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The Mystery of Edwin Drood

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Charles Dickens's final, unfinished novel, and one that has puzzled readers and inspired writers since its publication, The Mystery of Edwin Drood is edited with an introduction by David Paroissien in Penguin Classics. Edwin Drood is contracted to marry orphan Rosa Bud when he comes of age, but when they find that duty has gradually replaced affection, they agree to break o Charles Dickens's final, unfinished novel, and one that has puzzled readers and inspired writers since its publication, The Mystery of Edwin Drood is edited with an introduction by David Paroissien in Penguin Classics. Edwin Drood is contracted to marry orphan Rosa Bud when he comes of age, but when they find that duty has gradually replaced affection, they agree to break off the engagement. Shortly afterwards, in the middle of a storm on Christmas Eve, Edwin disappears, leaving nothing behind but some personal belongings and the suspicion that his jealous uncle John Jasper, madly in love with Rosa, is the killer. And beyond this presumed crime there are further intrigues: the dark opium dens of the sleepy cathedral town of Cloisterham, and the sinister double life of Choirmaster Jasper, whose drug-fuelled fantasy life belies his respectable appearance. Dickens died before completing The Mystery of Edwin Drood, leaving its tantalising mystery unsolved and encouraging successive generations of readers to turn detective. This edition contains an introduction by David Paroissien, discussing the novel's ending, with a chronology, notes, original illustrations by Samuel Luke Fildes, appendices on opium use in the nineteenth century, the 'Sapsea Fragment' and Dickens's plans for the story's conclusion. Charles Dickens is one of the best-loved novelists in the English language, whose 200th anniversary was celebrated in 2012. His most famous books, including Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers, have been adapted for stage and screen and read by millions. If you enjoyed The Mystery of Edwin Drood, you might like Dickens's Little Dorrit, also available in Penguin Classics.


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Charles Dickens's final, unfinished novel, and one that has puzzled readers and inspired writers since its publication, The Mystery of Edwin Drood is edited with an introduction by David Paroissien in Penguin Classics. Edwin Drood is contracted to marry orphan Rosa Bud when he comes of age, but when they find that duty has gradually replaced affection, they agree to break o Charles Dickens's final, unfinished novel, and one that has puzzled readers and inspired writers since its publication, The Mystery of Edwin Drood is edited with an introduction by David Paroissien in Penguin Classics. Edwin Drood is contracted to marry orphan Rosa Bud when he comes of age, but when they find that duty has gradually replaced affection, they agree to break off the engagement. Shortly afterwards, in the middle of a storm on Christmas Eve, Edwin disappears, leaving nothing behind but some personal belongings and the suspicion that his jealous uncle John Jasper, madly in love with Rosa, is the killer. And beyond this presumed crime there are further intrigues: the dark opium dens of the sleepy cathedral town of Cloisterham, and the sinister double life of Choirmaster Jasper, whose drug-fuelled fantasy life belies his respectable appearance. Dickens died before completing The Mystery of Edwin Drood, leaving its tantalising mystery unsolved and encouraging successive generations of readers to turn detective. This edition contains an introduction by David Paroissien, discussing the novel's ending, with a chronology, notes, original illustrations by Samuel Luke Fildes, appendices on opium use in the nineteenth century, the 'Sapsea Fragment' and Dickens's plans for the story's conclusion. Charles Dickens is one of the best-loved novelists in the English language, whose 200th anniversary was celebrated in 2012. His most famous books, including Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers, have been adapted for stage and screen and read by millions. If you enjoyed The Mystery of Edwin Drood, you might like Dickens's Little Dorrit, also available in Penguin Classics.

30 review for The Mystery of Edwin Drood

  1. 5 out of 5

    Evgeny

    This is a group read with the following people: myself. Yes, this has got to be the loneliest group read I have ever participated in. The novel is an unfinished mystery from a classic of English literature. In the unfinished form my edition has around 230 pages and the actual mystery happens at 66% of the book length. Thus if I say what exactly the mystery is for all practical purposes it would be a complete spoiler. However from the title is can be deduced the mystery is connected to one of the This is a group read with the following people: myself. Yes, this has got to be the loneliest group read I have ever participated in. The novel is an unfinished mystery from a classic of English literature. In the unfinished form my edition has around 230 pages and the actual mystery happens at 66% of the book length. Thus if I say what exactly the mystery is for all practical purposes it would be a complete spoiler. However from the title is can be deduced the mystery is connected to one of the character, Edwin Drood. This young guy lives with his uncle John Jasper. He is betrothed to a beautiful girl Rosa Bud (the couple's fathers took care of this way before their kids understood what it means). Most of the novel takes place in a provincial town called Cloisterham. The sleepy town still has its own shares of excitements - I mean for such place anything breaking the routine constitutes excitement, like coming of orphan twins - Neville and Helena Landless. They were literally dumped in the place by a Philanthropic Society of London. While Helena quickly befriended Rosa, Neville started behaving like a jackass or whatever was the term in the Victorian Britain. At least the gossip mongers had their hands full trying to stay abreast with the new arrivals. If you think this is not enough to make the story interesting let me mention that the first chapter takes place in a London opium den with what surely considered to be disturbing visions at the time of writing. Before I started composing my own review I read other people's thoughts about the novel looking for inspiration. Surprising number of reviewers give low rating because the tale was unfinished. Huh? How is it logical? The guy was laboriously writing the story until his death - unlike some modern writers I do not care to mention. It is not his fault he died before finishing. I strongly suspect had the author had a choice in the matter, he would have chosen to live longer (and finishing the book as a result). While I am on the subject let me mention how the book ends. The identity of the villain is very much clear. It is almost as much clear how the crime was committed and the main clue overlooked in otherwise very careful planning. It is also possible to figure out the identity of the investigator with the high probability. How exactly the tale was supposed to end in anybody's guess. Thus my fairly low rating is not due to this. The rating is influenced by the fact that this is simply not Dickens' best work, or even among his best. He could do much better - and he did elsewhere. For starters I began to think some genres are not compatible with each other. In this case a serious mystery simply refused to cooperate with satire despite the considerable writing abilities of the author. Some characters and situations came straight from satirical stories - just read practically every scene involving Thomas Sapsea and Luke Honeythunder. The mystery itself is very much serious matter. My personal nitpick: I do not like the use of present tense. In here present and past tenses are mixed and once again Dickens' writing skills almost - but not quite - made it work. There was even no good reason of doing it here by the way. On the positive side you can see the writing of a Master. New and inspiring writers really need to read his descriptions to see how it is done. For example his description of Cloisterham was fairly short and made the town truly alive in my imagination. On the other hand he spent one page describing a closet which was forgotten as soon as the description was finished, but this was the only such example. If you want to see this taken into the level of ridiculousness read anything by Victor Hugo. Anyhow even minor efforts by Dickens are well worth reading, but this time it was not an easy read. As a side note my edition has discovered fragments of Mr. Sapsea's tale. Not only they do not move the story by an inch, they also contain none of the characters from the published part except for Mr. Sapsea himself. From this point of view it was a completely pointless addition.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Simona Bartolotta

    ➡ REREAD 12/2017: Seriously, there are so many clues in here. My head hurts. Happily, though. --- 4.5 “And yet there are such unexplored romantic nooks in the unlikeliest men, that even old tinderous and touchwoody P. J. T. Possibly Jabbered Thus, at some odd times, in or about seventeen-forty-seven.” The Mystery of Edwin Drood is contained in a book I'm currently reading in Italian, namely La verità sul caso D. (in English The D. Case or The Truth About the Mystery of Edwin Drood) by Fruttero an ➡ REREAD 12/2017: Seriously, there are so many clues in here. My head hurts. Happily, though. --- 4.5 “And yet there are such unexplored romantic nooks in the unlikeliest men, that even old tinderous and touchwoody P. J. T. Possibly Jabbered Thus, at some odd times, in or about seventeen-forty-seven.” The Mystery of Edwin Drood is contained in a book I'm currently reading in Italian, namely La verità sul caso D. (in English The D. Case or The Truth About the Mystery of Edwin Drood) by Fruttero and Lucentini, therefore I thought it was the perfect occasion for me to read Dickens's last and unfinished work in its original language as well. It's unfinished, yes; but is it my fault if this man possesses this uncanny ability to make me fall in love with even half a story and half a crime? Mr Jasper and Mr Grewgious are two unforgettable characters, each of them for his own reasons. The latter, especially, is one of those characters you can't help but being grateful to have met. And Jasper, well, he has so many faces that 150 years have passed by, and we still haven't got the hang of him; besides, he is vicious and eerie all you want, but he does know his way with words. (Up to a point; someone should tell him that when you declare yourself you usually stop before the threats. But don't tell me his “I loved you madly” speech didn't make you swoon a little ad shiver -for several reasons- a lot. You totally know what I mean.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    An incomplete Dickens novel is like a half-finished jigsaw. How do you rate a half-finished jigsaw? This fragment, being Dickens, actually comprises about 1.5/3 of the intended work, but still isn’t enough to want to invest oneself emotionally and intellectually in the characters and plot happenings (for me, anyway). In this instance, it may be wiser to skip the book and head straight for the recent BBC adaptation (much as it pains me to recommend TV over text). Still: not without its usual char An incomplete Dickens novel is like a half-finished jigsaw. How do you rate a half-finished jigsaw? This fragment, being Dickens, actually comprises about 1.5/3 of the intended work, but still isn’t enough to want to invest oneself emotionally and intellectually in the characters and plot happenings (for me, anyway). In this instance, it may be wiser to skip the book and head straight for the recent BBC adaptation (much as it pains me to recommend TV over text). Still: not without its usual charms and flourishes, howevs. Now I have reached the end of my serialised Dickens quest, let me now pointlessly rate the works from favourite to not: 1—Little Dorrit. Sumptuous, heartbreaking . . . not an unmemorable moment. 2—Our Mutual Friend. Melancholy, dark, haunting and murderous. 3—David Copperfield. The reason first-person narratives are no longer required. 4—Nicholas Nickleby. Extremely funny, rollicking picaresque-esque number. 5—A Tale of Two Cities. Exceptionally moving and bloodthirsty historical novel. 6—Oliver Twist. Captivating child protagonist, fabulously vicious twists. 7—The Pickwick Papers. Dickens does straight comedy to much merriment. 8—The Old Curiosity Shop. Scariest villain and cutest child fatality. 9—Bleak House. Complex, powerful and yes, a wee bit overlong in places(!) 10—Martin Chuzzlewit. His second best comedy, starring the brilliant Pecksniff. 11—Dombey and Son. Extremely tense, extremely meandering. But good. 12—Barnaby Rudge. Satire and history together in a messy, bloody epic, with parrots. 13—Great Expectations. Beautiful childhood reflections, less successful in adulthood. 14—Hard Times. Sublime character Gradgrind in choppy, hectoring effort. 15—The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Unfinished.

