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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but don't expect too much., 6 Jun. 2007
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This review is from: Basil (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
'Basil', being one of Collins earlier works, was never going to be as exciting or thrilling as his later novels 'The Woman in White' and 'The Moonstone'. I ventured to expect this when I voluntarily picked this book up to see the roots of the later masterpieces.

'Basil' is the beginning of the mystery thriller that Collins would adopt later on, and the inferiority of his treatment of this genre is easy to see. Whereas in 'The Moonstone' things were difficult to predict, and unable to see where things are going, the signs in 'Basil' are not discreet enough, there are no red herrings, what you read are the glaringly obvious hints that lead the story on and lead you to guess the subsequent events. This makes reading 'Basil' a lot less thrilling to read, and will pale in comparison to what you may have read in TWIW and TM. If you have not read these two novels, and you want to give Collins a try, this is not a good introduction (unless you take the length of the novel into account, which took me a day to read, whilst his later novels take three days). There is too much foreshadowing, and too much of it is made very clear.

'Basil' has a good basic plot, his characters well drawn out, but verging on stereotypical which is demonstrated on Basil's first dream of the two ladies in his life. One is dark, shrouded by wood in shadows, the other is pure and white, illuminated by sunshine and pleasant landscape. This is the basic concept of Margaret, his deceitful wife, and Clara, his virtuous sister. The protagonist can be difficult to like sometimes, his reasoning can be unconvincing, and his actions verge on stupidity, not on behalf of the character, but on behalf of Collins, on creating him. Other drawbacks are seen in the plot holes, and things that just wouldn't make logical sense of any person to act. Such as Robert writing a whole confession on everything he had done, leaving evidence of himself and Margaret to other eyes. On top of that, he chooses to omit certain details of his confession which seems nothing more than a scape goat of Collins as he cannot think of a decent enough argument that might have swayed Margaret to act as she did (though her motives are clumsingly added later on).

This early work has flaws, but it's only a short work, and if you wanted to enlighten yourself of Collins' earlier work, this would be a good place to start as it foreshadows many themes to take hold of later novels, and also seems to have quite a bit of autobiographical detail which can allude to his secret life with his mistresses (the protagonist also has the exact same interest as Collins regarding his career). By all means, pick this book up, it's surely inferior, but it's highly readable and satisfies many curiosities that one may have of the author.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Sep 2010 14:14:29 BDT
A helpful review, thanks. I've read the "big four" Collins novels ie "The Woman In White", "The Moonstone", "No Name" and "Armadale", and loved all of them. I've been wondering which, if any, to try next, and your review has let me see that this is one that I would find disappointing. Much of what you say is also true of "The Dead Secret", which I found enjoyable but disappointing ,and too predictable.

Posted on 5 Sep 2010 14:14:30 BDT
A helpful review, thanks. I've read the "big four" Collins novels ie "The Woman In White", "The Moonstone", "No Name" and "Armadale", and loved all of them. I've been wondering which, if any, to try next, and your review has let me see that this is one that I would find disappointing. Much of what you say is also true of "The Dead Secret", which I found enjoyable but disappointing ,and too predictable.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Sep 2010 15:46:42 BDT
The Law and the Lady is also supposed to be a good one. :)

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Sep 2010 19:19:51 BDT
Yes, that's one I've thought about reading!
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