Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hide & Seek: Review

I'm beginning to wonder just how much I'd like The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins if I read it now. I thought it was pretty awesome when I read it about twenty years ago. But, having just finished Hide & Seek and finding it to be okay, but not spectacular and having read The Woman in White last year and being thoroughly underwhelmed....well. I do have to wonder.Hide & Seek is centered on the mystery of Mary Grice (in fact, that is the subtitle for the novel). Mary, also known as Madonna, has been taken in by the respectable painter Valentine Blyth. He refuses to tell his friends and neighbors how he found her...and doesn't seem to mind that the answers they devise on their own are much more sordid than the truth. At least the truth so far as he knows it. She had been orphaned as a baby and a kindly couple with a traveling circus took her in. When Blyth sees the girl, he immediately feels a connection to her and convinces the couple to allow him to adopt her. What he knows of Madonna's past is only what the couple can tell him. The mother was known, but no one knows anything of the father. And therein lies the mystery. It is not until Blyth's young friend Zack Thorpe, who has had enough of his father's puritanical and domineering ways, breaks away from his father's rule and meets up with a mysterious stranger home from travels of 10 years or more that the mystery of Madonna's past will be fully unraveled.

This is a decent enough Victorian tale--and actually was quite good for about the first half. And then it just lost steam. It was a real struggle to complete this novel--it took me nearly as long as Middlemarch and was only about a third as long. Mary Grice, Madonna, is a lovely character. She is one of the earliest fully realized deaf characters in fiction. And Collins represents her well. I wish that there had been more of her and less of Blyth and young Thorpe, actually.
I also wish I had more to say. But it took me so long to read and I didn't jot down notes as I did with Middlemarch...all I can really say is that I'm relieved to finally be done. Three stars.

1 comment:

J F Norris said...

Well, I guess I'm not going to recommend ARMADALE to you any time in the near future. ;^) Collins is too Victorian, I think. Unlike Dickens whose work transcends the period, Collins' work is tied to his own time period when bigamy was a shocking crime and could ruin someone's reputation for the remainder of his or her life. His books just can't affect a contemporary reader as powerfully as they must've done with their original audience. Several months ago I saw a Chicago stage adaptation of THE MOONSTONE and it was just lukewarm. It had none of the shocks it should've because few of the actors (and probably the director) just didn't capture the Victorian sensibility at all.