  4. 3 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    Mystery and detective novels are one of the most popular genres, but have you ever wondered who wrote the first mystery novel? The Mystery of Edwin Drood first published in 1870, is certainly one of the earliest, although not the first. That privilege is due to a work in German published in 1819, and entitled “Das Fräulein von Scuderi” by the Prussian author E.T.A. Hoffmann. This influenced what many consider the first true mystery short story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” which was written by Mystery and detective novels are one of the most popular genres, but have you ever wondered who wrote the first mystery novel? The Mystery of Edwin Drood first published in 1870, is certainly one of the earliest, although not the first. That privilege is due to a work in German published in 1819, and entitled “Das Fräulein von Scuderi” by the Prussian author E.T.A. Hoffmann. This influenced what many consider the first true mystery short story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” which was written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1841. In 1860, Wilkie Collins wrote the novel “The Woman in White”, followed by “The Moonstone” in 1868. Two years later came Charles Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Then in 1887, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the public to Sherlock Holmes, leading to a huge surge in the popularity of mystery stories. Crime and detective fiction has never looked back. Looking at the paucity of material in a genre which was in its infancy, it strikes us that two of these authors were friends with Charles Dickens. Moreover, Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens were particularly close, often discussing their writing projects, and collaborating on several works. Coincidence? Hardly. The fingerprints of both authors show throughout their later novels. The Mystery of Edwin Drood is Dickens’s final work; one which he was destined never to complete. Ironically, it remained much more of a mystery than he ever intended it to be, although perhaps that would have caused him a wry smile. Dickens loved mysteries, and his previous fourteen novels are peppered with mysterious strangers, age-old family plots, mysteries of inheritance, embezzlement and fraud, secret family connections, characters who have the same names, doppelgängers, mysterious coincidences, mistaken identities, and the like. Mysteries–and misdirections–abound. Dickens also loved the supernatural, and had an eye for the grotesque and the macabre. His works of fiction are thronged with wraiths and sceptres, ghosts, ghouls and tombs. Put together the gruesome tales of Edgar Allan Poe and the fiendishly complex detective plots of Wilkie Collins, add a dash of darkly absurd humour, and you have Charles Dickens. And nowhere is the mystery novel more evident than in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It has teased scholars and the public alike ever since. Some think they have solved the mystery, but only half of the novel was ever written, and Dickens kept his cards very close to his chest. Nor do we know what precisely the mystery is: an unsolved disappearance or a murder story? We have plenty of clues, not only in the text itself, but by comments he made to those close to him. He told his mentor, John Forster, early on that he had an idea for a novel in which a nephew would be murdered by his uncle. The illustrator Luke Fildes said that Dickens had told him, when they were discussing an illustration, “I must have the double necktie! It is necessary, for Jasper strangles Edwin Drood with it.” And Charley, Dickens’s son said that when he asked his father “Of course, Edwin Drood was murdered?” he was told, “Of course, what do you suppose?” and that Jasper was the murderer. Dickens’s sister-in-law, Georgina Hogarth also insisted she was in the know, saying to him “I hope you haven’t really killed poor Edwin Drood?” to receive the ambiguous reply, “I call it the Mystery not the History of Edwin Drood”. Dickens even offered to divulge his plans for the story to one of his greatest fans, Queen Victoria, at the start of the serialisation, but she refused, as she wished to read each thrilling installment as it was published. But was it all after all a double bluff? Dickens gave hints to other members of his family and friends which were not always consistent with this. And everyone was naturally convinced that they were privy to his closest, most reliable thoughts. Earlier discarded titles for this book include “The Loss of Edwin Brude” (sic.) and, interestingly “Edwin Drood in Hiding”, which makes us wonder. Perhaps he was, after all, apprehensive about completing the novel. He had taken a break of 5 years since writing “Our Mutual Friend”; an unprecedented gap in his writing so far. And to his daughter Katey, he wrote, “If please, I live to finish it … I say if, because you know, my dear child, I have not been strong lately.” (Katey’s husband, Charles Collins, Wilkie Collins’s brother, designed the cover illustration, but was too ill to work on the other illustrations.) The train accident which nearly claimed Dickens’s life during the serialisation of his previous novel still plagued him. He was increasingly ill and weak, finding it increasingly difficult to conceal his double life with Nelly Ternan, and refusing to cut back on any of his physically exhausting public readings. He was slowly killing himself. Perhaps he would have had second thoughts, and monarch or no, artfully dodged out of revealing the answer. Dickens often gleefully inserted red herrings, and altered many elements and characters, twisting the direction a story was to take mid-stream. For instance, he discarded the beginning of “Great Expectations” on the advice of a friend, significantly altering the fates of Pip and Estella. And in “Martin Chuzzlewit” the first four installments had already been published before Dickens even thought of sending the hero to the United States. Yet nowadays, this is considered his “American novel"! Characters such as Miss Mowcher in “David Copperfield”, frequently received a moral overhaul, when their real life counterparts publicly objected. We can’t really second guess Dickens’s intentions from half a book. He might not have known them himself. Charles Dickens excelled at depicting the sordid underbelly of society, and this novel is no exception. It starts in an opium den run by a haggard woman, known as “Princess Puffer”. As he had countless times before, Dickens based this character on a person in real life, one whom he knew, having visited an opium den with friends in May of the previous year. The old hag was based on “Lascar Sal”, who ran a well-known opium den in the East End of London. Lascar Sal was said to have looked like an 80 year old woman, although she was only 26. In the 19th century, such opium dens were common in China, Southeast Asia, North America and France. They tended to be mostly used and run by the Chinese, because the suppliers of opium were Chinese, although they would prepare it for visiting non-Chinese smokers too. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself frequented an opium den run by Ah Sing, (otherwise known as John Johnston), who came from Amoy, in China. He immortalised this den in his story “The Man with the Twisted Lip”. The descriptions in The Mystery of Edwin Drood are authentic, describing the long special opium pipes and oil lamps which were necessary to smoke the drug. Patrons reclined so that they could better release and inhale the vapour. The mysterious, foggy atmosphere which permeates the novel is thus induced in the very first chapter. John Jasper, pillar of the community, choirmaster of Cloisterham Cathedral, and uncle and guardian of the title character, Edwin Drood, is here, secretly smoking opium. Our first view of him is this: “Shaking from head to foot, the man whose scattered consciousness has thus fantastically pieced itself together, at length rises, supports his trembling frame upon his arms, and looks around.” He is “a dark man of some six-and-twenty, with thick, lustrous, well-arranged black hair and whiskers”. But Jasper is world-weary, addicted to opium to dispel his ennui and boredom with his life, and lives at least part of the time in a confused drug-induced state. What we are never sure about, is how befuddled John Jasper really is. His own ends are often disreputable and sinister. (view spoiler)[We see him mixing drugs to administer to others, for his own ends. (hide spoiler)] We are constantly reading Jasper’s innermost thoughts, and viewing his secretive actions, having a sense of foreboding about him right from this first chapter. Dickens describes Jasper’s attitude and demeanour towards Edwin Drood, who is only a few years younger than he is, as: “A look of intentness and intensity–a look of hungry, exacting, watchful, and yet devoted affection…” which seems a very odd, hypocritical way for an apparently affectionate uncle to look at his nephew. We also observe a possible cause of this straight away. On to the scene comes a very pretty young girl, much given to tossing her head, arching her eyebrows, pouting her lips or hooking a finger in the corner of her rosebud mouth. Her name? “Rosa Bud”. She is an orphan and Edwin Drood’s fiancée. Their betrothal had been arranged by their fathers, almost as soon as they were born. These two are constantly at odds, sparring, but not flirtatiously. It seems as if their lifelong understanding has led to a withering of any truly romantic relationship which could have developed. Neither seem very likeable to a modern reader. Edwin may be handsome and charming, but he is naive and rather thoughtless, yawning whenever he likes, and given to making crass comments, as well as being what George Bernard Shaw called “an insufferable bore”. Cloisterham, where the novel is set, is easily recognisable as Rochester, a city which Dickens knew very well. In fact he loved it so much that his final wishes were to be buried without pomp “in the small graveyard under Rochester Castle wall.” This wish was ultimately ignored, as he was buried with great ceremony and honour in “Poet’s Corner”, in Westminster Abbey. Nevertheless, he had known the area since he was a child, and eventually bought a big house he had admired ever since, Gads Hill Place, in nearby Higham. Many of his earlier novels such as “Pickwick Papers”, and “Great Expectations” feature descriptions of the city. Also in “Great Expectations”, a house in Rochester, “Restoration House”, is the model for “Satis House”, where Miss Havisham lives. Dickens also chose another house in Rochester to be “The Nuns’ House” in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. “Eastgate House” is an Elizabethan townhouse, which has been a Dickens Museum since 1923. In its grounds is the Swiss chalet in which Dickens penned several of his novels. In The Mystery of Edwin Drood this house is “Miss Twinkleton’s Seminary for Young Ladies” where Rosa resides and is educated in the art of what is deemed appropriate and desirable for young ladies to know. And from the name “Miss Twinkleton”, we can see that, dark though this novel is, with much evidence of foul play and dirty deeds, it also contains plenty of Dickens’s trademark humour. Miss Twinkleton, the headmistress of the Nuns’ House boarding school, is an “excellent lady” with a great respect for the “shrine of Propriety”. She is ably assisted by her companion Mrs. Tisher, and these two afford many delightful comic episodes. Later in the novel, the sparks fly when Miss Twinkleton’s jealous care of her favourite charge sets her at odds with a Mrs Billickins, who runs lodgings in London. The verbal duel between these two is so quintessentially Dickens, conjuring up the confrontation between Miss Pross and Madame De Farge, Aunt Betsey and the Murdstone duo, and a host of others. Dickens found it impossible to resist including caricatures and buffoons, even in this novel. So we also have Thomas Sapsea, a comically conceited auctioneer, whose arrogance is exacerbated by his appointment to be the Mayor of Cloisterham. He is well matched by the Dean, the most senior clergyman at Cloisterham Cathedral, whose sense of self-importance is so convincing, that others feel obliged to behave with a fitting deference to him. Of course, this boosts his ego, so in return he behaves in a condescending manner. We have Durdles, a stonemason. He knows more than anyone else about the Cloisterham Cathedral cemetery including the history of all the tombs, and where they all are. Durdles is an irresistibly entertaining character, who knows far more than he lets on. But we are often led away from thinking too much about him, by his eccentricities. One is to employ a small vagrant boy, whom he calls “Deputy”. The job is an unusual one. If Deputy if to catch Durdles out after 10 pm, he is required to throws rocks at him until he goes home - and Durdles pays him a ha’penny for doing so! Another buffoon is Luke Honeythunder, a bullying London philanthropist with a thunderously loud voice. And here we come to another intriguing aspect of the novel. Mr. Honeythunder is the guardian of Neville and Helena Landless, twins from Ceylon, (now Sri Lanka) who have come to live in Cloisterham with John Jasper. It is not clear what the relationship is, but we learn that in their childhood these two were mistreated and deprived, so much that (view spoiler)[Helena actually disguised herself as a boy and ran away (hide spoiler)] . Of course Neville is immediately smitten with darling sweet Rosa, and bold Helena quickly becomes Rosa’s confidante and friend. Neville is clever, but very proud, and gets into a good deal of trouble because of what might termed the chip on his shoulder. (view spoiler)[ It is interesting however, to watch the machinations of Jasper, in goading on Edwin in his provoking comments, designed to inflame Neville’s quick and passionate temper. (hide spoiler)] The introduction of a brother and sister from a far-off country leads to displays of racial prejudice by some of the good people of Cloisterham, who seem eager to see the worst in these two orphans. We also get an insight into the various attitudes of the time, regarding immigrants of another colour to the respectable society of a small cathedral city in the 19th century. Dickens observes this with a keen eye. He has offered us many candidates for guilty secrets, possibly leading to crimes such as abduction or even murder. With such erratic, and sometimes untrustworthy set of characters, are there any to whom we look for a balanced outlook? Certainly, although none of these are actually above suspicion. There is the Reverend Septimus Crisparkle, a minor canon of Cloisterham Cathedral, who becomes Neville Landless’s mentor. He seems an upright, decent sort of fellow, who lives with his sprightly widowed mother. There’s also Hiram Grewgious, a “very angular” person. Eccentric and ponderously correct at first, this London lawyer appears to have a good heart. He takes his duties as Rosa Bud’s guardian seriously, as he was a friend of her parents. And yet … there is the beginning of a back story coming out here. Although we only have half a novel, Dickens is still introducing new characters in each chapter. Towards the “end” we meet Dick Datchery, a stranger who takes lodgings in Cloisterham for a month or two, and another newcomer Mr. Tartar, a retired naval officer, who resigned his commission in his late twenties when an uncle left him some property. Are either of these perhaps not what they seem? Why have they moved to Cloisterham at this point, when a murder may or may not have been committed? Are they acting for the police in some capacity, or do they have roguish connections? Clearly this novel raises far more questions than it answers. It is beguiling, and important to not to read it too quickly. Whatever our normal reading speed, we are used to the framework of a novel which finishes rather than stopping abruptly, and pace our reading accordingly. This seems like a short read, but in fact it is very complex. There is a panoply of different threads and ideas to follow, and many books have been written, either with possible endings, or discussing ideas it is impossible to go into here. For instance, there are many references to Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth” in both action, context and words. It would be easy to miss these, but surely they are significant. I do not believe, in my heart, that John Jasper is guilty of murdering his nephew, whether as a cunning plan, or in a drug-induced nightmarish state. It does not “fit” with how Dickens writes. He gives us satisfying endings, and usually we see what happens to even the more minor characters, but only when we have been rooting for an unfortunate character to make good, or two unlikely lovebirds to come together, do we hope for a particular ending. The mystery parts of his novels are never predictable, and usually come as a surprise. Yes, Dickens was writing in an entirely new genre, concerned with how police detectives would solve a possible crime, but it is a step too far to envisage his leap into psychological crime novels, where the perpetrator is known from the start, and the interest lies in how they have become the disturbed personality they now are. Those sort of books are a very recent development. On the other hand, it is quite possible to see parallels in Dickens’s own family, which mirror Dickens’s emotional involvement with each of the characters in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Incidental examples too, such as Bazzard, Grewgious’s clerk, who so clearly thinks he is demeaning himself by taking such a position, since he (view spoiler)[ has written a play, but cannot get it produced on stage. (hide spoiler)] . And was Dickens writing one of his own sons in the character of the feckless charmer, Edwin Drood, forever planning to do great things, but spending money on worthless pursuits? Even more audaciously, was he writing himself in the book as John Jasper? He had often complained about his various sons, having occasional flashes of pride, but usually saying that they “disappointed” him … “Why was I ever a father! Why was my father ever a father!” One, Walter, went missing whilst in the British army in India and later was reported dead. Does this sound a little like Edwin? Another, Sydney, had been banished from the Gads Hill Estate by his father, for his accumulated debts and financial problems. Dickens said “I begin to wish that he were honestly dead.” Does this sound similar to Jasper’s love/hate relationship with his nephew? And Jasper had a real life counterpart in Dickens’s own brothers, Augustus and Frederick, who were reported to be dissolute, unscrupulous and lecherous. Psychologists could have a field day with this; even the details such as both Jasper and Dickens (view spoiler)[ burning their diaries, seeking a clandestine relationship with a younger woman, or using opium (in Dickens’s case to ease the pain) (hide spoiler)] are common to both men. How was the book to end? Dickens died in the early summer of 1870, having published six installments with 6 more yet to come. He noted the main developments of the plot as he wrote them, presumably for continuity purposes, and sometimes these brief notes are included in editions today. However, the final six chapter of these notes are just headings, with the contents remaining blank. It clearly was a fluid, changeable project, with no overall written plan. Dickens was always keen to respond to his public’s reactions, changing various aspects as he wrote his current serial. Perhaps he was leaving it open here too. We have a myriad of clues, but will never actually know. His friend Wilkie Collins refused an offer to complete the novel, calling it, “the melancholy work of a worn-out brain”. Critics down the ages remain fascinated with the book, and disagree with this unfair assertion. There are at least 36 separate completions and sequels so far. Speculations about the mystery will no doubt continue for many years to come. “I call my book the Mystery, not the History, of Edwin Drood”. Touché, Dickens.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    More like 3.5 stars, but having read many Dickens novels, this isn't one of his best.... so I'm rounding down to 3 I came to The Mystery Of Edwin Drood, Dickens’s last and unfinished novel, by chance. Earlier this year I’d read The Last Dickens, Matthew Pearl’s novel about the mystery surrounding Dickens’s final book. Pearl’s literary thriller involved murder, opium addiction, autobiographical elements about Dickens’s American speaking tour and affairs, international publishing rights, “bookaneers More like 3.5 stars, but having read many Dickens novels, this isn't one of his best.... so I'm rounding down to 3 I came to The Mystery Of Edwin Drood, Dickens’s last and unfinished novel, by chance. Earlier this year I’d read The Last Dickens, Matthew Pearl’s novel about the mystery surrounding Dickens’s final book. Pearl’s literary thriller involved murder, opium addiction, autobiographical elements about Dickens’s American speaking tour and affairs, international publishing rights, “bookaneers” (look up the term – I’d never heard it before). Fascinating stuff. So I thought I’d track down the source material. I was also familiar with the musical based on Dickens’s book – the one in which the audience votes on the show’s outcome. I saw it in its most recent Broadway revival and quite enjoyed it. The book itself, alas, isn’t first-rate Chuck D. One of the main problems is the central character, Edwin, who’s a bit of a cipher. Edwin is engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Rosa Bud, who, like him, is an orphan. Edwin doesn’t have much ambition or personality. Edwin and Rosa aren’t terribly passionate about each other. In fact, they’re more like siblings. Edwin’s uncle, John Jasper, is a much more compelling figure. Besides being an opium addict (and some of the early scenes set in opium dens positively ooze with atmosphere), the haunted, lecherous and terribly unhappy Jasper is also the choirmaster at Cloisterham Cathedral. In his spare time he acts as Rosa's music master, but it soon becomes clear that he’d like to do more to the girl than just teach her music. Two twins from Ceylon, Neville and Helena Landless, also arrive in town. Helena befriends Rosa, and her brother Neville is smitten with her. Neville and Edwin get into a fight that was too subtle for me to really comprehend. Soon, during a requisite dark and stormy night, Edwin disappears. Was he murdered? If so, who did it? Neville, having fought him, is under suspicion, and Jasper seems happy to point the finger at him. Or... does Edwin disappear only to reappear later in disguise? (A couple of characters mysteriously do indeed show up midway through the book.) We’ll never know. Dickens plants lots of details that would likely have popped up later in the unraveling of the mystery: a ring, a walking stick, a black scarf… But a lot of the writing feels laboured, particularly involving minor characters. And it’s a big problem when you don’t feel anything when your “hero” disappears. Still, Dickens was a marvelous plotter, and it’s unfair to comment on the book without knowing what he intended. If anything, this book makes me want to go back to Dickens’s other books. I’ve read the biggies (Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Oliver Twist), but there are still many left. Apparently this book was Dickens’s attempt to write in the mystery genre that his friend, Wilkie Collins, had mastered. So perhaps it’s about time I read Collins’s books like The Woman In White and The Moonstone. I've been meaning to anyway.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    I knew at the outset that Dickens died before he had the chance to finish this novel, but I didn't realize how incredibly frustrated I was going to be because of it! It seems that he was just getting somewhere, and that there was going to be some climactic action coming up shortly, and then poof. No more book. But on the other hand, it was so good getting to that point, and as noted, I am aware that The Mystery of Edwin Drood was unfinished, so I can't say that I was all that frustrated, really. I knew at the outset that Dickens died before he had the chance to finish this novel, but I didn't realize how incredibly frustrated I was going to be because of it! It seems that he was just getting somewhere, and that there was going to be some climactic action coming up shortly, and then poof. No more book. But on the other hand, it was so good getting to that point, and as noted, I am aware that The Mystery of Edwin Drood was unfinished, so I can't say that I was all that frustrated, really. It's the getting to the end (or the leave-off point) that mattered, and it was a great ride. I won't go over the story/plot here; it is very well known. Movies have been made; I believe there was a stage production or two as well, and there are (as I saw written somewhere) entire websites and pundits devoted to solving the mystery and playing "what-if" in an effort to provide an ending. This edition has a preface by Peter Ackroyd, a Dickens biographer, and an appendix by GK Chesterton. Chesterton provides several theories about what may have followed if Dickens had been alive to finish his work. One more thing: I read this on the heels of Dan Simmons' most excellent novel "Drood," and it puts a lot into perspective. I would definitely recommend it -- if you MUST have an ending, then don't read it, but as I said above...the getting there is most of the fun. Most excellent.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Yani

