The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins for #WilkieWinter

Hey, y’all! Welcome to the first event of The Estella Society’s Wilkie in Winter event!
The Frozen Deep was the most perfect choice to kick-off Wilkie in Winter! It is pretty darn cold here in Georgia and what better way to celebrate than reading this story of a failed expedition to the Northwest Passage! The play begins with an orphaned and delicate Clara Burnham. Clara also happens to have some weird, clairvoyant attacks that come on unexpectedly and leave her in a trance uttering prophecies. Clara’s fiance, Frank Aldersley, is leaving for the Arctic voyage when Clara discovers that a disappointed lover, Richard Wardour, is also part of the crew and seeks vengeance against the man who has stolen Clara’s heart.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this book. I loathe reading plays (yes, even Shakespeare) and I much rather see them performed. The dialogue seemed melodramatic, much of the action takes places behind the scenes, and I thought the female characters more than a little ridiculous. As a play I would have loved it (I think) and I truly believe if Wilkie Collins had fleshed this out to a novel of even a mere 100 pages more I would have loved this book. I like tightly woven short fiction and expansive, descriptive, character-laden novels. This wasn’t tightly woven character drama and it lacked literary depth of Collins’s novels.

I am glad I read it because I find the history of the play and the original subject matter fascinating. The Frozen Deep was originally a play by Wilkie Collins with heavy influences from Charles Dickens. Dickens assisted with the play, made alterations and met his lady-love Ellen Ternan during the play’s run. Collins used The Frozen Deep for dramatic readings during his American tour and after the success of the play he turned the script into the novella we have today.

Who wouldn’t want to read an epic violent journey into the Arctic unknown? I will certainly be checking out more non-fiction and fiction about this treacherous journey. In fact, Dan Simmons novel The Terror looks like it will be quite good and there is also a documentary called Passage that I really want to watch.

In the meantime I found some primary sources about the fateful journey. I cannot help myself, I work in a library:

Library and Archives of Canada

What did you all think? Am I the only one who was intrigued but didn’t love it? Let me know!



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