Sunday, April 18, 2010

BOOK: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, 609 pages

Our Mutual Read; Colourful Challenge

I have been wanting to read a Wilkie Collins book since I read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher in the summer of 2008. The Woman in White is considered one of the first of the mystery novel genre. I was surprised to find it was also epistolary, written as diary entries, letters, and extracts from official documents. Collins was a real leader in the types of books I like best. The Woman in White was originally written in serial form, and unfortunately for me, that makes for a bloated, long read.

I liked the book - I must have, I've been reading it on and off since January. Each time I picked it up, I read a good chunk, but it was slow going. As a credit to Collins' writing, I preferred a few of the narrators over others as some of that Victorian writing pains my poor head. Never use 2 words when 25 will do.

Laura Fairlie has to be the epitome of the vapid, delicate woman. Were women really like this? Too delicate to hear any pertinent information? Swooning? Blech. At least her cousin Marion was smart and forceful and cunning. She comes off as a man in the book because of that - there is no consideration of her marrying. She listened to me from beginning to end with a steady, silent attention, which, in a woman of her temperament and disposition, was the strongest proof that could be offered of the serious manner in which my narrative affected her. (page 100)

The best characters were wildly written, especially Uncle Frederick Fairlie, ESQ, who was hilarious and had the best line in the book - Was it at this point that I began to suspect he was going to bore me? I rather think it was. (page 337) I also enjoyed the outlandish Count Fosco and his wife, who played his villain role with relish.

So, while long and at times rambling, I enjoyed the book enough to still want to read Moonstone, another Collins mystery. Sometimes when I read classics that seem a little dated (the Victorian writing for example) I like to think how new and exciting a book like this must have seemed when it was first published. It allows me to enjoy the book on a different level than I might generally have.

about the cover: That is not the cover I had on my book and I cannot find it online anywhere. My camera wouldn't take a picture of it because it was white and kept reflecting back on me. The cover I've shown is a new release from Penguin.