    Otra vez me veo en la tarea de reseñar libros inconclusos sin ser muy específica y, a la vez, sintiéndome ridícula por no serlo. El misterio de Edwin Drood tuvo la mala suerte de quedar trunco por el fallecimiento de Dickens, a pesar de que luego muchos aventuraron el nombre del asesino (¡imposible no hacerlo!). Dickens dejó justo ese espacio para rellenar, en la parte en donde todo parece encaminarse hacia el nombre del culpable y después… el abismo. No hay nada. En esta edición, al menos, añ Otra vez me veo en la tarea de reseñar libros inconclusos sin ser muy específica y, a la vez, sintiéndome ridícula por no serlo. El misterio de Edwin Drood tuvo la mala suerte de quedar trunco por el fallecimiento de Dickens, a pesar de que luego muchos aventuraron el nombre del asesino (¡imposible no hacerlo!). Dickens dejó justo ese espacio para rellenar, en la parte en donde todo parece encaminarse hacia el nombre del culpable y después… el abismo. No hay nada. En esta edición, al menos, añadieron una nota en donde exponen las conjeturas de los críticos. No sabría decir qué tan útil puede llegar a ser aunque tiene un par de teorías interesantes porque están basadas en detalles que Dickens tenía anotados (obviamente, él ya tenía pensado todo). Y hablando del libro en concreto: podría haber sido una muy buena novela policial, en donde tal vez se vean los hilos desde el principio y eso haga quejarse al lector, pero que plantea las cosas de modo diferente. La historia se centra en John “Jack” Jasper, un cantante de la catedral de Cloisterham, una ciudad cuyo nombre está inventado, que tendrá como visita a su sobrino Edwin Drood. Este joven está comprometido por un acuerdo entre otras personas con una chica, Rosa Bud. A la vez, esta muchacha es pupila de Jasper, quien le da clases de piano. Cuando llegan dos misteriosos hermanos (Neville y Helena Landless) a la ciudad, las cosas empiezan a tomar forma y las relaciones entre ellos no serán iguales. Y un día Edwin desaparece, no se halla su cadáver y sólo se encuentra su reloj. El móvil que se esgrime para acusar a los sospechosos es un poco infantil (view spoiler)[ (Jasper y Neville están enamorados de Rose, así que hay que sacar a Edwin del medio) (hide spoiler)] y no me lo creí del todo, a pesar de que esas situaciones sigan dándose en la época actual. Es decir, no me pareció que tuviera fuerza suficiente. Sin embargo, Dickens creó a un personaje lo suficientemente perverso (no revelo el nombre para no arruinar nada) como para que una niñería pasara a ser algo demasiado serio. Dickens puede usar todos los deus ex machina que quiera y hacer aparecer personajes de la nada, pero lo arregla con una sola cosa: sabe contar el cuento. Las descripciones largas no están en vano y no cansan, ya que son muy bonitas de leer. Los narradores de sus historias son mis preferidos porque tienen sangre en las letras (¿?) y denuncian, ironizan, ridiculizan. Puede que los libros sean larguísimos en su mayoría, pero los devoro como si constaran de 15 hojas. Y digo todo esto porque El misterio… no es la excepción. Si bien le pueden faltar arreglos (seguramente que sí) y el aclamado final, la historia engancha. Sí es cierto que desconcierta con capítulos que parecen estar por fuera del eje… y en realidad no lo están, mucho menos en una novela policial. ¿Por qué me pareció un policial diferente? Porque no hay un detective y no hay un curso normal en la investigación del crimen. Esta novela no se asienta en el trabajo de las autoridades, prácticamente, si no en la de personas particulares y existe un entretenido desorden en ello. El asunto se complica cuando alguien da vuelta el tablero (y me sorprendió) y la trama se empieza a mover con más rapidez. Debido a esto, los personajes deben tomar decisiones y ven sus vidas afectadas por la desaparición de Edwin, de un modo u otro. Los personajes están bien y pueden sonar un poco típicos. La muchacha abnegada, el muchacho arrogante, el hombre bondadoso pero solitario, el lobo con piel de cordero, el desconocido que llega al pueblo. Lo bueno es que todos cumplen un rol y algunos me hicieron cambiar la opinión que tenía de ellos en medio del libro, así que funcionó que tomaran resoluciones tan bruscas (otra cosa a la que estoy acostumbrada). En fin, no quiero seguir hablando para que no se escape nada comprometido del argumento. Leer un libro inacabado es extraño: a mí me dio lástima porque me estaba gustando mucho y se corta en un momento que ni siquiera es parte del clímax. Es una escena común y corriente (y esto no es spoiler, obvio). Así que siempre hay que decidir si vale la pena hacerlo porque puede dar la sensación de estar perdiendo el tiempo en una historia que no cierra, salvo gracias al lector que desea completarla. Lo tomé como un juego, aunque sea frustrante.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dimitri

