"I hold my father," she said softly, "in my heart of hearts as a man apart from all other men, as one apart from all other human beings." (p. 267)
I finished the book this weekend. The mystery wrapped up satisfyingly, incorporating many details of the story that had originally seemed trivial but fell neatly and believably into place when the truth came out. (Many of those details, the Historical Note tells us, were grounded in reality.) And the truth itself -- well, let's just say it was a pretty cool idea that Matthew Pearl came up with here! Secret identities, fake clues, and of course the ever-present opium all play a role, and not all of those who are after The Mystery of Edwin Drood are simply lovers of literature or of money.
Going back to what I said the other day, Dickens himself, with all his virtues and flaws, was the best characterization in the book. On the other hand, I'm inclined to say Rebecca was probably the least successful.
"Do you think if I loved a man, I would allow paper constraints, words in some law book, to stop me, no matter the consequences?" In the passion of her speech, a curl of her raven hair had fallen from her bonnet and clung to her lip. (p. 315)
Um, yeah, I kind of did think that. The point was made pretty often. Besides which, on the whole, Rebecca struck me as rather, well, stolid. And you don't go from stolid to sexy-librarian-type (or bookkeeper-type) in 0.5 seconds, at least not without dropping a hint or two beforehand.
"You don't seem to recognize, Mr. Turner, that it is our responsibility to ensure that the opium trade moves freely through Bengal and to China. In contributing to its disruption, you contribute to those who wish the European success around the world to fail. You leave room for smugglers and traders far less reputable than those our government chooses to make partners in these endeavors -- harming not only the English, but the natives in India, in China, around the globe. It is Bengal's right to share in the prosperity of civilization." (p. 325)
By making them partners in poisoning people. Nice rationalization there, Frank. But unfortunately, not an unfamiliar line of argument, even today.
But despite the many motivations of the various characters -- fear, greed, love, envy, loyalty -- I think that at the heart of The Last Dickens is the love for stories and for those who give them to us. That's what stays with the reader after the book is closed.
"And it was as though he had, for a few more seconds, kept Charles Dickens alive." (p. 335)
Tomorrow: more on Little Dorrit, as we prepare for its kickoff this Sunday!