Wilkie Collins by Peter Ackroyd
Book 6

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Ackroyd is himself a prodigious writer of biography, history and fiction. He’s clearly at home in Victorian England and has an obvious affection for his subject. The gift of his book is to take Collins out of Dickens’s shadow.
-NY Times

Synopsis

Ackroyd at his best -- gripping short life of the extraordinary Wilkie Collins, author of The Moonstone and The Woman in White.
 
Short and oddly built, with a head too big for his body, extremely short-sighted, unable to stay still, dressed in colourful clothes, 'as if playing a certain part in the great general drama of life' Wilkie Collins looked distinctily strange. But he was none the less a charmer, befriended by the great, loved by children, irresistibly attractive to women -- and avidly read by generations of readers.
 
Ackroyd follows his hero, 'the sweetest-tempered of all the Victorian novelists', from his childhood as the son of a well-known artist to his struggling beginnings as writer, his years of fame and his life-long friendship with the other great London chronicler, Charles Dickens. A true Londoner, Collins, like Dickens, was fascinated by the secrets and crimes -- the fraud, blackmail and poisonings -- that lay hidden behind the city's respectable facade. He was a fighter, never afraid to point out injustices and shams, or to tackle the establishment head on. As well as his enduring masterpieces, The Moonstone -- often called the first true detective novel -- and the sensational Women in White, he produced an intriguing array of lesser known works. But Collins had his own secrets: he never married, but lived for thirty years with the widowed Caroline Graves, and also had a second liaison, as 'Mr and Mrs Dawson', with a younger mistress, Martha Rudd, with whom he had three children. Both women remained devoted as illness and opium-taking took their toll: he died in 1889, in the middle of writing his last novel -- Blind Love.
 
Told with Peter Ackroyd's inimitable verve this is a ravishingly entertaining life of a great story-teller, full of surprises, rich in humour and sympathetic understanding.
 

About Peter Ackroyd

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PETER ACKROYD is the author of biographies of Dickens, Blake and Thomas More and of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography and Thames: Sacred River. Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, as well as a broadcaster, biographer, poet and historian. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.
 
Published April 2, 2012 by Chatto & Windus. 144 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Wilkie Collins
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Sara Paretsky on Oct 30 2015

Ackroyd is himself a prodigious writer of biography, history and fiction. He’s clearly at home in Victorian England and has an obvious affection for his subject. The gift of his book is to take Collins out of Dickens’s shadow.

Read Full Review of Wilkie Collins: Book 6 | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Kathryn Hughes on Feb 22 2012

So what a shame Ackroyd isn't able to bring that same bright perception to this short life of Collins. This is doubly disappointing because we are currently in thrall to the novelist's particular brand of stylish sensationalism all over again.

Read Full Review of Wilkie Collins: Book 6 | See more reviews from Guardian

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