    La scomparsa del giovane Edwin rimarrà per sempre un mistero perché Charles Dickens è scomparso lasciando incompiuto questo romanzo cupo e fumoso, illuminato da situazioni comiche, ambientato nella città inventata di Cloisterham, tra cattedrali, cripte, cimiteri, collegi per signorine, lussuosi palazzi e quartieri malfamati. Mentre si può intuire come avrebbe potuto concludersi, la storia si gusta soprattutto per la maestria di Dickens nel creare i personaggi e nel scegliere i loro nomi: l’inqui La scomparsa del giovane Edwin rimarrà per sempre un mistero perché Charles Dickens è scomparso lasciando incompiuto questo romanzo cupo e fumoso, illuminato da situazioni comiche, ambientato nella città inventata di Cloisterham, tra cattedrali, cripte, cimiteri, collegi per signorine, lussuosi palazzi e quartieri malfamati. Mentre si può intuire come avrebbe potuto concludersi, la storia si gusta soprattutto per la maestria di Dickens nel creare i personaggi e nel scegliere i loro nomi: l’inquietante e doppio John Jasper, un po’ Jekyll un po’ Hyde, di giorno irreprensibile maestro del coro, di notte oppiomane; la bellissima e infantile Rosa; l’impulsivo Neville Landless e sua sorella Helena, dal luminoso volto zingaresco; il reverendo Septimus Crisparkle; l’ubriacone Durdles; l’ex marinaio Tartar, creatore di giardini sospesi. A tratti melodrammatico, molto spesso ironico, Dickens mi ha divertito soprattutto quando descrive i personaggi più anziani. Il sindaco Sapsea, ad esempio. Qualora si assuma l’asino a tipico esempio di compiaciuta stupidità e presunzione – una consuetudine, forse, come alcune altre, più convenzionale che corretta – allora il più genuino asino di Cloisterham è Thomas Sapsea. Oppure l’agguerrito filantropo Honeythunder, la cui filantropia era di quel genere bellicoso che rendeva difficile distinguerla dall’animosità. Honeythunder camminava in mezzo alla strada, facendosi largo tra gli indigeni a spallate, e sviluppando a voce alta un suo piano per catturare tutti i disoccupati del Regno Unito, cacciandoli uno dopo l’altro in galera e costringendoli, pena l’immediato sterminio, a diventare filantropi. Perché, secondo Dickens, Filantropi Professanti e Pugili presentavano somiglianze stupefacenti nella conformazione frenologica della nuca: quanto allo sviluppo degli organi che formano o accompagnano l’inclinazione ad attaccare a testa bassa il prossimo, i Filantropi erano decisamente favoriti. Ma il mio preferito è Hiram Grewgious, goffo e amabile tutore della bella Rosa, molto meno ingenuo di quanto appaia. Ogni suo gesto e ogni sua parola sono puro divertimento. “Da quelle parti ci sono stato di recente” disse Grewgious a Edwin, “mi riferivo a questo dicendo di essere certo che eravate atteso.” “Davvero, signore! Sì, lo sapevo che Pussy stava di vedetta in attesa del mio arrivo.” “Avete un gatto laggiù?” chiese Grewgious. Edwin arrossì lievemente, spiegando: “Rosa la chiamo Pussy”. “Ma davvero”, disse Grewgious, lisciandosi la testa; “che carino”. Edwin lo guardò, incerto se avesse serie obiezioni sull’appellativo. Ma tanto valeva che guardasse il quadrante di un orologio.

