will prove deserving of a thread of his own! I am already impressed with the way he manipulated Julia, Lady Verinder into agreeing to have all the wardrobes checked for the paint smeared garment 'so that the women servants won't think themselves suspected'....and with the way he abandoned that idea when one person refused. He's a sharp one, that Sergeant Cuff!
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