Friday, 25 May 2012

The Mystery Of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens

I'd like to start by saying, to any who don't already know, that this is Charles Dickens unfinished book. He died before he could finish it (and left no useful notes for anyone to let us in on the ending - very careless).

The book is set in fictional Cloisterham, thought to be based on Rochester in Kent, and follows the main character Edwin Drood and his uncle John Jasper, the cathedral's choir-master.

Edwin has been betrothed to Rosa Bud since they were young children and both were orphaned young. As they were given no choice over the engagement they seem to take it for granted that they will marry but are constantly seen arguing with one another. It is not thought that, given the option, they would've ended up with each other as they seem such an imperfect match.

Edwin and his uncle's relationship, however, is a lot friendlier. With only 6 years age difference between them John seems to worship 'Ned' as incapable of doing anything wrong. This is more of a friendship relationship with Jasper occasionally giving advice, than that of an uncle and nephew. However, this relationship turns out to be sliughtly blighted by Jasper's fascination with Rosa and his use of Opium, taking him up to an opium house in London on occasion. He passes his withdrawal symptoms off as bouts of pain and Rosa doesn't tell Edwin too much about her tutor's infatuation with her due to their close relationship.

The story follows the inhabitants and clergymen of Cloisterham, the arrival of two new characters, Neville & Helena Landless, from Ceylon, Rosa and Edwin reaching the conclusion in their relationship and tragedy befalling the city of Cloisterham. This is a great work by Dickens and would've been one fo my favourites so far... if it had been finished. Unfortunately the conclusion of events and the tragedy/foul play never happens and we are left guessing what happened through whatever clues we have been given.

As Dickens last work I found this to be well written, with all the long windedness of previous works out of his system and pages upon pages of descriptions cut down to just a paragraph. The characters were well-rounded individuals, or as well-rounded an individual can be when written in Dickens way of parodying the typical characters of his time whilst also dealing with his morbid moods near the end of his life. John Jasper with his dark secret hidden behind the mask of a caring choir-master and music tutor is definitely the better written of all the characters because of his multi-layered characteristics.

I thought that, by going into this book knowing that it didn't have an ending, I'd be alright with that fact. I wasn't, at all, not even a little bit! That bloomin' Dickens had the audacity to write a gripping murder mystery, drag the reader in and then keel over before telling us what happened - how rude!

Aside from that though I highly recommend this book. Not just to Dickens lovers, not just to murder mystery lovers but to everyone. This is a classic that needs reading (and I just want everyone to feel as annoyed and confused as I do) and as it's only half finished it's not exactly a 'Great Expectations' feat.


kimba88 said...

Excellent review! In my mind i have written the ending several times..try it its fun!

Ryan said...

I've never read this and I'm not sure I could given the lack of closure. Good on you for taking one for the team!

zybahn said...

I highly recommend the novel as well, ending or none. I'm convinced I've figured out the novel's second half as there are enough clues in the first half. I also agree with the tightness of the prose. Dickens seems to have reached some more modernist approaches with the novel and it's truly unfortunate not just that he couldn't finish this one, but that he couldn't write another.