  9. 3 out of 5

    Simona Bartolotta

    I'm starting to feel it's a little unfair of me to rate these aspiring conclusions to The Mystery of Edwin Drood, because I've known for a while now that none of them will be quite there. Leon Garfield's has the merit of being not boring and probably close in plot to what the original would have been. Anyway, it's still extremely fascinating to see how different authors have reimagined the same story.

  10. 3 out of 5

    Vanessa Wu

    I don't know what made me buy this book and start reading it. The first few pages were torture. I knew the novel was unfinished. At least it would be short. But why even bother at all? Then gradually there appeared light in the murk. Uncle and nephew, Jack and Eddy, got out their nuts and started to talk about Pussy. No one does dialogue like Dickens. It is crisp, clear, entertaining and lifelike. Even the way the men crack their nuts adds to the drama. Dickens is completely unafraid of sentiment. I don't know what made me buy this book and start reading it. The first few pages were torture. I knew the novel was unfinished. At least it would be short. But why even bother at all? Then gradually there appeared light in the murk. Uncle and nephew, Jack and Eddy, got out their nuts and started to talk about Pussy. No one does dialogue like Dickens. It is crisp, clear, entertaining and lifelike. Even the way the men crack their nuts adds to the drama. Dickens is completely unafraid of sentiment. He allows the two men to be as affectionate with each other as two lovers. When Pussy comes into the story it gets even better. Everyone is in love with her. It's sickening but it's also exciting. I love this kind of melodrama. The way John Jasper stares at Pussy when she is playing the piano is fantastic. You remember it throughout all that follows and so does she. She especially remembers it many months later in Chapter 19 when John/Jack is staring at her again, dressed in mourning for the missing Eddy. At times Dickens can be so verbose that it's hard to catch his meaning but when he is describing passion his sentences are models of clarity. This chapter is called Shadow in the Sundial and the image, like so much that Dickens writes, sticks forever in your mind: This time he does not touch her. But his face looks so wicked and menacing, as he stands leaning against the sundial – setting, as it were, his black mark upon the very face of day – that her flight is arrested by horror as she looks at him. What makes Dickens's writing so thrilling is that he captures the passion of the moment in the very rhythm of his sentences. He isn't afraid of dramatic gestures. "There is my fidelity to my dear boy after death. Tread upon it!" With an action of his hands, as though he cast down something precious. "There is the inexpiable offence against my adoration of you. Spurn it!" With a similar action. "There are my labours in the cause of a just vengeance for six toiling months. Crush them!" The scene builds and builds like a symphonic poem till Pussy rushes away to her room and faints half way up the stairs. There is a masterful touch at the end: A thunderstorm is coming on, the maids say, and the hot and stifling air has overset the pretty dear; no wonder; they have felt their own knees all of a tremble all day long. My knees were also all of a tremble and my heart all of a flutter while I read, and read, and read. Two semi-colons in a single sentence, by the way! There is a man who is not afraid to flout convention. The ending is, of course, abrupt and dizzying. It leaves you tottering on the edge of a precipice. My imagination was teeming with possibilities. I read a few theories about how the story might have been meant to go on but I wasn't satisfied by any of them. I couldn't help feeling that Dickens's imagination was just too ingenious, too inventive and too mischievous to be pinned down by even the most creative of scholars. So for stimulating my imagination, this was the best book by far that I have read this year.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Annelies

    Another lovely Dickens, though unfinished. His style is grandiose. He really mastered it in this unfinished book. The irony is to the point. His characterisation is superb... What to say more of a wonderful piece of writing by so great an author... Minor point ... unfinished?

  12. 4 out of 5

    James

    What a great book - and what a great shame for us (and him!) that Dickens never lived to complete it. Despite all the suggested answers to 'the mystery' and all the desperate attempts to 'complete' this novel - we will never know...what came next.... The version I read has the transcript of a 'trail' held in London / Covent Garden in 1914 to attempt to establish to guilt or otherwise of the main suspect - quite rightly, the 'judge' (G K Chesterton) ruled, after a long long hearing that all were What a great book - and what a great shame for us (and him!) that Dickens never lived to complete it. Despite all the suggested answers to 'the mystery' and all the desperate attempts to 'complete' this novel - we will never know...what came next.... The version I read has the transcript of a 'trail' held in London / Covent Garden in 1914 to attempt to establish to guilt or otherwise of the main suspect - quite rightly, the 'judge' (G K Chesterton) ruled, after a long long hearing that all were in contempt of court and sentenced to prison! A similar attempt was also made thereafter in America I believe? All very entertaining - but ultimately futile. Definitely worth a read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tristram

