Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Woman in White - a nine month reading

I finally finished the marvelous Wilkie Collins' mystery, The Woman in White. I participated somewhat faithfully in the 150th Anniversary Project, which meant that I read the novel in the weekly installments, formatted and with the original illustrations, following the same serialization schedule as when it was first published in All the Year Round.

Occasionally I got a bit behind and had to read several installments at once, and in August I got very busy with personal matters and couldn't finish up the book on schedule, so I did so just a few weeks ago.

While I enjoyed experiencing the story in a similar manner to that experienced by its first readers, I found that I lost track of some of the details over time and had to refresh my memory regarding events and characters, I did like the slow pace that allowed savoring and stewing versus gulping and gorging.

I felt a deep affection for both Walter Hartwright and Marian Halcombe, and I think Count Fosco is such an interesting character, a real amalgamation of opposing traits, that made him truly creepy but fascinating. Laura Fairlie, on the other hand, is almost a non-entity--bland, passive, feeble, pale. She and her double, Anne Catherick, are both ghostly--spooky in their tenuous grasp on life, and it is fitting that both teeter on the edge of sanity at various points in the book.

I don't consider The Woman in White the best Victorian novel. The two Collins novels I've read, The Woman in White and The Moonstone, both are told via fictional diary entries, testimonials, and letters that do give the story a realism and immediacy, but I miss the narrator's voice that can comment omnisciently on life, society, etc. For example, thing what a tragedy it would have been had George Eliot chosen to write Middlemarch in this fashion.

It's not the best Victorian novel, but it is a classic and I enjoyed reading it over the past nine months. I'm particularly glad to have finished up just in time for Halloween!

Now, I'm waiting for NetFlix to deliver the movie tomorrow. It stars Justine Waddell (Molly in Wives and Daughters) as Laura and Tara Fitzgerald as Marian. I couldn't find the 1982 BBC mini-series, but remember trying to watch it years ago (not having read the book) and falling asleep, which put me off reading the book until I found out about the irresistible anniversary email serialization project.


  1. I really do need to pick this one up. Love the new layout!

  2. Be forewarned... there are some major plot changes in the movie! I was disappointed, but will be interested to hear what you think.

  3. I agree that it isn't the best Victorian novel, or even the best of that type. But I'm glad I read it. I enjoyed E.A.Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret much more.

  4. I've had this on my bookshelf for years now and I have yet to crack it open, only because my to-read list is growing at a rather alarming pace. I really need to move it up to the top of the list. I love that you read the book in its original serialized form, despite some of the drawbacks of doing so.