And it isn't the secret of Madonnas' parentage that keeps the readers' attention, it is Collins's characters, his humour and portrayal of British classes.
Hide and Seek is Collins third novel and first mystery. The novel neatly divides into two distinct sections, The Hiding and The Seeking with an opening chapter about the youth, Zach Thorpe. Collins introduces memorable characters: Mrs. Peckover, the wife of a clown; Valentine Blyth, a sentimental man, who walked away from a life of wealth for the love of art, married to his beloved invalid wife; Zach, an energetic, charismatic but directionless youth; Mat, a mysterious vagabond returning from America, having made his fortune but lost his scalp who befriends Zach; the pretty deaf-mute, Mary, also called, Madonna, among others.
Second, and even more implausibly, Zak's own father turns out to be the very cad who seduced and abandoned said mysterious foundling's mother twenty-three years ago, so Zak and "Madonna" are actually brother and sister! for instance, early on it looks as is Madonna will be the virtuous love interest who will win Zak back from his scapegrace ways--but then, she turns out to be his sister.
Wilkie Collins's Hide and Seek can be a frustrating novel. Of the many interesting points of Hide and Seek one finds that a circus forms a significant part of the early chapters of the novel. In Victorian literature I cannot recall two characters who are disabled that form a central core of a novel. Like many Victorian novels Hide and Seek centres around the mystery of familial connections and relations.
Forgive me. Hide and Seek is a tale of love, betrayal, hardship and forgiveness. "Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of the time." He did his best.
Still, although there is no detective on the case, as Collins introduced in his most famous novel, The Moonstone, it's still very much a novel about detection, in this case the quest to discover the origins of the beautiful Mary, or Madonna, left as a newborn in the care of strangers when her mother dies by the roadside, starving as a result of her leaving home from the "shame" of being pregnant and unwed. The novel might also be criticized for relying too much on coincidence to move the plot forward, but that's all part of the fun of reading any Collins novel.
I enjoyed Hide and Seek, but the novel wasn't as engaging as Collins's two most famous novels, The Moonstone, and The Woman in White. However, Collins's characterization of Valentine Blyth has to be one of my of his characters. Valentine, though an artist, isn't a tortured one.
Many years later, Mr. Blyth welcomes into his home a Mr. Zack Thorpe. Mat swears that he will always, always think of Zack as a brother. The two move in together, and Zack introduces him to Mr. Blyth. But I did get a strong sense in the beginning of the novel that the romance between Zack and Madonna was doomed some way, some how. But by the end of the novel, I definitely wanted him to have a happy ending. s p o i l e r One word about the plot, I do think it seems a bit ridiculous how Mat pieces EVERYTHING together based on two locks of hair being the EXACT SAME SHADE.
Unveil and revel Odd as it may sound, being a Collins volume the subject in question, this is not another tale of crime and suspense, but a happy drama without a villain.
The best of Collins's early novels (pre-TWiW) with some very memorable characters, chief among them Mat, the mysterious figure scalped by native Americans and who wears a black velvet skullcap to hide the top is his head.
A close friend of Charles Dickens from their meeting in March 1851 until Dickens' death in June 1870, William Wilkie Collins was one of the best known, best loved, and, for a time, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. It was in 1848, a year after the death of his father, that he published his first book, 'The Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, Esq., R.A'., to good reviews.