    Frustration or Fascination? Reading Dickens’s last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood can be a source of both frustration and fascination, for the one reason that is far more easily explained than borne – that Dickens died while he was midway in writing the story and that he did not leave any notes allowing us to draw conclusions as to how the mystery of Edwin Drood’s disappearance – we do not even know for sure that he has been killed – will be cleared up. The story in a nutshell: We have a young, Frustration or Fascination? Reading Dickens’s last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood can be a source of both frustration and fascination, for the one reason that is far more easily explained than borne – that Dickens died while he was midway in writing the story and that he did not leave any notes allowing us to draw conclusions as to how the mystery of Edwin Drood’s disappearance – we do not even know for sure that he has been killed – will be cleared up. The story in a nutshell: We have a young, rather happy-go-lucky, man by the name of Edwin Drood, who has been brought up in the certainty of one day marrying his deceased father’s friend’s only daughter, Rosa Bud, and who therefore never really wasted a thought on the question if he is really and truly in love with her or not. His and Rosa’s fathers wished for that connection in their last wills – without making it the condition of either of the two young people coming into their property –, and after all, Rosa is a pleasant enough young lady. Edwin’s uncle, the Cloisterham choir master John Jasper, loves his nephew dearly, but we soon realize that he, too, has his eye on Rosa, whom he teaches in matters musical. Jasper is not much older than Edwin, but a rather jaded man, because in his heart of hearts he believes that he buried his talents in Cloisterham and that his life has no very special purpose – but then he also thinks it can no longer be helped. Trying to forget his frustration by taking drugs, he has started leading a double-life, being both a respected denizen of Cloisterham and an opium-smoker in London, and somehow his hidden addiction and his secret love for Rosa have helped unhinge his personality in that for all his attachment to Edwin, he also bears the young man a grudge for his connection with Rosa. When Neville Landless and his sister Helena arrive in Cloisterham, Jasper perceives that Neville, too, feels attracted to Rosa and despises Edwin for thoughtlessly taking for granted what he, Neville, himself would regard the source of his ever-lasting happiness and pride, and he cunningly sets the two young men against each other. Consequently, when Edwin suddenly disappears without any trace but a few personal belongings found in a river, public suspicion will centre on Neville, all the more so since Jasper has taken care of bringing the clash between the two hotspurs to public notice. Is it not frustrating and pointless to read a mystery novel the end of which we will never know? It may be so to you unless you are able to enjoy the opportunity of entering into a very close reading of this intriguing text. Practically all the hints we get seem to point in the direction of Jasper as the murderer of his relative, but then the book stops in its very middle, and it seems quite unlikely for the solution to be so near at hand. Dickens was renowned for drawing the most wondrous rabbits in the form of surprising background stories out of his hat in the last third of his later novels, and he would probably also have done this in the case of The Mystery of Edwin Drood – so much so that the rabbits, in this case, might have had the size of wombats or little elephants. Jasper does not let the grass grow under his feet but quickly proposes to Rosa, linking his offer of himself with a mean attempt at moral blackmail, and he seems to exert some kind of mesmeric power over Rosa - Dickens himself was interested in mesmerism - and to manipulate his fellow-men with spiked drinks but still, he is such an obvious suspect that by the rules of the genre, it would be very disappointing indeed if he proved to be the villain in question. But then we must ask ourselves whether Dickens really wanted to join his friend Collin’s bandwagon and write an out-and-out mystery novel, or whether his main interest did not rather lie in fathoming the depths of his character John Jasper, who is the Satanic figure of the novel and shows the potential of a new, more ambivalent Dickensian villain. As my Goodreads friend Peter pointed out, Jasper evokes associations with no lesser work than Paradise Lost: He regards Cloisterham as his personal hell, his artful machinations fuel people’s basest instincts, in the masterly chapter “Shadow on the Sun-Dial”, he mirrors Satan’s doings in the Garden of Eden, and he even quotes from Milton’s masterpiece, turning the hopeful phrase “The World was all before them, where to chose / Their place of rest” from the last book into an underhanded taunt to arouse Neville’s ire and jealousy against Edwin. Dickens may have thought that the potential of this villain Jasper, his inner, schizophrenic, dichotomy of good and evil held so much interest and promise that it would have been worthwhile to sacrifice the coup de théâtre of a mystery novel in order to grant it full swerve. His treatment of Bradley Headstone in Our Mutual Friend shows that he was striking new artistic paths. On the other hand, how can you explain the stonemason Durdles’s account of “the ghost of a cry” he heard the previous Christmas and Jasper’s dismayed reaction to this tale unless you assume that Dickens was about to unfold a surprising background story in the second half of the book. Maybe, this story would also have shed some more light on the lives of some of the parents, whom we hear about solely through their children, Edwin, Rosa, and the Landlesses? Be that as it may, I felt a lot more fascination than frustration when reading this novel, due to the fact that the absence of a clear solution induced me to pay vivid attention to every little detail of the story, much more so than I usually do when reading a mystery. And then I console myself by thinking that the Great Library in Heaven – there simply has to be one, after all, or it wouldn’t be Heaven – must surely have the missing second part of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, leather-bound and with a ribbon page marker, and, what’s more, written by the Inimitable himself, ready for me to peruse one day. Hoping that much, I also hope that in case I will have, through some error, of course, to go to that other, less well-air-conditioned place, there will be a reliable interlibrary loan system.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Dickens begins Drood with a notable variation on the rhetoric of, say, "Fog Everywhere..." in Bleak House. "Then follow white elephants caparisoned..." is a fantastic portrayal, avowed to be an invasion of a fantastic consciousness. Dickens' prior intimacy with his characters has been limited to the "I" narrative, his portrayal of other characters depending largely on his command of their words in dialog and his descriptive rhetoric in landscaping the situation. The author ruptures narrative dis Dickens begins Drood with a notable variation on the rhetoric of, say, "Fog Everywhere..." in Bleak House. "Then follow white elephants caparisoned..." is a fantastic portrayal, avowed to be an invasion of a fantastic consciousness. Dickens' prior intimacy with his characters has been limited to the "I" narrative, his portrayal of other characters depending largely on his command of their words in dialog and his descriptive rhetoric in landscaping the situation. The author ruptures narrative distance in this one paragraph; his accomplishment challenges the adequacy of Dickens' previous novelistic art. For the first time Dickens presents a preliterate consciousness, a consciousness in a fantastic perceptual state, as Hanry James will later do with normal conceptual "impressions" as well, and Faulkner of course will build whole novels like The Sound and the Fury on. Faulkner, though, was not elucidating, as Dickens here, the 19th C OPIOID Crisis, namely: opium. In Dickens the preliterate consciousness is distorted by a material catalyst, leading to what the character finds "unintelligible." In our 21st C US, tea-totalling politicians produce unintelligiblity on a daily basis. On the other hand, is there a more amusing Dickensian character than Mr Honeythunder? Or more Dickensian names than Durdles, Grewgious, Drood? Mr Jasper is the problem, or precipitates it. Dickens' intimacy with his character goes beyond Jasper's articulate consciousness, into preliterate "impressions" as H James would call them. Dickens' world creates a unity of self, language and action within a character which become unity of social position, morality and happiness in the finished (or ended) novel. Here Dickens has created a character, the drugged Jasper, in whom his public moral system as well as his public language holds no claim.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    I only partially like Dickens, so in my continuing effort to change my ways regarding Mr. Charles, I thought I would read a Dickens book that was only partially finished. Turns out that idea actually is as bad as it sounds. I don't really feel like writing a more involved review, so I'll keep it short and sweet: If you already like Charles Dickens, you'll probably like this book (though likely not as much as his other, more complete, work). If you're like me and are largely ambivalent towards Ch I only partially like Dickens, so in my continuing effort to change my ways regarding Mr. Charles, I thought I would read a Dickens book that was only partially finished. Turns out that idea actually is as bad as it sounds. I don't really feel like writing a more involved review, so I'll keep it short and sweet: If you already like Charles Dickens, you'll probably like this book (though likely not as much as his other, more complete, work). If you're like me and are largely ambivalent towards Charles Dickens, then you will likely hold this book in a similar regard (only less so).

  16. 3 out of 5

    Sandra Bašić

    Šteta što je Dickens umro prije dovršetka knjige, ostaju otvorena pitanja...

  17. 3 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    Please link HERE for my review of this intriguing book, which would almost certainly have rated 5 stars, had it ever been completed by Dickens.

  18. 3 out of 5

    Stacy LeVine

    THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD took me a whopping 10 months to conquer. That kicks the ass of former record-holder MOBY DICK, which took me four. The tedium that slows MOBY DICK results from the plot amounting to a mere short story. The vast majority of nearly 600 pages constitutes a scientific treatise on whales, which can be testy to the patience of a fiction fan—even a fiction fan with random cetacean obsessions (such as myself). The tedium that slows …DROOD, however, is downright maddening. This D THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD took me a whopping 10 months to conquer. That kicks the ass of former record-holder MOBY DICK, which took me four. The tedium that slows MOBY DICK results from the plot amounting to a mere short story. The vast majority of nearly 600 pages constitutes a scientific treatise on whales, which can be testy to the patience of a fiction fan—even a fiction fan with random cetacean obsessions (such as myself). The tedium that slows …DROOD, however, is downright maddening. This Dickensophile knew going into it that …DROOD had a dead author in lieu of an ending. But she failed to realize beforehand that it was literally half a book. Only six magazine installments of an intended 12 were committed to paper before we lost Master Dickens forever, and only four appeared in print whilst he lived. Characters like Princess Puffer and Deputy never get the chance to matter. We never find out what opium and all the lugubriousness associated with it have to do with anything. Worse still, several new characters are introduced in the unintentionally “final” chapters and, thus, doomed to eternal superfluousness by the author’s death. This is particularly frustrating, for surely Dickens would have brought them all cleverly into the fold by the end. (He always did.) Worst of all, we never find out what the hell happened to Edwin Drood. Uch! This is the point at which I bitch at the Master for not finishing his book. It’s well known that the Dickens canon is verbose—if not an shamelessly over-written—because he was paid by the word. GREAT EXPECTATIONS (my all-time favorite novel) reads almost entirely as (brilliant) plot, and thus, the verbosity flows quickly. A TALE OF TWO CITIES, on the other hand, is heavy on florid illustrations of history and morbid musings on humanity. With THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, we’re talking two-page diatribes on teapots in the homes of minor characters. Because the reader is painfully aware that the book doesn’t end, the wasting of words on inanimate objects becomes deeply upsetting. Thus, I close with a personal message to the Master, wheresoever his divine soul may be: Dearest Mr. Dickens, You should’ve skipped the teapots, sir. But rest in peace, just the same. Stacy

