May 09, 2009

Drood - Dan Simmons


I was not intending to include this book in any challenges but as I have just finished the 775 page chunkster I think it is only appropriate (and fair to me!) that I list it as my first completed book for The Chunkster Challenge - because it certainly fits into this category!
Drood by American author Dan Simmons was a book that was recommended to me (I am so sorry but I can't remember who by!) after I started to get into a bit of a Dickens phase after reading Wanting and Girl in a Blue Dress earlier this year. I must admit I was a little put off after I collected the book from my library and saw it's size but all of that doubt disappeared after reading the first few pages - I was hooked.

The narrator of Drood is the author Wilkie Collins - I have to be honest and say that I have never read any of Collin's work before and (if I am being completely honest) I had not even really heard of him before joining the blogging world and hearing so many of you praise his novels. This was all quite funny for me as I started reading this book as the narrator Collins seems to feel he will not be remembered by many in the years following his death;

Some say that I am a gambling man and those that say so are correct, so my wager with you, Dear Reader, would be that you have neither read nor heard of any of my books or plays"(page 3).

The context of the book is that Collins has written a memoir (the book we are reading) about his friendship with Charles Dickens and the events following a serious train accident at Staplehurst involving the author in June 1865 in which many people are killed and injured. Dickens himself is uninjured physically but the emotional and psychological impact of the accident means that he never returns to his prolific writing career afterwards. When speaking to Collins after the accident Dickens talks about a strange character named Drood whom he met while attending to the dead and injured - the exact nature of who (or what) is Drood become the focus for this novel as well as the actual novel Dickens was writing at the time of his death in 1870, just 5 years after the Staplehurst accident.

Collins is an extremely unreliable narrator - he is addicted to opium and takes it in ever increasing doses as the book goes on. His love-hate relationship with Dickens also makes us wonder at his real motivation behind the writing of this "memoir". But these are techniques that really only add to the effect and impact of the book - you want to see if the real motivations ever become clear - and even if they don't, you are really enjoying the story too much to care! There are many mysteries buried within the narration - Who is Drood? What role does he play in the lives and writings of Collins and Dickens? Is Drood real? Is Dickens a murderer?

This book is quite frightening in places - I rarely become scared when reading a book but it was a testament to Simmons writing that this book certainly evoked that reaction in me many times - it probably took me a lot longer than it should have to finish this because there were times when I couldn't read it before going to sleep!

As I said, this book hooked me in from the very beginning and easily kept my interest for all of its 700 plus pages. A great character novel, a great mystery and a really, really great read.

21 comments:

claire said...

I have been wanting to check this out from the library but was intimidated by the size, too, and thought I might not be able to finish it before it's due. I will have to purchase my own copy then, as it sounds really good. I love Dickens a lot. And maybe I will have to read a book by Collins first before delving into this. Thanks for the awesome review!

Steph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steph said...

Normally I shy away from long books (currently I'm reading the mother of chunksters, A Suitable Boy, which clocks in around 1450 pages... I'm hoping that when I finish it, I'll be disabused of my chunkster fear!), but you have completely sold me on this one. I love creepy stories, and this sounds fabulous... But like Clair, I might have to read some Collins (and in my case, some Dickens!) before I get to this one!

Karen said...

Hi Claire - I had to re-borrow the book in order to get it finished! I think if you love Dickens then you would definitely love this book (although he isn't painted in a very flattering light - from what I have read about him this might be pretty accurate though!).

Hi Steph - I have A Suitable Boy on my list for this years reading too. I have been meaning to read it for so long now. Sounds like you will finish it way before me so I'm looking forward to hearing what you think. This one is definitely a creepy story - and I don't think it matters if you haven't read any Dickens or Collins as the description of their work throughout the novel is pretty detailed.

adevotedreader said...

I've been considering reading this, but its length put me off. I might have to try it afterall.

I hope it will encourage you to try Wilkie Collins- The Moonstone or The Woman in White are good places to start.

Karen said...

Hi adevotedreader - it definitely has made me want to give Collins a go - thanks for the suggestions. These two books were mentioned frequently in Drood.

Lisa said...

So glad to hear you enjoyed this book so much. I bought it a while back and haven't tackled it, yet. But, you make me want to go home and start in on it right away.

Karen said...

Hi Lisa - I think you should! I'm sure you would be like me - once you had started you wouldn't even be thinking about the size of the book - just how much you were enjoying the read!

jspeyton said...

I have a paperback copy of this on its way in the mail right now. I am counting the hours, really.

And you should Wilkie. You'll love him. "Woman in White" was the most surprisingly good book I read last year.

Great review!

www.whosabiblioaddict.com

Laura said...

I only recently became acquainted with Wilkie Collins' work when I read The Woman and White for my book club--it is such a great book! I am also a fan of Dickens, but I don't know if I can handle a scary book-I'm a big wimp! It sounds really interesting though!

megan said...

It sounds awesome! I love Dickens, and creepy gothic, so this sounds right up my alley.

Off to check my library's website... :D

Iliana said...

I really would like to read this one and his other novel, The Terror, but I have to admit the size of them puts me off a bit. It's not that I hate long books but when I feel like I have so many other reading commitments at the moment (ARCs, book club books, et.) then I have to put the chunksters aside. One day...

Anyway, yay for finishing it and enjoying it!

Karen said...

Hi jspeyton - I hope your copy arrives soon - looking forward to hearing what you think about it.

Hi Laura - I know what you mean about the scary book thing! I did want to stop reading in some places but I was so interested in the story I just had to keep going!

Hi Megan - if you love both of those things than I definitely think this book would be for you. I hope you find it in your library - I haven't seen it in any bookshops over here.

Hi Iliana - I know what you mean - I need to work out a way to order and prioritise my reading because things are getting a little out of hand!

Trish said...

You've got to read The Woman in White by Collins! I honestly had no idea this book was narrated by Collins but it has been on my radar for months now--now I REALLY want to read it. I'm glad you liked it and you defintiely deserve to use it for a challege (or more).

Karen said...

Hi Trish - it sounds like I am definitely going to have to read this book after so many recommendations! And I would definitely recommend that you read Drood!

Scout said...

Nice review--you've convinced me that I should read it. But the time--the time! Have your read The Thirteenth Tale--it was a favorite read for my book club. A gothic tale reminiscent of Jane Eyre.

Karen said...

Hi Scout - I know what you mean about the time thing!! I have read The Thirteenth Tale and I loved it so much I am planning on reading it again very soon.

Book Mama said...

I loved this book as well. It is worth the aching wrists from holding it open.

Karen said...

Hi Book Mama - that is so true! It definitely wasn't a book for reading in the bath!!

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