This collection of stories by Wilkie Collins (famous for The Moonstone and The Woman In White) was a real let-down in two ways. Firstly, the stories themselves. There are only six proper stories in the collection, sandwiched into not one but two framing narratives: Leaves From Leah's Diary, a rambling and tedious account of an artist who cannot paint because of an eye disease, and is persuaded instead to dictate stories he has heard from past sitters to his wife for publication under the title After Dark; and the framing narrative to After Dark, in which the artist explains to the buying public why he put the stories together and how he came to hear each one. These don't add anything to the enjoyment of the book or to your information about the stories, and in fact I found them very annoying and unnecessary. There is also an introduction by Collins in his own person, explaining that though five of the six stories have a continental setting they are not translations of foreign works, but his own. The actual stories contained are as follows: -
1: A Terribly Strange Bed. This is a thriller which has seen frequent printing shorn of the explanatory introduction and epilogue by the painter. It's a good tale, if a little tired from repetition.
2: A Stolen Letter. A story about a blackmailer being brought to book. Quite long, with one or two moments of interest, but on the whole I found the characters did not hold my interest, the plot was far too slight, and you could see the end coming a mile off.
3: Sister Rose. An extremely long story of sisterly devotion during the era of revolutionary France. There are some moments of interest again, but on the whole the entire story is dull, far-fetched and hideously mawkish.
4: The Lady of Glenwith Grange. A young woman marries a man purporting to be a French nobleman and finds out that he is in fact an escaped convict masquerading as the nobleman; she dies giving birth to his child who is mentally handicapped. Not quite the worst of the lot, but a rather clear example of all that was bad in Victorian literature, being overblown, narrow-minded and melodramatic. And far, far too long; it could have been edited down to about three pages without losing anything of value.
5: Gabriel's Marriage. Another one set in revolutionary France, this time concerning a young Breton whose forthcoming marriage and family relationships are blighted by a deathbed confession from his grandfather, and restored by the intervention of a priest on the run. Appallingly overlong, excessively sentimental, and definitely the least worth reading - unless you really enjoy Dickensian excesses like the death of Little Nell.
6: The Yellow Mask. This one is set in Italy, and would have been quite a good thriller if cut down to about a third of its length and shorn of a few of the contrived coincidences. A priest schemes to balk a young noble from marrying the poor girl he loves, in an attempt to recover lands fraudulently obtained from the church by the young man's ancestors.
Regarding the Kindle edition, it is one of the worst I've had. There are a lot of typos, every second line is only half a page long (a common fault I've found in these public domain works), but worst of all, a huge chunk is missing from A Terribly Strange Bed. The section numbering shows this is not a fault from the download, the edition is actually missing the most important part of the story, and since it is the best one in the collection, that's tragic. I would recommend you look for a better-transcribed collection containing that story and just give this a miss altogether.
on 5 August 2011
I have this on my kindle and find no problems with reading it. It is well written and an excellent read about an artist who is unable to use his eyes to paint for 6 months. His wife suggests another way to earn money by telling stories he has heard over the years and she would write them down and a book comes into being.It is interesting how the title After Dark is chosen. As usual Wilkie Collins comes through with his excellent english of the period, remember his books were written in the 1800's. All the stories are historical and not everyones cup of tea.
on 14 June 2011
I agree with the previous reviewer. I didn't know these stories and was VERY confused by the missing section of the first one. The transcription is poor because the formatting is all over the place and I am reading it in landscape rather than portrait to get round it slightly. These are obviously not checked before going out, although having said that it is free, after all!!