  19. 4 out of 5

    LindaH

    When I was young and foolish I skipped The Mystery of Edwin Drood because Charles Dickens never finished it, and how could I read anything and not know how it ended? But that foolishness then allowed me now, forty years later, to "discover" this new (to me) Dickens text, and to read it from the beginning with the question, What is Dickens setting up here? Indeed, my own expectation is that in the first half of a book the Problem has been announced and all the main characters (their motives and f When I was young and foolish I skipped The Mystery of Edwin Drood because Charles Dickens never finished it, and how could I read anything and not know how it ended? But that foolishness then allowed me now, forty years later, to "discover" this new (to me) Dickens text, and to read it from the beginning with the question, What is Dickens setting up here? Indeed, my own expectation is that in the first half of a book the Problem has been announced and all the main characters (their motives and flaws, not to mention possible contributions to the eventual resolution) have been introduced, and (Note well!) TMOED is the entire first half of Dickens' planned novel. So I had fun watching him at his craft. The plot is...well, Dickensian. Two wards, Edwin and Rosa, betrothed since they were little according to their fathers' wishes, decide as the marriage approaches to end their engagement and just be friends. Before communicating this development to his uncle, John Jasper (who is in love with Rosa), Edwin disappears. The reader does not see what transpires. Nor is it clear why Jasper, mourning the loss of his nephew, is so distraught over the broken engagement when he hears of it. Even though the word "mystery" appears in the title, this book is not a mystery in the whodunit sense. The reader knows the identity of the murderer, the clues that will lead to his indictment, even the murder weapon. What is not known, and never shall be known, is the WHY. Various endings have been proposed over the 140 years since Dickens' death. I lean toward Dickens' own words. In a letter to a friend he told of wanting to write about an uncle who murders his nephew...I take this to mean that Jasper kills Edwin...and in his final hours in prison, the uncle tells his story...I take this to mean that Dickens was looking forward to narrating the grisly, dramatic details of the murder scene and revealing the larger story and Jasper's stake in it. Not only is Dickens' last novel full of wonderful characters and great writing, it is a spur to reading discussions of this puzzling book and to knowing more about Dickens' craft.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Well, it is rather hard to evaluate a book when it is yet to be completed, but this book will not be concluded, so I must judge it not by its cover, but rather by its incomplete promise. This book marks a fresh style for Dickens. While all his books have some mystery in them, they are not mystery novels as such. Here, however, we do have a mystery as our title tells us. In the early going Dickens develops a wonderful tone with the fictional cathedral town of Cloisterham and offers a grand openin Well, it is rather hard to evaluate a book when it is yet to be completed, but this book will not be concluded, so I must judge it not by its cover, but rather by its incomplete promise. This book marks a fresh style for Dickens. While all his books have some mystery in them, they are not mystery novels as such. Here, however, we do have a mystery as our title tells us. In the early going Dickens develops a wonderful tone with the fictional cathedral town of Cloisterham and offers a grand opening in London, but a London as experienced through the senses of an opium addict. A series of interesting characters form around the narrative, there is love and desire in the air, a clash of egos and emotions and then, voila, Edwin Drood disappears. We are left with one obvious candidate for the person responsible for Drood’s disappearance, but wait, there then is another and another and then, well, it is Dickens so almost all the characters in the novel could be potentially the guilty party, or at least associated with the guilty party. Consider the range of characters in the narrative. Sailors, opium sellers, jealous suitors, seemingly benevolent clergymen and a church official who loves looking around gravestones all rumble towards the reader. The momentum is high, the speculations of the reader are in high gear and then, tragically, Dickens dies. While some friends and his illustrator and members of Dickens’s family all claim to have some knowledge of how the novel will end, the truth is no one definitively knows. The Mystery of Edwin Drood must remain a mystery. Read the novel and join in with the legions of others who have tried to solve the crime. You cannot be wrong because, in truth, no one knows the answer.

  21. 4 out of 5

    TheSkepticalReader

    Will not be rating this for obvious reasons—it’s unfinished.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Paul Brogan

    When Ernie produced The Mystery of Edwin Drood at the last Gentlemen's Book Club he took me to one side before the others could muscle in. 'Here,' he said, 'I knew you'd be interested in this.'   He was right. After all, when we first formed the club I'd expressed a particular interest in filling the Dickens-shaped hole in my education. I'd rather had in mind something like Oliver Twist or The Pickwick Papers, but this seemed as good a place to start as any.   My knowledge of this particular book wa When Ernie produced The Mystery of Edwin Drood at the last Gentlemen's Book Club he took me to one side before the others could muscle in. 'Here,' he said, 'I knew you'd be interested in this.'   He was right. After all, when we first formed the club I'd expressed a particular interest in filling the Dickens-shaped hole in my education. I'd rather had in mind something like Oliver Twist or The Pickwick Papers, but this seemed as good a place to start as any.   My knowledge of this particular book was more scant than usual. I knew of it only in passing — it was the book that Lucy had been reading when her farm was attacked in J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace.   Just as Lucy didn't get to finish reading the book, so Dickens didn't get to finish writing it. It was originally intended as a periodical over 12 instalments, but only six were completed before he died. I hadn't realized this, so it was an immense disappointment to get to the end and discover that it was only the middle. I wish Ernie had told me.   Like an un-climaxed session between the sheets, as it were, I had now no choice but to roll over and give myself some pause to consider the thing for what it was.   Naturally, my first instinct was to attempt finishing the story in my mind. It was obvious that Mr Jasper was probably Edwin Drood's murderer, if indeed he was actually dead, and I like to imagine that Mr Datchery was really Mr Brazzard in clever disguise, but what's the point of speculating like this? We shall never know, and if your interest lies in endings and denouements, and in those only, let me recommend that you don't even start with this story.   Of greater interest to me was Dickens' story-telling and style. If I am really to fill that hole, this is something I shall have to get to grips with straightaway. For want of anything else to analyse, I may as well take from this experience something that will help me through my further adventures with Dickens.   Let me start with his characters. Dickens paints them with broad, uncomplicated strokes. The names he chooses for them should be evidence enough of this: Tartar, Landless, Crisparkle, Rosebud. This is not to say that his figures are of few dimensions, but they seem to me to be caricatures nonetheless.   I can hardly imagine that those who populated Victoria's England should be any less complex than people of today, but Dickens seems to have preferred this manifest in action than articulated in thought. He spends as little time as necessary examining the internal machinery and far more relating the external evidence of character. It occurs to me that this might have been forced by the circumstances of his time: then, clothes and manners and language made the man, while today we are more comfortable with convoluted assessments of the same man's internal cogs and wheels and how his history and experience shape his unique and multi-faceted set of motivations and drivers, some good, some not.   Perhaps I'm mistaken. Perhaps, rather, we like to think today that we are more enlightened in our estimation of others, but I suspect that we are still as black and white in our final appraisal as Dickens ever was.   The next thing is his language. This took some practice to understand. There were times when I had to re-read some passages, especially at first. I'm not unfamiliar (falling into one of Dickens' favourite habits — the double negative) with this, having learned Shakespeare's language with great reward, and Chaucer's and even Beowulf's (with less reward), but it took some doing. The circumlocution in both speech and description was especially difficult. More than once I asked myself whether people really spoke, let alone thought, this way a century and a half ago.   I don't know — perhaps they did — but here's the thing: once my mind was attuned to the indirect path, to the scenic, long way round, it worked. There was a temptation at first for me to regard Dickens' ambling prose as prissy etiquette, as constricting and unnecessarily circuitous, but as I became more practised, it came into focus as far more colourful and emotionally satisfying than I had thought it capable of being.   There is a place for the direct, brutal, Hemingway-esque highway of story-telling, but its opposite, now typified in my mind by Dickens — the country byway of flowery speech and euphemism and sensitive, slow examination of the subject — has risen, by my estimation, to equal status.   This must then be the hole I was seeking to fill all along. So yes, Ernie, thank you for allowing me first dibs at this little gem. I wish you'd told me, though.

