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Basil Paperback – April 29, 2013
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|Paperback, April 29, 2013||
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"[A] characteristically chilling work by the master of Victorian suspense."
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From the Back Cover
In BASIL'S secret and unconsummated marriage to Margaret Sherwin, the linen-draper's sexually precocious daughter, and the consequent shocks and horrors of betrayal, insanity, and death, Collins reveals the bustling, commercial London of the first half of the nineteenth century wreaking its vengeance on a still powerful aristocratic world. But although BASIL himself does not recognize them, the story forces other conflicts on the reader's attention-between man's sexual and romantic needs and between men's and women's sexuality. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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I had a really hard time rating this one, being that I’m a Wilkie Collins fan. I wavered between 3 and 4 stars, but ultimately stuck with three because I think, while the writing itself is spot-on superb (as always is with Wilkie Collins), the entire plot structure and story itself was somewhat lacking and perplexing. And, much of this is due in part to our quite naive and foolish main character, Basil, who literally falls in love with a girl he has never met and then concocts a wild scheme to marry her which thrusts a wild plot into place. Because the girl is in a lower station and rank than his family (gasp), this creates a host of inner conflicts, and conflicts within the plot.
Despite the only 3 star rating, it was good getting back to reading old Wilkie, who I consider one of my favorite authors. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed many of his other works (No Name, The Woman in White, The Moonstone, The Dead Secret, Armadale), which I thought exceptional, and one thing you can count on with a Collins’ novel is some well-timed secrets and surprises, and a definitive villain entering the stage at some point in the novel. And, those two aspects do work well here, as a certain Mr. Minnion comes in as Basil is preparing to woo and marry Margaret, and there are some cleverly places twists here and there. And when we find out the motive for revenge, it does all add up quite well.
With Basil, as with much of sensationalist fiction, there are high doses of melodrama—characters breaking out into weeping fits spontaneously, swooning and going into fits at the site of terror or danger, and a high degree of exaggerated passion all over the place.
In the end, though, it is really hard to get invested in Basil, and his subsequent troubles and such, mainly because he is weak character who brings all upon him.
There are moments of impending danger, dreadful secrets shared, and high moments of atmosphere that carry the plot forward. I wish, over all though, that the actual premise of the plot was a bit stronger than our frail, impassioned, and quite often weak main character, Basil.
If you are looking for a Wilkie Collins book to begin with, I would recommend any of the longer works aforementioned (such as The Moonstone, The Woman in White, No Name, or Armadale) in lieu of this novel, as those novels are stronger in plot and narrative flow.
There is also a film based on this work, a 1998 film based on the novel, which is quite unfaithful to the text, and sort of weak, in my opinion.
While Basil does not wow like I’d hoped, there are glimpses into the genius of Wilkie Collins in terms of writing and atmosphere, quite worthy, that does make up for the many pitfalls and make him a selected novelist of choice.
The novel begins years after a tragic event has changed the life of a young man named Basil. The readers learn that the doors of his home are forever closed to him. He will never see his father again. And he will never see his beloved sister, Clara, again.
Basil begins to recount the events that lead to a life changing event, which caused him to lose all that he once held dear. These events were set in motion the minute he met Margaret Sherwin.
Basil's enchantment with the dark and beautiful Margaret happened when they met by chance on an omnibus. Basil was so stricken by her beauty that he followed the beautiful stranger home and with the help of a family servant managed to coax his way into Margaret's life.
The Sherwin family were simple shop keepers. Mr Sherwin owned a linen draper's shop. When he learned that the son of a gentlemen with a family name dating back to Norman times expressed interest in his daughter, he was more than happy to encourage the union.
Basil's father, however, was extremely proud of his family lineage and expected his sons to follow and respect their family history. Margaret's beauty won over Basil's family obligations. Without the consent of his father he marries Margaret in secret.
After marrying Margaret, Basil realizes that something is not quite right in the Sherwin household. Margaret's moods change with the wind. Each and every person in the home seem to be keeping a secret.
I found the novel extraordinary! The readers are immediately aware that Basil's marriage to Margaret was his undoing, but the events unfold slowly and tragically.
I don't think I will ever hear the names Basil and Margaret and not think of his novel. It was absolutely haunting!
Most recent customer reviews
some other of is books, is unnecessarily wordy.Read more
Nevertheless a good read.