Friday, May 10, 2013

Fallen Leaves (1879)

The Fallen Leaves. Wilkie Collins. 1879. 344 pages.

I have really enjoyed some of the novels I've read by Wilkie Collins. I loved, loved, loved Armadale and The Woman in White. I really enjoyed Man and Wife and The Moonstone. I liked The Fallen Leaves, but, it is not Collins at his best in my opinion.

Claude Amelius Goldenheart is the hero of The Fallen Leaves. He is returning to England at the start of the novel.  (He was born in England, and grew up in the United States. His growing-up-years were spent in a Christian socialist community. He will soon come into an inheritance, but, he discovers that his inheritance isn't big enough for him to take a place in Society. He's introduced to the Farnaby family early in the novel. Mrs. Farnaby is fascinated by him, in a way, and treats him strangely. She pulls him into her confidence, sharing the most intimate secrets in her past. Her excuse? Well, she had a DREAM that he was "the one" who brought her her heart's desire: her missing daughter. (Mrs. Farnaby had a child before she married. When the baby was just a week or possibly two weeks old, it was kidnapped). Because she wants HIM to find her, she feels very strongly that he shouldn't be settling down anywhere and getting married. He definitely shouldn't marry her niece. He needs to be free and independent so he can travel and socialize. But by the time he's discussing this secret with Mrs. Farnaby, he's already incredibly smitten with the niece, Regina. Her father does not approve because Mr. Goldenheart is "poor" in his estimation. If he can increase his annual income by several thousand in the next few years, then he'll consider it. Our hero who has grown up a socialist can't fathom WHY he needs more money to be happy in his marriage. He disagrees significantly with Mr. Farnaby! And the family is hoping that he outgrows his strangeness. They really don't like it when he gives a lecture to the lower classes on "Christian socialism."

There are two big questions in this one: "Will Amelius find Mrs. Farnaby's lost daughter?" and "Will Amelius make a happy marriage?"

I wasn't bored with The Fallen Leaves. But. It certainly wasn't amazing.

Favorite quotes:
'Ah, dear me! Another of the Fallen Leaves!' I knew what he meant. The people who have drawn blanks in the lottery of life--the people who have toiled hard after happiness, and have gathered nothing but disappointment and sorrow; the friendless and the lonely, the wounded and the lost--these are the people whom our good Elder Brother calls The Fallen Leaves. I like the saying myself; it's a tender way of speaking of our poor fellow creatures who are down in the world.
 It is an afternoon concert; and modern German music was largely represented on the programme. The patient English people sat in closely-packed rows, listening to the pretentious instrumental noises which were impudently offered to them as a substitute for melody. 
My sentiments are not altogether favourable to that art [photography]. I delivered a lecture on photographic portraiture at Coolspring; and I described it briefly as justice without mercy.
In less than half an hour he discovered that Hume could do nothing for him. Wisely inspired, he turned to the truer history next, which mean call fiction.
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


CharmedLassie said...

One of Collins's books that I haven't read - my excuse if that it's outside of my study range but, really, his work dips considerably as his career continues and I don't want to read a book by him that bores me. No doubt one day I'll have to read it but your review rather confirmed my feelings about it!

Swami Vivekananda Books said...

Great Review.. Made me desperate to read it.. Next time I am out to buy English books online, I will surely have this one in list..