The Unfinished Dickens


If you ever have the time, do check out the BBC two-part adaptation of the drama The Mystery of Edwin Drood; an unfinished Dickens it appears.  The mystery was more about why he dunnit, than who dunnit. Obsession and addiction don’t go well together it seems. Though in the end the presumed cold-blooded killer Jasper gets a more human side. Thumbs up for the BBC there. A must see, the ending is fascinating and ingenious.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood: the unfinished Dickens

The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the tale of a missing boy and an opium-addicted choir master, was only half-written when its author, Charles Dickens, died. Now a dark new BBC drama imagines how it might have ended. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst reports.

The first episode of BBC Two’s handsome new two-part adaptation of The Mystery of Edwin Drood begins with John Jasper (Matthew Rhys), a choirmaster with the voice of an angel and a heart as black as pitch, enjoying an opium-fuelled fantasy of strangling his nephew Edwin Drood (Freddie Fox). It ends with him winding a thin scarf around Drood’s neck and garrotting him. As a narrative strategy it is a bit like Poirot unmasking the murderer on page 100 and then sitting back to stroke his moustache for the next hundred pages. Is Jasper really a cold-blooded killer, or is more going on here than first meets the eye?

Several characters in this episode seem fascinated by premature burial and voices from beyond the grave, those twin Victorian obsessions, and Dickens himself considered “Dead? Or Alive?” as a title when he started to plan the novel in 1869. So was Drood going to escape from his seemingly inevitable doom, like a silent movie star tied to the railway tracks, or was Dickens more interested in exploring the mind of a murderer? Was the real mystery going to be not so much whodunnit as why he dunnit?

We will never know. On June 8 1870, after a full day of working on Drood, and exactly halfway through the 12 planned monthly instalments of his novel, Dickens suffered a massive stroke. The next day he was dead. He left no rough drafts, and no clues other than those already contained in what he had published. As far as the rest of the story was concerned, his friend John Forster observed: “It was all a blank.”

Reading what Dickens left behind is as frustrating as starting a jigsaw puzzle and then discovering that half the pieces are missing, and Gwyneth Hughes, the BBC’s screenwriter, is refreshingly candid about the difficulty of coming up with a new ending. Satisfying Dickens’s readers, as well as viewers of modern thrillers who are “terrifyingly expert in spotting any flaws”, was “a real headbanger of a challenge”.

Read full article @ The Telegraph

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~ by eneryvibes on 1,January 15, 2012.

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