Books by Wilkie Collins

It’s a late novel, published within a decade of his death, in 1880, after he’s had all the success of The Moonstone, The Woman in White, Armadale: the big novels. It was originally a play, performed once only in the 1850s. It was laughed off the stage. It was called The Red Vial and had a fairly uncomplicated poisoning plot. He shelved it and only late in his career decided to adapt it as a novel. It works really well: he fleshes out minor characters, creates subplots, plays down the staginess and gives characters realistic motivations.
It’s an interesting novel. It’s got lots of elements people will associate with the big blockbusters of the mid-century: strong, unusual women, murder plots, cloak and dagger mystery scenarios, and a great revelation scene in the Frankfurt dead house. It’s also a novel about strong women, Mrs Wagner and Madame Fontaine, and about middle-aged women. Many of his novels are about young people, young people trying to figure out what happened to their parents, why they’ve become disinherited, why their family name’s no longer their own, how they’re going to get out of a disastrous marriage. But this is about women who have done all of that, and are dealing with legacies, who are raising children, or looking after nephews. It’s an interesting departure in that way.

The Best Books by Wilkie Collins recommended by Jason Hall

Interviews where books by Wilkie Collins were recommended

The Best Books by Wilkie Collins, recommended by Jason Hall

Wilkie Collins, the sensationalist author and inventor of the detective novel, knew precisely how to “make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em wait”. Jason Hall, Victorian literature expert and editor of a new edition of Jezebel’s Daughter, chooses the five best books from Collins’s extensive oeuvre – and considers the voracious appetites and unorthodox lifestyle of this intriguing Englishman.

Favourite Books, recommended by Sophie Roell

It goes without saying that I have more than five favourite books and some important ones are missing from this page (even though I’ve cheated and included six). I suppose the nonfiction ones are books that opened doors for me in some way or enabled me to see the world more clearly, including professionally. The fiction ones are ones I was completely overexcited about when I read them.

The Best Classic Crime Fiction, recommended by Sophie Roell

Since the early stories of the 18th and 19th centuries, crime fiction has been an incredibly popular and enduring genre, the investigation of murder somehow capturing the imagination of millions of readers around the globe. Here, Sophie Roell, editor of Five Books, uses strict but simple criteria to pick out the best classic crime fiction, from the Victorian age through to the 1950s.

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