Iolani, Or, Tahiti as It Was: A Romance - Wilkie Collins Iolani is interesting to read through the lens of it being Wilkie Collins’ first novel, especially as it was “lost” for 150 years, but it not his best book to start with if you don’t want to be turned off by the writing here – it gets much better! Like in Antonina, Collins manages to take usually exciting and urgent events like war and death and make them boring. One redeeming factor is that this book is a lot shorter.

The prose tends toward purple in many places, and there were many times when I got to the end of a paragraph and realized I had no idea what I’d just read. The introduction is correct when it says that there are confusing shifts in time. In the first three chapters, I had to revise my idea of what was going on twice. At first, it seemed (to me anyway) that the scene with Iolani and Idia walking along the lake was the first time they have sex, then it became apparent that she was pregnant, and then she is actually giving birth, and it sounded like this was all happening in a 24-hour period.

The characters are all pretty much one-dimensional, so there is little room for character development, and I didn’t really care very much about any of them, even the poor baby who doesn’t even get a name. There is almost no dialogue, either, so it hard to get much of a sense of anyone’s character.

This isn’t a great novel, and there’s a good reason it didn’t find a willing publisher, but it’s not bad for a twenty-year-old’s first attempt, written when the boss wasn’t looking.