It is finished at last. I really loved reading this book– at least through the first 500 + pages. After that I stuck with it because I had to know what was going to happen. I had invested so much time in it that I couldn’t let it go. I wasn’t disappointed but the last 1/4 of the book was less compelling to me than the first 3/4.
Dan Simmons is a terrific writer and seems to thrive on telling exhausting historical tales. I would read something else of his in an instant if I liked the topic– if not, I don’t think I could stick it out. I started The Terror when it came out but I couldn’t get into the story and the whole maritime vibe so I put it aside. Now that I’ve read Drood I can appreciate Simmons’ talent but I know I have to love the topic, too.
And love the topic, I did. The idea of exploring the relationship between two well known British authors (Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins) was fascinating — especially since they both lived lives of upper crust British excess, adultery and substance abuse. You can’t beat Simmons’ portrait of these two characters for descriptions of mid-19th century luxury, be it in food, clothing, travel or substance abuse. Add an elusive serial killer, mesmerism, adultery and multiple mistresses to this as well as a heavy dose of underground and slum filled London and it’s my idea of historical fiction heaven. There’s even a bit of Egyptology in this!
I discovered Wilkie Collins this past year when my book club read The Woman in White and loved it– I jumped at the chance to imagine more about his life and circumstances. One of the most fulfilling aspects of the novel is the chance to remind myself of the vast catalogue of Dickens and Collins’ work. They were both prolific writers and reading Drood does whet my appetite to read more from each of them. It was helpful to have some sense of each of their work as I was reading (the more you know the better), but it’s not essential and my guess is that you’ll leave wanting to know more about them both. I’m actually quite interested in finding out how much of this is accurate– I’m going to check out Simmons’ bibliography at the conclusion of the book. Even if it’s not true, it’s a heck of a read!