  23. 3 out of 5

    Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"

    I'll tell you one thing for free-----the ending sucked! :D I don't know how to rate a book that's only half-written due to author demise. It's not my habit to read unfinished novels. I only read this so I could see Dan Simmons' jumping-off point for his recent Drood novel. Simmons used very little from Dickens' story. There's erratic behavior by an opium user, and some of the characters are similar, but Simmons' book is really his own creation. He focused more on the lives of Charles Dickens and I'll tell you one thing for free-----the ending sucked! :D I don't know how to rate a book that's only half-written due to author demise. It's not my habit to read unfinished novels. I only read this so I could see Dan Simmons' jumping-off point for his recent Drood novel. Simmons used very little from Dickens' story. There's erratic behavior by an opium user, and some of the characters are similar, but Simmons' book is really his own creation. He focused more on the lives of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. As for the mystery, I decided early on who I thought "dunnit" and why. I hadn't changed my mind when I finished. Mysteries were really not Dickens' genre. I think his cleverness with words got in the way of the story. My appreciation of Dickens' work has been uneven. Some of them I've loved (Great Expectations), and some I couldn't get past the first few chapters (Nicholas Nickleby). This one is somewhere in the middle. Readable but not very smooth.

  24. 3 out of 5

    Laurel Hicks

    I didn't finish reading this book because Dickens didn't finish writing it. (He died instead, thus creating a real mystery.) As Chesterton wrote, "And alone, perhaps, among detective-story writers, he never lived to destroy his mystery."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lou

    How does one rate half a mystery? While other Dickens novels have had mysteries to solve, Drood seems to have more of a "whodunit" flavor than, say Bleak House. Regrettably, we shall never know whodunit... or if a murder was even committed (I'm not convinced!). Despite this frustration, we're treated to the delightful Mr. Crisparkle and his mother; the prim and proper Miss Twinkleton; the candid Mrs. Billickin; and the particularly Angular Mr. Grewgious - all wonderfully quirky and lovable. We'r How does one rate half a mystery? While other Dickens novels have had mysteries to solve, Drood seems to have more of a "whodunit" flavor than, say Bleak House. Regrettably, we shall never know whodunit... or if a murder was even committed (I'm not convinced!). Despite this frustration, we're treated to the delightful Mr. Crisparkle and his mother; the prim and proper Miss Twinkleton; the candid Mrs. Billickin; and the particularly Angular Mr. Grewgious - all wonderfully quirky and lovable. We're also introduced to the requisite imp, Deputy; the duplicitous opium addict Jasper; the (also requisite) diminutive, childlike beauty, Rosa; and a cast of other amazing characters that Dickens fans will want to know. The short passage about Luke Honeythunder's visit alone is worth the price of admission. So read and enjoy The Mystery of Edwin Drood, knowing that it will, forever, remain a mystery. You'll certainly be enriched by visiting Cloisterham and its inhabitants despite that.

  26. 3 out of 5

    Ruthie Jones

    Even his unfinished novel is brilliant! Too bad Dickens died before Edwin Drood was finished, but what better way to go than to leave a captive audience hanging and wanting more! All the speculation and wondering will never reveal what the good author intended, but what is revealed is a glimpse into a novel that is and would have been purely Dickens. "Their way lies through strange places." ~ chapter 12 "...but no trace of Edwin Drood revisited the light of the sun." ~ chapter 15

  27. 3 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens رمان ناتمام: «معمای ادوین درود» یا «اسرار ادوین درود»؛نویسنده: چارلز دیکنز؛

  28. 3 out of 5

    Tim

    Toughest book to rate, EVER. The final novel from a master — but exactly half finished! That makes a five-star rating out of the question, but can I give it four when it isn't otherwise truly great? Well, I did. Maybe I'll change the rating daily (four, three, four, three) for the rest of my life. "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" opens with three men and a woman sprawled across an "unseemly" bed, two of the men in a stupor, the woman smoking opium, and, emerging himself from a haze, John Jasper, a ma Toughest book to rate, EVER. The final novel from a master — but exactly half finished! That makes a five-star rating out of the question, but can I give it four when it isn't otherwise truly great? Well, I did. Maybe I'll change the rating daily (four, three, four, three) for the rest of my life. "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" opens with three men and a woman sprawled across an "unseemly" bed, two of the men in a stupor, the woman smoking opium, and, emerging himself from a haze, John Jasper, a man who will figure prominently in this novel. We're a long way from "The Pickwick Papers." "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" is, in fact, dark, lean, not as panoramic and funny as early Dickens. It also is, despite being a half-told tale, quite good. Jasper is a jealous uncle to the title character; Edwin's future marriage to Rosa Bud is an arranged one. Edwin disappears — very likely murdered — shortly after he and Rosa mutually break off the engagement (a fact of which Jasper, besotted with Rosa, is unaware). The "mystery" in the title coupled with the tale's unfinished status might tempt some — likely its non-readers — into thinking that the identity of the perpetrator has vanished in the mists of time. But "Edwin Drood" isn't really about whodunnit — we're quite sure we know, and the little evidence that exists of Dickens' plans certainly seems to confirm our obvious take on what happened. What the novel is about, and doubtless would have explored more deeply if completed, is the psychology of Jasper, a voice in the church choir and by outward appearances an upright man, whose darkness sometimes creeps out in threatening body language amid otherwise cool control. Dickens expertly peels away layers of Jasper's cunning; it is presumed the author would have brought us even further into Jasper's head — and taken him into his own. Other strong characters stand out, including Septimus Crisparkle, a canon of the church who also stays in great physical shape by shadow boxing. Personally, I love Deputy, a boy hired by Durdles, a stone mason and inscriber of gravestones. Deputy's duty? Throw stones at Durdles if he stays out past 10 o'clock at night — to, in fact, stone him home. Love that! The book does drag at times, primarily in the first 50 pages (despite the atmospheric opium haze of the opening) — when Dickens seems uninspired — and after Edwin's disappearance, when there's a sluggish recharging of the batteries. What perhaps resonates most, though? What a shame it is that the novel never was finished; it could have been one of Charles Dickens' major works. Instead we're left with questions and empty speculations. Who was the mysterious Mr. Datchery? Could he be another character in disguise? What to make of the opium woman? How would Dickens have resolved the crime (assuming it was a crime)? What would have been Jasper's end, and how would his fascinating psychology have been further explored? Sadly, we'll never know. Onward, then, to more Droodian darkness. Dan Simmons' "Drood" is next.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    This book is a complete enigma, least of all because it remained unfinished at Dickens death and no-one knows the solution to the "mystery" of Edwin Drood's death. (As much as the clues point to Jasper being the killer, I can't help feeling it would be so much more like Dickens to have Edwin return alive ...but it's not important, we'll never know!). There are flashes of the genius writer Dickens was that I know and love, particularly in the relationship between Edwin and Rosa who just can't get This book is a complete enigma, least of all because it remained unfinished at Dickens death and no-one knows the solution to the "mystery" of Edwin Drood's death. (As much as the clues point to Jasper being the killer, I can't help feeling it would be so much more like Dickens to have Edwin return alive ...but it's not important, we'll never know!). There are flashes of the genius writer Dickens was that I know and love, particularly in the relationship between Edwin and Rosa who just can't get on despite being betrothed, and there's a wondeful scne where they call it a day and go their separate ways. Tthe inclusion and descriptions of the opium den, the strangeness of many of the characters in the book, their delightfulself-importance (or extreme humbleness) the wonderful names of courses (Mr. Crisparkle!) and the intricate plotting all point to this being typically Dickensian. Yet, there's also a sense that Dickens was trying to push himself in new directions yet again and this time, maybe because of his ill health, he just can't seem to find the compelling voice of his best work and there are many chapters that just feel awkward, out of place and a little dull. It's impossible to judge the book without a conclusion and who knows, Dickens intent may have become clear with the bigger picture. As it stands though, I'd say that this is mostly a curiosity for the Dickens obsessed. Good fun, but hardly essential

  30. 4 out of 5

    James

    Four years, many speaking engagements, and a trip to America intervened between Charles Dickens' penultimate novel and his final one, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Ever since his involvement in a train accident in 1865 on his return from France, and perhaps even before, Dickens was ailing with a variety of illnesses, some of which were at least aggravated by overwork and his refusal to reduce his schedule. It was thus in 1869 that he began writing his final novel of which the first six of the origi Four years, many speaking engagements, and a trip to America intervened between Charles Dickens' penultimate novel and his final one, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Ever since his involvement in a train accident in 1865 on his return from France, and perhaps even before, Dickens was ailing with a variety of illnesses, some of which were at least aggravated by overwork and his refusal to reduce his schedule. It was thus in 1869 that he began writing his final novel of which the first six of the originally intended twelve monthly parts were published in 1870. He died in June of that year with the mystery unfinished. Edwin Drood begins in an opium den and the air of mystery that surrounds that venue grows as the story progresses. At the center of the story is Edwin Drood, his fiancee Rosa Budd, his uncle John Jasper, Canon Crisparkle, and the Landless twins, with others to numerous (as was Dickens' way) to mention. The style is fresh and new for Dickens, especially when contrasted with the heavier more convoluted style of Our Mutual Friend which immediately preceded it. The first half of the story introduces conflict and doubt for the young Drood and we see glimmers of danger headed his way in the remaining finished sections. Although incomplete, the novel has appeal and is well worth reading.

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