Collins was a contemporary and close friend of Charles Dickens, but whilst Dickens' novels have found universal acclain over the decades, Collins' have often gone unnoticed. Ask anybody to name books by Dickens and they will just roll off the tongue. Virtually everyone will be able to name at least one and many people will be able to name virtually all of his novels. Do the same with Collins and the same people will probably be pushed to name any. Indeed when I mentioned his name to a few friends they wre unaware of what he wrote and when he wrote it. At a push people will be able to name The Lady in White (often confusing it with the much more contemporary Woman in Black by Susan Hill) and maybe the Moonstone but little else.
For me Collins has a much more direct style than Dickens and is much easier to read. Dickens at times can be stodgy and difficult to understand. Collins on the other hand has a more lucid writing style. His novels have plenty of twists and turns that can leave you almost breathless and his prose is much more direct. Sometimes you have to make a large leap of faith to grasp some of the coincidences, but I would recommend his novels to anyone interested in Victorian literature and beautifully constructed works with plenty of plot development.
Dickens lived from 1812 to 1870 and Collins from 1824 to 1889, making him 12 years younger than his better known counterpart. I am now re-reading many of Collins' novels and also visitig others for the first time. To date I have completed No Name and the Lady in White and almost ready to move onto my third.
Electronic books have of course revolutionised the way we read. People often ask the slightly silly question "do you prefer reading printed or electronic books." My answer is simply whatever is available. I move between the two, although the Kindle (or other e-book readers) is ideal for taking on journeys. I wonder what Mr Collins would have said had he been able to come back to earth for just a day to be told that people were "downloading" his novels via a computer and telephone line and into an e-reader? He would probably look at you with a quizzical expression and ask what a computer, a telephone and an e- reader were!
Our three year old grandson Elliot likes to go on days out with us. His favourite places, in no particular order, are Gressenhall Museum, Norwich Castle Museum and Banham Zoo. He can't quite grasp at the moment that there are many zoos in the country larger than Banham which is in rural South Norfolk. As far as museums go, he has a particular love of Norwich Castle. As we get off the bus he will point to the Norman building and ask "is that one of the castles," to which we respond "it's the only castle." This weekend we tried to describe what the word cathedral meant and why Norwich has two. Don't think we quite made it.
A few weeks ago we took him to have a look at the Jeff Koons exhibition at Norwich Castle which continues until September 6th. We thought Elliot would like seeing the Winter Bears and a few of the other exhibits. He did enjoy it but, as usual with a three year old, it was a whistle stop tour and I made a mental note to go back on my own and have a longer look at a later date. To me it's an interesting exhibition which sums up things that are good and things that are not so good about contemporary art. I will talk more on this theme once I have had a proper view.
Each year we buy a very good value annual Norfolk museum pass which gives us unlimited access to museums around the county. My particular favourites (apart from the Castle) are the Time and Tide at Great Yarmouth and Norwich Bridewell. Both beautifully re-create the past in a very user-friendly way.
Well that's about it for today. Tomorrow I will tell you about my Autumn writing project, about a small writers group we have in the village, about the books I have read this year and about the Norwich Heritage open days.